- by Doug Faulkner and Ian Watson
- BBC News
Rishi Sunak has said he is “ready to fight” to introduce new legislation to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats to reach the UK.
The prime minister said he was confident the government would win any legal battle over “tough, but necessary and fair” measures.
Earlier his Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, announced the bill during a divisive debate in Parliament.
Labor said the Tories’ latest plans were akin to “Groundhog Day” and a “con”.
It is not just opposition MPs who have criticized the plans. The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said the proposed law is tantamount to an “asylum ban”.
Standing behind a podium with the slogan “Stop the boats”, Mr Sunak confirmed planned new legislation that will see illegal immigrants deported “within weeks” comes from Tuesday to all people who come to Britain illegally will be applicable retrospectively.
He said he knew there would be debate about the harshness of the Illegal Migration Bill but that the government had tried “every other way” to stop crossings and they had not worked.
While he acknowledged it was a “complex problem” with no “silver bullet” to fix it, he said he wouldn’t stand there if he didn’t think he could deliver.
More than 45,000 people entered the UK via Channel crossings last year, up from around 300 in 2018.
The government believes that preventing small boats is an important issue for voters and Sunak has made it one of his top five priorities.
This is politically risky – because the outcome may not be entirely in their hands.
Speaking in the Commons, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said serious action was needed to stop small boat crossings, but said the government’s plan risked “making the chaos worse”.
Opposition MPs launched one attack after another on the law, some saying it was illegal, while others suggested it would not work in practice.
But Tory MPs backed their home secretary as he welcomed the move, and Ms Braverman said Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer “doesn’t want to rock the boats”.
Recognizing the possibility of a legal battle, Ms Braverman wrote to Conservative MPs that there was a “more than 50% chance” the law was inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
This potentially makes legal challenges – and a bumpy ride for Bill at Lord’s – more likely.
But the political calculation may be that the new law pours clear blue water between the government and the opposition.
And if the bill is stuck, the prime minister will be hoping he gets some political credit from voters for trying to find a solution.
Mr Sunak told the Downing Street conference that he believed it would not be necessary for the UK to leave the ECHR and said the government believed it was acting in compliance and “meeting our international obligations”. Has been”.
He said that part of the problem is that people are making one claim “then they can make another claim, and then another claim” and that Britain may not have a system that can be taken advantage of.
He said the deterrent effect of the new law could be “quite powerful quite quickly”.
- People removed from the UK will be barred from returning or obtaining British citizenship in the future
- Migrants will not get bail or be able to seek judicial review for the first 28 days of detention
- There will be a limit on the number of refugees the UK can settle through “safe and legal routes”, set annually by Parliament
- Home Secretary’s duty to detain and remove those arriving in the UK illegally in Rwanda or a “safe” third country – this would take legal priority over someone’s right to claim asylum
- be able to delay the removal of those under the age of 18, who are medically unfit to fly, or who are at risk of serious harm to the country
- will be heard remotely after removing any other claim for asylum
The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said it was “deeply concerned” by the bill, calling it a “clear violation” of the Refugee Convention.
“Most people fleeing war and persecution are unable to access the necessary passports and visas,” it said.
“There is no safe and ‘legal’ route available to them. Denying them access to asylum on this basis undermines the very purpose for which the Refugee Convention was established.”
The Refugee Council said this was “not the British way of doing things”, with its chief executive Enver Solomon saying the plans were “more akin to authoritarian nations”, while Amnesty International called it “a way of dodging basic moral and legal responsibilities”. Said cynical attempt”.