Read the report in full by downloading a PDF of the report or we can post you a physical copy of the report (we’d just ask that you can cover the postage costs).

Our Senior Policy Officer, Sophie, has begun writing a series of blogs exploring individual proposals in the New Plan for Immigration, what these mean for people seeking santuary, and how we can call for change.

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Read Sophie’s blogs


Watch Sarah Teather and Sophie Cartwright discuss the findings of Being Human and hear from refugee friends their thoughts about the New Plan for Immigration.

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Sharing positive news stories about refugees and sharing the gifts refugees bring to our communities is the most powerful thing we can do.

Write to you MP, speak up in conversations with friends, with family, in your workplace, and on social media – tag JRS UK on social media and we’ll help amplify your voice too!

Download our Quick guide to JRS’s proposals for a reformed asylum system

Write to your MP


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Drawing on principles from Catholic Social Teaching and on reflections from refugees and asylum seekers, we recommend a new set of core principles for a radically reformed asylum system: one founded on justice, designed for the welfare of refugees and not for their harm. We argue a newly reformed asylum system should aim to:


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“We need an asylum system rooted in a sense of shared humanity, not a barbaric rehash of the old culture of hostility. Reform of the asylum system is badly needed. This is not it.

“It is possible to make the asylum system work. But we have to be prepared to really listen to people who are asking for sanctuary. That begins with dropping our sense of suspicion and letting go of the false assumption that everyone in need is trying to steal something that is ‘ours’.

“An asylum system that enshrines protection and transparency at its heart and enables those seeking asylum to flourish would foster such values for everyone. We need to stop treating this as a zero-sum game and recognise that everyone benefits from a culture that values human dignity and promotes welcome with genuine openness.”

– Sarah Teather, Director of JRS UK

Download the full report


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Our work with refugees and asylum seekers demonstrates that the UK’s asylum system is unjust and dehumanising – and in this it adds to a vast body of evidence. By bringing this work into conversation with Catholic Social Teaching and analysing policy in light of that conversation, we have been able to reflect in more depth on the underlying issues that plague the current asylum system. Put simply, we are failing to respond to people seeking sanctuary as human persons; human beings in need, and human beings with hopes and dreams, loves and sorrows.

As we accompany, serve, and advocate for people seeking asylum in the UK, we call for change in solidarity with them.  Fratelli Tutti points to the importance of grassroots social movements in creating change. It is our hope that we can contribute to that. It is also our responsibility to make policy recommendations towards a more person-centred asylum system in light of the current context. These follow:

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On the system as a whole:

  1. A focus on protection, respect for human dignity, and rejection of the culture of refusal and disbelief, must be reflected in ministerial planning, caseworker training and Home Office policy documents across different areas of the asylum system.
  2. Centrally involve those with experience of the asylum system in asylum reform plans
  3. Ensure people recognised as needing sanctuary can easily settle in the UK

Asylum determination:

4.Commit to considering each asylum application

5. Ensure coherent, personal case management

6.Ensure an in-country appeals process of Home Office decisions is routinely available

7. Ensure that everyone can access free and independent legal advice for asylum and immigration

8. Ensure that everyone can afford to ask the courts to adjudicate their case

On life in the Asylum System:

9. Allow asylum seekers to work for as long as they are in the UK

10. Ensure that asylum claimants have safe and dignified accommodation in the community

11. Ensure that asylum claimants have enough to meet basic needs and live in dignity

12. Abandon the hostile environment agenda

On detention:

13. End the use of detention for the purpose of immigration control

14. Introduce a mandatory and short time limit for all those detained under immigration powers

15. The decision to detain must go before a judge

16. Ensure all asylum claims are processed in the community, not in detention


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Dr Anna Rowlands

St Hilda Associate Professor of Catholic Social Thought and Practice, and Chair of Centre for Catholic Social Thought and Practice.

“There is something profoundly wrong with our asylum system. This has been known for several decades, and no effective solutions have been found. This report suggests that a fundamental rethink is needed. This rethink is not just about policy and technique, it is a rethink of the basic view we have of refugees, political community and human dignity. As Pope Francis has noted, there will be no better outcomes for refugees without a new frame of reference that begins with the human person, their dignity, rights and desire for protection, belonging, membership and contribution. JRS is in a unique position to know the detail of what is most broken and damaging in our current system, and to speak with an integrated knowledge of both an alternative ethics and a practical analysis about what might be done, now, urgently, to make a difference. This report is the fruits of that integrated thinking.”

Bishop Paul McAleenan

Lead Bishop for migrants and refugees, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

Being Human in the Asylum System’ is a timely reminder that refugees are not a political problem to be solved, but people with dignity who deserve our respect and protection.

“This report is not only rooted in Catholic Social Teaching but was informed by truly listening to the voices of refugees about their unique experiences, something that we all need to do much more.

“Engaged in daily encounters with refugees the Jesuit Refugee Service speaks from a position of knowledge and authority. Driven by the principle that ‘we are not being called to share magnanimously what is ours, but to share what belongs in justice, for our common dignity’ the report is uncompromising. Justice cannot be compromised, people’s welfare must be prioritised.

“Therefore I hope that this report will be seriously considered by policy makers and will contribute towards building an asylum system that puts people at the centre.”

The Rt Revd Dr John Perumbalath

Bishop of Bradwell and Chair of Churches Refugee Network

“In the important task of building a just asylum system, Being Human in the Asylum System offers a vital, human perspective. Faced with a political context that tempts us to respond with hatred and defensiveness to those who seek sanctuary, this report can help us to reorient our thinking to offer welcome, and protection, and create a society where the dignity of every person is cherished.”

Rt Rev Paul Butler

Lord Bishop of Durham

“This timely report from the Jesuit Refugee Service is an excellent analysis of where the human element is missing in the UK’s current asylum system. Its recommendations for reform, based on properly listening and engaging with people’s stories, would go a long way to ensure protection remains at the heart of the system. I share similar concerns with the Government’s new plan for immigration, and hope the Government reflect seriously on whether their proposals will support refugees to live in dignity and participate fully in society. This must be the goal of any reform.”

Freedom From Torture

“The report Being Human in the Asylum System correctly identifies that the new Plan for Immigration is the government’s latest attempt to deepen hostility towards refugees for political ends.

“These proposals are an insult to the torture survivors we work with, many of whom have risked their lives to find sanctuary in the UK.

“If the government is serious about delivering the compassionate and fair asylum system it promised following the Windrush scandal, it needs to listen. Protection and human dignity should be central to all decisions, and it’s needed now more than ever.”

Nick Austin SJ

Master of Campion Hall

“New government proposals seem aimed at preventing people even with legitimate claims to asylum from reaching our shores. The current asylum system seems equally intent on subjecting those who do arrive to hostility and suspicion, even at times removing their basic human rights to work, shelter, and liberty. The Jesuit Refugee Service UK works on the ground with asylum seekers, and is painfully aware of the human cost that the UK asylum system inflicts. In a bleak landscape, this timely report is a green shoot of hope. ‘Being Human in the Asylum System’ not only unveils the injustice of the current policy and system, but does something even more important: it offers a way forward founded on respect for human dignity, solidarity with the most vulnerable, and the belief in the capacity of all to contribute to the common good. For people of conscience, this is essential reading about a grave injustice ‘hidden in plain sight’ in our midst, and how it can effectively be addressed.”

Bethan Lant

Chair of London Churches Refugee Network

“This is a timely and illuminating report highlighting the many failings of our asylum system and giving voice to those who have endured those failings. The London Churches Refugee Network gives its full support to the recommendations for change.”

Theos Think Tank

“The command to protect and welcome the stranger has a long history in the Bible, and this report offers an encouraging demonstration of the richness of Catholic Social Teaching when applied to one of the most urgent issues in the public conversation.”

Westminster Justice and Peace

“Westminster Justice and Peace welcomes with true Easter joy and relief the Jesuit Refugee Service report on welcoming refugees, Being Human in the Asylum System. Those who work for asylum justice, refugee rights and related issues, and indeed many people of good will, were devastated at the end of March to read of Priti Patel’s regressive proposals to change the current system, which so infamously lack compassion or justice. JRS have issued a ringing mandate to inspire us to new efforts of resistance to this inhumanity.”

Rt Revd and Rt Hon Sarah Mullally

Bishop of London

“Welcoming and protecting those who seek sanctuary, and giving them a chance to rebuild their lives, is a fundamental Christian and moral duty. I support Being Human in the Asylum System‘s call for an asylum system with human dignity and a culture of protection at its core. This report is a valuable resource in helping us to envision an asylum system that listens to, and cares for, people seeking asylum as our neighbours.”


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Latest press and media coverage of our report

The Tablet

20th April 2021 

20th April 2021

The Catholic Universe

19th April 2021

Westminster Justice & Peace

19th April 2021

BBC Radio 4 Sunday Programme (13min 50sec)

18th April 2021

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

18th April 2021

Caritas Social Action Network

18th April 2021

The Observer

17th April 2021

Jesuit Refugee Service UK
The Hurtado Jesuit Centre
2 Chandler Street, London E1W 2QT

020 7488 7310

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