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One way of fixing the West’s broken asylum system

Tony Blair with Colonel Gaddafi in 2007. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty

Most western nations feel utterly stumped by the issue of asylum, says Matthew Syed in The Sunday Times. There are tens of millions of people who qualify as refugees, “far more than the West could ever accommodate”, and climate change is making the problem worse. When the refugee convention was signed in 1951, the global population was much smaller and it was infinitely harder for asylum-seekers to make it to Europe. Today, the continent is “marketed by people-smugglers” with “travel routes, prices and false promises”. The West’s legal but hypocritical solution has been to stop refugees ever making it here. The EU pays billions to Turkey and “transit” countries in north Africa to stem the flow. Tony Blair was a “pioneer of these dark arts”: in 2004, he lavished weapons on Colonel Gaddafi in exchange for tightening the Libyan border.

The West’s enemies look on at all this with glee. No one wants to move to China, Russia or Iran. So the likes of Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have “every incentive” to stoke conflict, because they know it will worsen the West’s immigration problems. One solution to all this would be to abandon the principle of “non-refoulement”, the legal bar on deporting people anywhere where they might face persecution. This was the legal basis for the Supreme Court’s rejection of the government’s Rwanda policy last week – and it’s what keeps people-smugglers in business. Who wants to pay £5,000 to get here if you can’t stay? Removing non-refoulement from our conventions and laws wouldn’t be easy. But the current system is “no longer fit for purpose”.