Concern Sunak's small boats law 'essentially a ban' on asylum-seeking

As the prime minister presses on with his plans to curb migrant arrivals to the UK, a number of hurdles remain to be cleared

Today Rishi Sunak has brought in a policy that Enver Solomon - CEO of the Refugee Council - told me was the toughest asylum policy ever brought in for the UK and across western Europe. 

Vicky Tennant, from the UN's refugee agency, told ITV News that it effectively bans asylum in the UK - something she says is in breach of our duties under the Refugee Convention. 

But the PM was under huge pressure from Conservative MPs to tackle this problem. And while the UNCHR thinks it all goes too far - some of those politicians think it doesn't go far enough.

Today a number of them - including Simon Clarke - raised the prospect of us leaving the European Convention on Human Rights after the home secretary made clear on the face of the bill that this policy may not comply with it.

Facing the prospect of major legal challenge that could snarl this policy up -like the Rwanda plan so far- MPs demanded that we take steps to protect it.

But the truth is that leaving the ECHR is not something that will just anger the UNHCR and "leftie lawyers" - as critics might characterise them. It also means angering Tory MPs.

One current minister messaged me when this issue was raised before claiming that "withdrawal would be nuclear; it would detonate the Tory party... as the ECHR underpins the Belfast Good Friday Agreement."

So the reality for the government is likely to be major legal challenge, raising the question of whether today's policy is really about signalling.

Mr Sunak says the policy will deter asylum seekers. People I spoke to this morning weren't so sure.

One man, aged 23, who came by boat four months ago said he was fleeing Taliban death threats in Afghanistan and the smugglers had given him no choice but to cross the Channel. 

Dr Nasimi, founder of the Afghanistan and Central Asia Association, argued that the policy could simply make desperate people look for alternative - maybe more dangerous routes.

He arrived in the back of a lorry, locked in a refrigerated compartment 24 years ago.

Dr Nasimi told Anushka Asthana that the legislation will just make people more desperate and ready to take more dangerous routes to the UK. Credit: ITV News

I met his 24-year-old son who came with him (four months old then).

Darius Nasimi has now stood as a Tory council candidate (he says the party's first Afghan candidate). He supports clearing the backlog of asylum applications but is against today's plan, calling it unfair.

When I asked if it made him not want to stand as a candidate in future he said - no way, arguing it meant the opposite - that he wanted to be a Conservative so he could argue on behalf of people like himself.

For his part, Mr Sunak insists the policy is compassionate and that the flipside of today's toughness will be more safe and legal routes in the future.

That, of course remains to be seen, as we didn't get that detail today. 

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