Upcoming small boats legislation ‘unworkable’, Sunak warned

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  • March 6, 2023
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lans to render as inadmissible asylum claims from those who travel to the UK on small boats will leave thousands “permanently in limbo”, the Government has been warned as it prepares to unveil new legislation.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman is set to publish long-promised legislation as soon as Tuesday that would make asylum claims inadmissible from those 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”.

Details are still scarce on the legislation, but critics have already questioned both the legality and effectiveness of such a plan, while Labour has accused the Conservatives of recycling old promises.

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.

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, with Tory MP Danny Kruger calling it a “serious plan” on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour.

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.

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.”

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.

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.”