Asylum law in the UK is based on a combination of international, EU, and domestic law. Apart from the European Union directives, Brexit will not affect international law, that is, the Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights.

However, the prime example of legislation that will be affected by Brexit and ultimately repealed after the transition period would be the Dublin III Regulation. Under EU law, the Dublin III Regulation is intended to ensure that the asylum application is processed in the first EU country of arrival. Furthermore, the regulation allows countries to return asylum seekers to the first EU member state if they subsequently travel to other member states and apply for asylum there. Thus, this regulation prevents the practice of what the UK Home Office might call “asylum shopping” when asylum seekers travel through several countries to obtain asylum in the preferred country. This particular regulation was marked for an immediate repeal when UK completes the post-Brexit transition period on December 31, 2020, as due to the lack of cooperation with other EU member states it would be meaningless to follow the legislation.

There have been ongoing negotiations for a new agreement to replicate the Dublin Convention but so far EU has been rejecting all of the UK’s requests in the context of a sharp increase in the number of migrants trying to cross the English Channel from France by boat. On the 2nd of September estimate, 400-plus migrants attempted to cross the English Channel, the highest number of migrants for a single day.

© Gareth Fuller/PA

While the talks have not yet reached a final decision, the failure to create an alternative to the Dublin regulation might ultimately throw British immigration policy into chaos. So far, Dan O’Mahoney – Clandestine Channel Threat Commander to end migrant crossings, admitted that the UK again wants to try and negotiate new bilateral agreements to ensure returns of migrants could continue; however, the talks are yet to start.

In any case, the future policies on immigration and asylum remain unclear. However, while the Dublin regulation will be repealed, the effects on the refugees will rather be indirect in a way of a changed political environment as it is hard to imagine a complete disagreement on the bilateral treaty as an alternative to Dublin regulation. According to Alexander Betts, Professor of Forced Migration at Oxford University, refugee policy in the post Brexit transition period can go either towards re-establishing sensible asylum policy or it can go by the opinion of the people who voted to leave the European Union and implement more restrictive policies.   

Nevertheless, take any figures relating to the number of asylum seekers and one will notice that the UK does not have immense numbers of them in contrast to the rest of Europe. In March 2020, there were only 35,099 applications in the UK, 26% lower than in the preceding year[1], and only 32% were granted asylum.

Therefore, while the numbers of applications in the UK were increasing up until 2019, at this moment they have started to decline and the departure from the EU will more likely start bringing these figures even more down, not up.


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