Upcoming small boats asylum legislation ‘unworkable’, Sunak warned

The prime minister's plan is facing increased backlash, as Romilly Weeks reports

A plan to 'stop the boats' by blocking all asylum applications from those who enter the UK illegally will "not see the light of day", Labour has claimed, adding that ministers are hoping it is rejected by Parliament or the courts so "they can blame other people for their own failures".

Home Secretary Suella Braverman is set to publish long-promised legislation as soon as Tuesday that would make asylum claims inadmissible from people who travel to the UK on small boats.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday vowed to put an end to “immoral” illegal migration, while Ms Braverman said “enough is enough”.

But charities and opposition parties have criticised the policy, of which details are still scarce, with the Refugee Council saying it will leave thousands “permanently in limbo”.

The legislation would see a duty placed on the home secretary to remove “as soon as reasonably practicable” anyone who arrives on a small boat, either to Rwanda or a “safe third country”.

Arrivals will also be prevented from claiming asylum while in the UK, with plans also to ban them from returning once removed.

Labour Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting has told ITV News he doesn't believe the law will ever be implemented.

"I very much doubt this legislation will see the light of day," he said, "very unlikely to get through Parliament, very unlikely to get by the courts and I actually think the government hopes that the case so they can blame other people for their own failures".

He said the right approach would be to speed up the processing of asylum applications and the deportations of "people who shouldn't be here".

Another aspect of the plan will reportedly see all those who enter the country illegally locked up at detention centres until they are deported, either to a safe third country or Rwanda where the UK has an asylum processing deal.

But the Refugee Council said this will only lead to a clogged up dentention system, with tens of thousands who would normally be granted asylum being treated as criminals instead.

Analysis by the charity shows that of all those who crossed the Channel last year, two thirds would be granted asylum.

A spokesperson for the charity said if everyone who crossed the channel last year was detained for 28 days, on for example September 4 - 9161 people would have been detained, which is four times the current detention estate capacity (2286).

ITV News' Carl Dinnen reports on the asylum legislation expected to be announced as soon as next week

Cabinet minister Chris Heaton-Harris, during an appearance on BBC One’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg, also indicated that there could be “more safe and legal routes” in the future.

The prime minister, who has made “stopping the boats” one of his five priorities, is preparing to act after months of pressure from Tory backbenchers.

Several Tory MPs welcomed the news that a Bill was imminent, but already there have been questions about how any such legislation, based on the details known so far, could be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

It comes after the Rwanda scheme became mired in legal challenges, with so far no flights carrying migrants to the Rwandan capital Kigali departing.

The latest Home Office figures show 2,950 migrants have crossed the Channel already this year.

Campaigners have also issued firm warnings to the government about the policy.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman Credit: PA

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the plans “shatter the UK’s long-standing commitment under the UN Convention to give people a fair hearing regardless of the path they have taken to reach our shores”.

He added: “They will simply add more cost and chaos to the system.

“The majority of the men, women and children who cross the Channel do so because they are desperate to escape war, conflict and persecution.”

The charity said figures show that of all those who crossed the Channel last year, two-thirds would be granted asylum.

“The government’s flawed legislation will not stop the boats but result in tens of thousands locked up in detention at huge cost, permanently in limbo and being treated as criminals simply for seeking refuge,” he said.

“It’s unworkable, costly and won’t stop the boats.”

The prime minister has made "stopping the boats" one of his five legislative priorities. Credit: PA

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, accused the government of presenting “the very same disastrous plan to simply avoid the asylum responsibilities it expects others to take”.

Calling it “disgraceful posturing and scaremongering”, he said the Bill “promises nothing but more demonisation and punishment of people fleeing conflict and persecution who dare to seek asylum in the UK by means to which government has chosen to restrict them”.

Trade unions on Sunday also joined forces condemn the rise in far-right organised violence and intimation against refugees, claiming the government is “complicit in these attacks”.

Labour has set out six questions for the government on the new Bill, as it pressed ministers to show how the latest plan is different to the last piece of legislation to tackle illegal migration.

The party said it wants know if the plan will end the backlog in asylum claims while also including “proper return agreements” with France and other countries.

Suella Braverman on what Rishi Sunak's pledge to 'stop the boats' means in practice

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “The Conservatives are responsible for an abysmal failure to tackle the huge increase in dangerous small boat crossings and the criminal gangs who are putting lives at risk and undermining border security.

“Ministers have made countless claims and promises yet the facts show their last law badly failed and made things worse. Instead of learning lessons, it looks like they are still recycling the same rhetoric and failure.”

The Liberal Democrats called it “another half-baked plan”. The party’s home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said it is “immoral, ineffective and incredibly costly for taxpayers”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The home secretary has been clear that if you arrive in the UK illegally, you should not be allowed to stay.

“We will shortly introduce legislation which will ensure that people arriving in the UK illegally are detained and promptly returned to their home country or a safe third country.

“Our work with France is also vital to tackling the unacceptable rise in dangerous Channel crossings. We share a determination to tackle this issue together, head-on, to stop the boats.”

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