Sunak faces MPs after unveiling law to stop migrant Channel crossings

Rishi Sunak is facing MPs for the first time since detailing controversial and widely-criticised plans for fresh laws to curb Channel crossings.

The prime minister will go head to head with Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs on Wednesday after Labour described the proposal as a “con” that was no more likely to be successful than past Tory efforts to tackle the crossings.

Mr Sunak could be challenged over how the legislation will work in practice and how it might stand up to anticipated legal challenges.

The prime minister declared he was “up for the fight” against those opposed to the Illegal Migration Bill, designed to stop people claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive through unauthorised means.

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

He added he was “confident” the government would win legal battles over the “tough” but “necessary and fair” measures.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman admitted to MPs that there is a “more (than) 50% chance” the legislation may not be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Announcing the plans in the Commons on Tuesday, Ms Braverman said asylum seekers arriving illegally will be detained without bail or judicial review for 28 days before being “swiftly removed” to their home country or a “safe third country” such as Rwanda.

They face a lifetime ban on returning once deported and will never be allowed to settle in the country or gain citizenship.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

Ms Braverman said on Wednesday that there is an "unsustainably high number" of people arriving in the UK illegally, bringing "huge cost" to the British taxpayer because of the need for temporary hotel accommodation. Denying that the asylum plan was symbolic political gesturing, she told ITV's Good Morning Britain that it is the government's view that the policy is lawful and complies with international human right conventions.

The Bill’s feasibility has been questioned as plans such as forcibly removing asylum seekers to Rwanda are mired in legal challenges.

The UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, said it was “profoundly concerned” by the Bill and that, if passed, it will amount to an “asylum ban”.

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

Critics also included BBC presenter Gary Lineker, who faced censure from the broadcaster after writing on Twitter: “This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s.”

In an email to Tory members, the home secretary claimed that previous attempts to end Channel crossings without resorting to changing the law had been blocked by “an activist blob of left-wing lawyers, civil servants and the Labour Party”.

Mr Sunak will meet French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday to discuss further co-operation that will be required to reduce boat crossings. 

He had told a Downing Street press conference that migrants arriving in the UK illegally will be removed “within weeks” and that the Bill will apply “retrospectively” if passed.

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