Borders Bill: Welsh ministers condemn 'barbaric' proposals on channel crossings

Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt has written a joint letter to Priti Patel demanding the UK develops "sufficient safe and legal routes" for asylum seekers. Credit: PA

Welsh ministers have condemned "barbaric" proposals on channel crossings after the Nationality and Borders Bill was passed in the Commons.

Ministers in Wales, along with those in Scotland, have both warned that the legislation may need approval from the parliaments in Cardiff and Edinburgh.

Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt has written a joint letter with her Scottish counterpart to Home Secretary Priti Petal to demand the UK reconsiders its "hostile environment strategy" and develops "sufficient safe and legal routes" for asylum seekers.

They are asking for the Home Secretary to set up talks with them before the end of the year after there have been "no ministerial meetings in relation to these matters".

The letter comes after 27 people lost their lives trying to cross the English Channel in November - a journey which has resulted in 166 people being recorded as either dead or missing since 2014.

The Nationality and Borders Bill, which was passed in the Commons on Monday, seeks to curb these crossings and also change how asylum claims are processed.

Many have tried and failed to cross the English Channel to reach the UK. Credit: PA

The Welsh Government said it has "far-reaching concerns about the impact of the provisions" in the Bill.

Minister Jane Hutt stated: "This legislation contains measures that will prevent migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats, including the barbaric suggestions for 'push-back' exercises involving enforcement officials seeking to repel small boats.

"Rather than help matters, these measures will delay rescues and endanger lives."

She added that the Bill contradicts the UK's "obligation under maritime laws and conventions to guarantee people's safety".

Both the Welsh and Scottish governments have said that they "do not believe that increased marine or beach patrols, diversion, criminalisation, changes to legal status or reduced support to those who arrive in the UK" will deter people from seeking to enter the UK.

The governments also told the Home Secretary: "Wales and Scotland have always played their part in providing sanctuary to those fleeing conflict and persecution and we stand ready to do so again."

Meanwhile, Welsh ministers have now decided that a Legislative Consent Memorandum is required at the Senedd in relation to some clauses in the Bill.

Under the devolution settlement, consent is needed where UK legislation touches on areas which the devolved administrations are responsible for.

The government’s tough approach is in part a response to public mood, with several Conservative MPs, including in new red wall seats, saying this issue is being raised repeatedly by constituents.

Patel has also argued that last year 70% of those crossing were economic migrants.

A Home Office spokesperson has said: "The Nationality and Borders Bill, which has revived its third reading in Parliament, will deliver the most comprehensive reform in decades to fix the broken asylum system. It will make the system fairer and more effective so that we can better protect and support those in genuine need of asylum.

"The UK has a proud history of welcoming those in need of protection, and we continue to do all we can to provide asylum seekers with the safe, secure accommodation they deserve. This includes continued joint working across the UK, and we urge everyone to step up and play their part.”