Rishi Sunak vows to end asylum claims from small boat arrivals in bid to tackle illegal immigration
ITV News' Carl Dinnen reports on the asylum legislation expected to be announced as soon as next week
The prime minister has vowed to put an end to the “immoral” illegal migration trade as the government prepares to unveil new powers to crack down on small-boat crossings in the Channel.
The legislation, promised as part of efforts to tackle illegal migration, could come as soon as Tuesday, as Home Secretary Suella Braverman said that the only way into the UK would be a “safe and legal route”.
The legislation is expected to make asylum claims inadmissible from those who travel to the UK on small boats. It would see a duty placed on the home secretary to remove “as soon as reasonably practicable” anyone who arrives on a small boat to Rwanda or a “safe third country”.
Under the proposals, arrivals will be prevented from claiming asylum while in the UK, with plans also to ban them from returning once removed.
Rishi Sunak said the powers are a step towards fulfilling his pledge to “stop the boats once and for all”. He told The Mail On Sunday: “Illegal migration is not fair on British taxpayers, it is not fair on those who come here legally and it is not right that criminal gangs should be allowed to continue their immoral trade. “I am determined to deliver on my promise to stop the boats. So make no mistake, if you come here illegally, you will not to be able to stay.” The bill will be published on Tuesday, according to The Sun On Sunday, with Downing Street confirming that the legislation will come in due course. Ms Braverman told the paper: “Enough is enough. The British people want this solved. They are sick of tough talk and inadequate action. We must stop the boats. “That’s why myself and the prime minister have been working flat out to bring forward necessary and effective laws which will tackle this problem, once and for all. “It has to be that if you come here illegally you will be detained and swiftly removed. “Our laws will be simple in their intention and practice – the only route to the UK will be a safe and legal route.”
The prime minister - who has been under considerable pressure from his own backbenches to tackle illegal migration - has made “stopping the boats” one of his five priorities.
Adopting a similar viewpoint, Ms Braverman has repeatedly promised to take a hard line on illegal migration and Channel crossings.
"Stopping the boat means fixing our problem relating to illegal migration. Last year we saw over 40,000 people arrive via small boats on the channel to the United Kingdom. We need to stop that," the home secretary told ITV News last month.
She said she was "very confident" in the government's plan to stop illegal immigration - with the threat of deportations to Rwanda forming one deterrent - and insisted there would be a "dramatic reduction in the numbers arriving" .
Ms Braverman would not, however, commit to stopping the crossings completely.
Suella Braverman on what Rishi Sunak's pledge to 'stop the boats' means in practice
The government’s plans have come under fierce criticism from campaigners, with concerns too about whether some of the policies are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
In April last year, then-home secretary Priti Patel signed an agreement with Rwanda for it to receive migrants deemed by the UK to have arrived “illegally”, and therefore inadmissible under new immigration rules. The Rwanda scheme went on to become mired in legal challenges, and so far no flights carrying migrants to the Rwandan capital Kigali have departed.
The prime minister is expected to meet French President Macron in Paris on Friday to discuss further measures for preventing small boat crossings. But Labour says there is already more that can be done. "What we need is action to crack down on the criminal gangs who are smuggling people across the Channel," Labour MP Jonathan Ashworth said. "We need action to deal with the huge backlog in asylum claims that these criminal gangs are exploiting," the shadow work and pensions secretary added.
The latest Home Office figures show 2,950 migrants have crossed the Channel already this year. Critics expressed concern at the latest plans, arguing that the legislation will be ineffective.
Christina Marriott, executive director of strategy at the Red Cross, said: "The Home Office's own research shows that people coming to claim asylum don't know about our asylum system before they come here.
"We know this from the 30,000 refugees and asylum seekers we work with every single year. They just don't know the system.
"So, making the system harsher won't stop people from coming here."
"To claim asylum you have to reach the UK but this bill will then say that if you reach the UK you won't be able to claim asylum. And that is a real catch 22," Ms Marriott added.
Sonya Sceats, chief executive at Freedom From Torture, meanwhile, called the proposals “vindictive and dysfunctional”. “This legislation will do nothing to reduce the number of deaths in the Channel or the chaos and incompetence that blights our asylum system, nor will it guarantee sanctuary for those who need it. “Instead, it will lead to more torture survivors being unfairly denied protection and potentially removed to Rwanda.”
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