Plan for lifetime ban for Channel migrants is unworkable, say charities
Government plans to ban migrants from re-entering the UK if they cross the Channel in small boats are unworkable and will leave thousands of people in limbo, refugee groups have said. Under new legislation, Channel migrants could be removed from the UK, banned from future re-entry and barred from applying for British citizenship. Supporters say the PM is “getting a grip” on illegal migration. The government is expected to outline the plans on Tuesday.
PM Rishi Sunak, who has made the issue one of his top priorities, told the Mail on Sunday: “Make no mistake, if you come here illegally, you will not be able to stay.” The Refugee Council has criticised the plans and accused ministers of shattering the UK’s long-standing commitment under the UN Convention to give people a fair hearing regardless of how they get to the UK.
The group’s CEO Enver Solomon said the new plans would “add more cost and chaos to the system”, adding: “It’s unworkable, costly and won’t stop the boats. The slew of proposed measures will apply to anyone arriving on UK shores in a small boat – but the details are limited.
It is thought the legislation would place a duty on the home secretary to remove all those arriving in this way to Rwanda or a “safe” third country “as soon as reasonably practicable” – no matter where they have come from – and would also permanently ban them from returning. Currently, asylum seekers arriving in the UK have the right to seek protection under the UN’s Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights.
But the Mail on Sunday says a clause in the Illegal Migration Bill is expected to apply a “rights brake” to effectively allow the conventions to be circumvented. It is not clear how this would work. The proposed legislation would also stop those coming to the UK in small boats from applying for British citizenship.
Under current UK law, a person can seek to settle permanently and naturalise after five years in the country – but this is not straightforward.
Last year’s immigration act gave the home secretary the power to bar Channel migrants from seeking to resettle. It is possible the new plans might be aiming to make this an automatic ban and not a discretionary one. Cabinet minister Michelle Donelan said on Monday the government was “getting a grip” on illegal migration.
“This week we will be bringing forward additional legislation, which is based on the principle that if people travel here via illegal routes they shouldn’t be allowed to stay, which I think is common sense and right and the correct approach,” she told BBC Breakfast.
The science secretary promised more “safe routes” for asylum seekers would also be set up, but failed to name any when pressed. Science Minister George Freeman said Home Secretary Suella Braverman had made the principle behind the plans “crystal clear”.
“If you come here illegally, exploiting illegal systems to escape into the UK, it won’t be possible,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. But Labour’s Wes Streeting said called the measures “the latest in a long line for unworkable gimmicks”. The shadow health secretary said the government should instead create better safe routes into the country for asylum seekers and speed up the processing of asylum claims.
He said: “We’ve put forward our own proposals – taking the hundreds of millions of pounds that would be wasted on the Rwanda scheme, put it into the National Crime Agency so that we can start rounding up and arresting the criminal gangs that are trafficking people.”
Mr Streeting added he did not think the proposed measures would “see the light of day” or get through Parliament. More than 40 migrants were brought to shore by a lifeboat in Dover on Monday morning.