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George Osborne wrong to say 'link must be broken' on asylum claims - PMQs

Amnesty International has said the government is wrong yet again after comments made by Chancellor George Osborne at Prime Minister’s Questions today about granting asylum to refugees in Europe.

Announcing that UK support for search-and-rescue in the Mediterranean would continue when HMS Bulwark is withdrawn – a statement welcomed by Amnesty - Osborne went on to say “…you have to break the link that enables someone to get on a boat and then claim asylum in Europe and spend the rest of their lives on the European continent”.

Amnesty UK’s refugee expert, Steve Symonds, said:

“There is no necessary link to break between getting on a boat or claiming asylum, and any indefinite entitlement to stay in Europe. It is simply irresponsible to suggest this. The UK is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention which gives the Government a moral and legal obligation to allow people who are fleeing war and persecution to apply for asylum. Those who are entitled to asylum should be granted it, and they must not be made to return to their countries of origin.

“The fact that so many people are forced into attempting these highly dangerous sea crossings is a consequence of European and UK policy, because no other safe and legal routes to asylum have been left to them.

“Europe's political leaders - including UK Ministers - need to face up to the fact that Europe receives far fewer asylum-seekers than the numbers of refugees to which much poorer countries like Pakistan, Lebanon and Kenya are host. Effective responses will require international cooperation - in Europe and beyond. This comment from George Osborne does nothing to further the prospect of that.”

Last week, Amnesty said Prime Minister David Cameron was “completely wrong” to say at Prime Minister’s Questions that “the vast majority of Mediterranean migrants are not asylum-seekers” in answer to a question about the UK’s refusal to take part in an EU refugee quota system on the issue.

The single largest group by nationality attempting the Mediterranean crossing in recent months have been people from war-torn Syria, nearly all of whom will be internationally-recognised refugees. Estimates from various sources suggest this group constitute up to a third of those attempting the perilous crossing.

The next single largest group comprises Eritreans - with the great majority of these also very likely to be refugees. Although numbers fluctuate, during last year Eritreans and Syrians alone amounted to nearly 50% of those boarding boats in the Mediterranean, with the two groups also constituting the largest number during the first four months of 2015.

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