Safe Routes to Home

21 Jun, 2024 | Stop the hostile environment

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Conflicts and political persecution around the world have caused vast amounts of forced displacements, from historical examples of the Kindertransport in the late 1930s to the current situations in Afghanistan, Ukraine, Syria and so many more countries.  

The UK currently operates two main safe routes for refugees and asylum seekers: ‘resettlement’ and ‘refugee family reunion’.  

Esther Baleh’s story, a fashion graduate who left Syria as a child, is one example of how safe routes are important for enabling refugees to seek safety and find a home:

We’ve been in the UK for nine years now. We came here through the Syrian Resettlement Scheme. I’ve just graduated in Fashion and Design. 

I left Syria with my parents and two sisters. We were threatened by ISIS so we had to leave. We were resettled to the UK as emergency cases, because my father has a health condition. The Refugee Council gave us so much support when we first arrived, they were like our new family! 

We had to bring a really small bag. I could only bring something really small. I brought a Syrian flag pendant, and the letters from my friends and cousins when we were young

Esther Baleh

Esther’s story is an example of safe routes as standing for a fair and compassionate society that welcomes those seeking safety and gives them the opportunity to create a new home when they have been forced to leave their comfort and, often, loved ones behind.  Safe routes aim to ensure that refugees can access asylum in a dignified and secure manner, in line with international humanitarian principles and human rights standards and echoing Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution’.  

This year marks the 85th anniversary of the Kindertransport. This is a timely opportunity to ensure the UK  expands the number of safe and legal routes to the UK, so that refugees and asylum seekers are not forced to take alternative dangerous journeys.  

Though the Kindertransport and now Refugee Resettlement Schemes saved the lives of many, they did not go far enough. Current safe routes are limited those coming only from four countries – Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria and Hong Kong. This excludes refugees and asylum seekers fleeing war and/or persecution from other countries. It is important we do not turn our back on the compassionate history of protection in UK society. 

We should all aim to make the lives of those fleeing persecution, wherever they are coming from, easier, not harder by expanding resettlement and family reunion schemes, piloting a ‘refugee visa’ and building a scheme with the EU, which allows for family members in different countries to be reunited.  

We must uphold a commitment to helping those fleeing persecution, seeking safety and protection that helps individuals like Esther and her family. 

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