British Prime Minister Theresa May addresses the Conservative Party’s general election candidates from London and the south-east, May 8, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The United Nations refugee agency has urged Britain’s next government to "do the right thing" for refugees by accepting to resettle more people from conflict-torn regions.
In an article published by The Times newspaper on Monday, the UNHCR representative to the UK, Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, said Britain should take in 10,000 more refugees a year on top of those the government has already pledged to resettle.
"Britain has a rich history of welcoming those forced to flee, and UNHCR urges the next government to do the right thing and ensure a fair and equal treatment for all refugees," Llosa wrote.
The UK government has pledged to receive 20,000 Syrians and 3,000 vulnerable child migrants by 2020.
"Resettlement not only benefits needy refugees. It also helps to relieve a small part of the burden on those developing countries which have for years been sheltering millions of refugees," Llosa said.
The UN representative also criticized the “strikingly high” numbers of refugees and asylum seekers who have been detained in Britain. Up to 13,000 detentions were recorded in the country last year.
“Being detained can leave psychological scars that endure years after release,” he said. “This problem is exacerbated by the deeply worrying fact that Britain currently has no time limit on immigration detention.”
Llosa also called on Prime Minister Theresa May to ease regulations that allow refugees to be separated from their families. “For many refugees, the pain of separation remains the biggest obstacle to their successful integration in a new country.”
The family reunification process in Britain only allows children under 18 to reunite with their parents. Refugee children are also unable to sponsor their parents or siblings, according to the British Red Cross.
May, who oversaw immigration policy in the Home Office for six years, has doubled down on the Conservative pledge to cut net migration to the tens of thousands.
“We do want to bring net migration down to sustainable levels. We believe that is the tens of thousands,” the prime minister told reporters on Monday.
“When we leave the European Union we will have the opportunity to make sure we have control of our borders – leaving the EU means we won’t have free movement as it has been in the past,” she added.
There were about 123,000 refugees and 45,870 asylum seekers in the UK by the end of 2015, according to UNHCR.

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