Priti Patel's asylum system 'overhaul' neither 'fair or compassionate', critics say

Home Secretary Priti Patel was speaking at the Conservative Party virtual conference. Credit: PA

The Home Secretary has pledged to make the UK's asylum system "firm and fair", promising "the biggest overhaul in decades."

But critics have said Priti Patel's plans show a “contemptuous disregard” for the traumatic backstories of many of those making their way to Britain, and are neither "fair or compassionate".

In a speech at the Conservative Party virtual conference, Priti Patel pledged to "protect those most in need and put the rights of those who respect the rules above those who take our country for a ride."

Ms Patel said that under Conservative leadership, the UK "has and always will provide sanctuary when the lights are being switched off on people’s liberties".

She told those tuning into the online conference: "A fair asylum system should provide safe haven to those fleeing persecution, oppression or tyranny.

"But ours doesn’t. Because our asylum system is fundamentally broken. And we have a responsibility to act."

Labour's Nick Thomas-Symonds MP was critical of Ms Patel's speech: "The British people will see through the Home Secretary’s shameless comments about a ‘broken system’, when the system has been overseen by the Tories for a decade.

He added: "This is yet more evidence of how lacking in compassion and competence the Tories are."

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, by Border Force officers. Credit: PA

While Detention Action, a human rights group working with immigration detainees, said the proposals set out by Ms Patel showed a "contemptuous disregard" for the horror backstories of many of those making their way to Britain.

"Ms Patel’s proposals taken together would turn the clock back on over 50 years of progress on refugee protection – they are neither lawful, operationally workable, fair or compassionate," said a spokeswoman.

Amnesty UK director Kate Allen called the plans "nonsensical" and called for more efforts to be made on "providing sanctuary".

Home Secretary Priti Patel Credit: Leon Neal/PA

In her address, Ms Patel added: "From the expulsion of Ugandan Asians from a repressive regime, to proudly resettling more Syrian refugees than any other EU country, to supporting campaigners fleeing political persecution in Hong Kong.

"Under Conservative leadership, the United Kingdom has and always will provide sanctuary when the lights are being switched off on people’s liberties.

"So, I will introduce a new system that is firm and fair.

"Fair and compassionate towards those who need our help. Fair by welcoming people through safe and legal routes.

"But firm because we will stop the abuse of the broken system. Firm, because we will stop those who come here illegally making endless legal claims to remain.

"And firm, because we will expedite the removal of those who have no claim for protection.

"After decades of inaction by successive governments, we will address the moral, legal, practical problems with this broken system. Because what exists now is neither firm nor fair.

"And I will bring forward legislation to deliver on that commitment. I will take every necessary step to fix this broken system. Amounting to the biggest overhaul of our asylum system in decades."

Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

The Home Secretary vowed to "accelerate" the operational response to illegal migration.

Adding: "We will continue to hunt down the criminal gangs who traffic people into our country.

"I will continue to use the full force of our outstanding National Crime Agency and intelligence agencies to go after them.

"We will make more immediate returns of those who come here illegally and break our rules, every single week.

"And we will explore all practical measures and options to deter illegal migration."