The asylum amnesty ‘scandal’: mind the gap

Guest author: Dr Alex Balch, University of Liverpool

A new government, a period of fiscal restraint, problems over a massive asylum backlog, a failed Home Office IT project…. the Coalition in 2011? No – New Labour in 1999. Governments might change, but the gap between policy aims and outcomes (or the difference between what politicians say will happen and what actually gets done) seems as large as ever when it comes to immigration and asylum policies.

Last week’s report by the Home Affairs select committee fits the pattern nicely. It has created some familiar headlines over the UK’s failure to properly deal with the backlog of asylum seekers, mainly by providing an ‘amnesty’ for large numbers of them. If we temporarily put to one side the obvious point that many of these people probably needed and deserved such amnesty, reaction to the report gives us a valuable snapshot of how politicians of varying stripes make sense of this ‘gap’ problem with immigration and asylum. It also shows how scrupulously they avoid the bigger questions about human rights and the responsibilities of liberal democracies in the international system. Continue reading