UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said asylum seekers arriving in Britain on small boats through the English Channel will be prevented from staying.
Under pressure from his own lawmakers to find stop the arrival of asylum seekers in Britain, Sunak has made stopping small boats one of his five key priorities.
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“Make no mistake, if you come here illegally, you will not be able to stay,” Sunak told the Mail on Sunday ahead of new legislation, promised as part of government efforts to tackle undocumented migration, could come as soon as Tuesday. Home Secretary Suella Braverman said that the only way into Britain would be a “safe and legal route”.
Sunak said the new powers are a step towards fulfilling his pledge to “stop the boats once and for all”.
“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,” he added. “I am determined to deliver on my promise to stop the boats.”
The legislation is expected to make asylum claims inadmissible from those who travel to Britain on small boats, with plans also to ban them from returning once removed.
Last year, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed a deal to send tens of thousands of people, many having fled from Afghanistan, Syria or other countries suffering war, more than 6,400km (4,000 miles) to Rwanda.
The policy faced a legal battle after the first planned deportation flight was blocked by a last-minute injunction granted by the European Court of Human Rights.
It was ruled lawful by London’s High Court in December, but opponents are seeking to appeal that verdict. In the current legislation, asylum seekers have the right to stay in the country and have their cases heard.
The latest Home Office figures show 2,950 people have crossed the Channel already this year. Last year’s figures are about 45,000.
The government’s plans have been criticised by campaigners, with concerns too about whether some of the policies are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
Christina Marriott, executive director of strategy at the Red Cross, called it “extremely concerning”.
“The Home Office knows from its own research that this will also do little to prevent people risking their lives to seek safety,” Marriott said. “Again and again, we hear from people that they have no prior knowledge of the UK’s asylum system, so making it harsher is not an effective strategy.”