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24 June, 2024
 
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Rishi Sunak gets tough on irregular immigration

The UK's PM is ready to pull out of the European Court of Human Rights if they block his plans

Source: Financial Times

Prime minister Rishi Sunak will introduce new laws this week barring anyone arriving in the UK by small boats across the English Channel from claiming asylum.

"It has to be that if you come here illegally you will be detained and swiftly removed,” -Suella Braverman (UK Home Secretary)

The government is expected to put forward a bill on Tuesday that will also place a legal onus on the home secretary to remove anyone using irregular routes into the UK “as soon as practicable” to a safe third country.

Whitehall officials have indicated in recent weeks that the new legislation will bring the UK to “the boundaries” of what is permissible under international law and Sunak has hinted that he is willing to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights if its court in Strasbourg gets in the way.

Speaking on Sunday, Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said that while the laws on immigration needed to be tightened, doing so was “only part of what needs to be done”.

“We need a full range of things in our arsenal to try and stop both people trafficking and illegal migration across the Channel,” he told Sky News. “That involves proper conversations that are ongoing, with our French counterparts, and indeed other European counterparts, to try and ensure that people are held in the first safe country that they come to.”

Sunak is meeting French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Friday for talks aimed partly at improving cooperation in stemming cross-Channel people trafficking.

Since coming into office, the prime minister has come under intense political pressure from Tory MPs to curb the record numbers of people using small boats to reach Britain from France.

In December, he pledged to clear the backlog in asylum applications by the end of 2023 and to establish a small boats operational command to coordinate the response of enforcement agencies. He is also vowed to press ahead with plans to deport asylum seekers under an agreement with Rwanda that has so far been stalled by legal challenges.

“I have made the issue of illegal migration one of my top five priorities — pledging to stop the boats once and for all,” Sunak told the Mail on Sunday. “Illegal migration is not fair on British taxpayers, it is not fair on those who come here legally and it is not right that criminal gangs should be allowed to continue their immoral trade.”

In an interview with the Sun on Sunday newspaper, home secretary Suella Braverman said the only viable route to the UK ought to be “safe and legal”.

“It has to be that if you come here illegally you will be detained and swiftly removed,” she said.

According to recent polling by YouGov, controlling immigration and asylum seekers is the third most important priority for voters, behind the economy and running of the health service.

Under the Nationality and Borders Act passed by parliament last year, people who arrive in the UK without prior permission and who “could have claimed asylum in another safe country” can already be regarded as “inadmissible” for asylum.

Opposition parties questioned whether the government’s new approach would be any more effective in halting cross-Channel migration than previous efforts.

“We’ve been told in the past that they have got plans and legislation that was going to deal with this problem and their promises came to nothing and actually we’ve seen more boat crossings and the criminal gangs are getting away with more and more,” shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth said on Sky News.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael described the incoming plans as “half baked”, adding: “We all want to see these dangerous crossings stop, but there are currently no safe and legal routes for asylum seekers. Creating these needs to be the priority.”

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Cyprus  |  UK  |  Britain  |  migrants

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