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Home Secretary Priti Patel on asylum shake-up and border rules

Home Secretary Priti Patel appeared on today’s Good Morning Britain where she addressed the asylum system shake-up.

Speaking to Susanna Reid and Ben Shephard, Patel was asked if she was being ‘tougher and harsher’ with the new rules.

Patel said: “First of all, what I think is very important to acknowledge is that we absolutely need to do the right thing by those that are fleeing persecution. That is the right thing, it is fair and as a country we have been doing that over recent years… Now there is something more fundamental here about the changes we are bringing in… We want to start to address, in a way in which we have not as a country and a Government previously, illegal migration, individuals that have travelled to the UK illegally have now made up an enormous number of the asylum cases. To deal with that, we want to create safe and legal rules and stop people from putting their lives in the hands of the smugglers, of criminal gangs, of the facilitators… There is an enormous trade in terms of criminality and illegal migration and it is not just people who are being smuggled, it’s drugs and it’s all the things that quite frankly we cannot turn a blind eye to and our system needs to address this.”

On the argument that the changes will make it easier for people smugglers to find ways around the new rules, she said: “Well, first of all, this is an enormous issue and there is no silver bullet to this at all. We have to change our posture as a country… fake passports being bought, that is exactly money into the hands of the smugglers and we have to stop that trafficking of people. We are proposing new sentences for these individuals, the gang leaders, the smugglers…”

She continued: “Yesterday we had 150 people leave France and come over in a Channel crossing illegally, putting their lives at risk, this is what people smugglers were doing. Those individuals could have and should have claimed asylum in France or other EU countries.”

Patel went on to insist she wasn’t demonising those who seek asylum illegally, saying: “It is important to recognise that the people who are at fault here are the criminals, the criminal gangs and we as a Government absolutely want to tackle that and stop the smuggling of people. Lives are being put at risk, lives are being lost. People have died in the Channel and in the back of lorries. Even last week we found a body in the back of a lorry… Secondly with regards to people fleeing persecution, absolutely, we want to create safe and legal rules and legitimate routes for them to come to the United Kingdom and be resettled here. No one would dispute that. We are a generous country, look at our history…”

Following the one year anniversary of lockdown yesterday, Patel was asked if we should have locked down earlier and if our borders are still “too porous” given the amount of people still coming into the UK .

“They are not too porous at all...a whole series of measures have been put in place,” she said.

When Susanna compared our border policy to that of countries like New Zealand and Australia, Patel replied: “That is not like for like in terms of countries, economies and also the flow of goods coming into our countries through the short straits as well. So haulier testing obviously took place and has taken place but also the upstream work that takes place now with carriers. Travel companies and carriers have a liability now as well… There are many measures in place.”

On reports that she told colleagues last March that she wanted stricter border controls when the pandemic hit, she said: “I think it’s important first of all to recognise that we all work together in Government and we base decisions collectively on advice that is put to us… We have to take, and we did take, the appropriate action based on the action that was given to us at that particular moment.”

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