The UK government is set to unveil a new law on Tuesday aimed at preventing asylum seekers who arrive through unofficial channels from claiming asylum. The move is part of a broader effort to stem the flow of migrants who arrive in small boats, with over 45,000 arriving on England’s south coast last year alone. Approximately 90% of those who arrived claimed asylum. Under the proposed legislation, individuals arriving in the UK via small boats will be deported to so-called “safe third countries” and prevented from claiming asylum.
The proposed law has sparked criticism from charities, including the Refugee Council, which warns that the legislation will “lock up” tens of thousands of genuine refugees who would previously have been granted asylum. The charity has also stated that the move would violate the UK’s commitments under the UN refugee convention.
Immigration has been a contentious issue in UK politics for many years and has been effectively used as a tool by campaigners to generate support for Brexit. A recent YouGov poll found that controlling immigration was the third most important issue for voters after the economy and the running of the health service, with 87% of the public stating that the government was handling the issue poorly.
Opposition parties and charities have questioned whether the proposed legislation will be any more effective than previous attempts to deter migrants from making the perilous journey across the Channel. Human traffickers have made significant profits from the trade, and several migrants have lost their lives attempting to cross the Channel.
The UK government has previously agreed on a deal to deport tens of thousands of migrants to Rwanda, but the move was blocked by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in June of last year. The government insists that it will press ahead with plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, with the first flight having been cancelled on Tuesday. The legality of the strategy has been challenged at London’s High Court, and the case is expected to go to the UK Supreme Court.
The UK government is set to ask French President Emmanuel Macron for more co-operation in tackling the gangs involved in cross-Channel people smuggling when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meets him on Friday. Photo by DFID – UK Department for International Development, Wikimedia commons.