Channel migrants will not be allowed to apply for asylum in the UK from today, according to Rishi Sunak’s bold plans.
Breakthrough legislation will prevent illegal arrivals from staying and enlisting on grounds of refugees, modern slavery or human rights. Only children and the seriously ill are allowed to stay in Britain as long as the cases are considered.
To avoid a rush to reach Britain, the rules will come into force from now on, even if they could take months to get into the law code.
The new bill is also expected to give parliament the power to set an annual cap on the number of refugees allowed into the country – with local authorities being consulted on how many they can take in.
The prime minister will visit the south east as he trumpets the blueprint, part of his vow to ‘stop the boats’ after 45,000 people made the perilous crossing last year.
However, Home Secretary Suella Braverman has admitted that the initiative “pushes the boundaries of international law” and the government faces challenges in the courts and in parliament.
Critics have also warned that the proposals are ‘unworkable’ because the UK has nowhere safe to send the numbers crossing the Channel.
Tough measures to tackle small boat arrivals will be rushed through parliament – and could be in place by the summer. In the photo a group was brought ashore in Dungeness yesterday
Rishi Sunak said ‘enough is enough’ as Home Secretary Suella Braverman vowed ministers would tackle Channel crisis ‘no ifs, no buts’
Rolled up dinghies and outboard motors stored in a yard in Dover
Mr Sunak admitted that voters “have heard promises before” with no results, but stressed that his legislation “will mean that those who come here on small boats will not be able to seek asylum here”.
He wrote in The Sun: ‘This new law will send a clear message that if you come to this country illegally you will be quickly removed.’
The prime minister said it was a plan “to do what is fair to those at home and those who have a legitimate claim to asylum – a plan to take back control of our borders once and for all.”
Mr Sunak spoke to Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame before revealing his plans, and pledged to continue working with him to ensure their stalled project works.
The government has paid more than £140 million to Rwanda, but legal issues have prevented flights forcibly transporting migrants to the capital, Kigali.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “Leaders are committed to continuing to work together to ensure the successful implementation of this important partnership.”
The Prime Minister will meet Emmanuel Macron on Friday to discuss further cooperation that will be needed to reduce the number of boat crossings.
In the Telegraph, Mrs Braverman – who is due to make a statement to the House of Commons over lunch – wrote: ‘We have to stop the boats and that is what our bill will do. No more sticking band-aids or avoiding difficult decisions.
“Myself and the Prime Minister have worked tirelessly to ensure we have a bill that works – we have pushed the boundaries of international law to resolve this crisis.
“If you come here illegally, it must be that you can’t stay.”
The Interior Minister will be required to remove anyone arriving by small boat “as soon as reasonably possible”, to Rwanda or to a “safe third country”.
And arrivals will be barred from seeking asylum while in the UK, with plans to also ban them from returning once removed.
The new bill excludes small boat migrants from filing asylum applications and removes the opportunity to challenge human rights.
Almost anyone who arrives via illegal routes cannot appeal until they are deported.
It is clear that migrants are being held in student housing, cruise ships or holiday parks – rather than hotels – until they are returned to their countries of origin or to a third location, such as Rwanda.
It has been reported that the Home Office plans to buy two RAF bases in Lincolnshire and Essex to house migrants awaiting deportation.
Asylum and human rights claims are expected to be ‘radically curtailed’ under the package.
New legislation will mean that claims of human trafficking must be based on significant evidence in order to be claimed.
Sources close to Ms Braverman said: ‘The British people have had enough. This government is determined to stop the boats and ensure that we have all available powers to remove illegal migrants from the country.
“The Prime Minister and Home Secretary are determined to follow this course of action, no ifs, no buts.”
Another insider said: “This new duty of removal will ensure that the Home Secretary’s power to remove migrants takes precedence in law and ensures that asylum, human rights and modern slavery claims are blocked.”
In a separate development, the ministers have not given up on sending the first planeload of migrants to Rwanda this year. They are encouraged by the court’s ruling in December that the deal with the African country is lawful.
While the policy still faces legal challenges, ministers believe it could even be possible for an asylum flight to start by the summer.
The full package of immigration measures will be unveiled later today by Mr. Sunak and Ms. Braverman.
Immigration laws that came into effect under Boris Johnson set out how the Home Secretary can declare a migrant’s claim inadmissible if they have passed through a safe third country such as France.
With today’s reinforced package, this will be applied almost across the board to all migrants.
The move expands on the powers Labor introduced in 2003 – ‘non-suspensive appeals’ – which allow asylum seekers to be removed after their initial application has been rejected.
However, the use of the powers has declined. There were 1,285 asylum cases scheduled for trial in 2018, but only 171 were eligible for trial in the first six months of last year.
The Illegal Migration Bill will also see Channel migrants banned for life from returning to Britain.
Ministers have insisted they can ignore last-minute interventions by Strasbourg judges.
A new Bill of Rights, published last June but currently on hold, states unequivocally that ‘no account should be taken of any provisional measures taken by the European Court of Human Rights’.
But it is not yet known whether today’s legislation will include the measures.
It is understood that a rarely used measure under the Human Rights Act – known as a section 19.1.B statement – will be deployed to get the legislation passed through parliament
Ministers are bracing for opposition from the Whitehall establishment – known as the ‘Blob’ – to their plan to deal with the Channel crisis.
Critics include former Home Office mandarin Sir David Normington, who said it was ‘highly doubtful’ that the proposals would lead to a drop in crossings.
Refugee charities and a union representing immigration officials were also among those who questioned early details of the plan.
Sir David told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The core of the policy is a gamble that if you say it’s illegal to get into a small boat people won’t come again. I think that is very doubtful.’
He predicted that the government’s plan would run into “very big” problems.
Lucy Moreton of the Immigration Services Union also questioned the plans, describing them as “pretty confusing.”
Enver Solomon of the Refugee Council described the legislation as flawed, adding: ‘It is unworkable, costly and will not stop the boats.’
Steve Valdez-Symonds of Amnesty International UK condemned the proposed measures as ‘disgraceful posturing and scare tactics’.
When asked if the plan was legally viable, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer replied: ‘I don’t know if it is and I think we have to be very careful about international law here.’
But the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We have seen too many lives lost on this dangerous and unnecessary journey, and the number of people entering the country is simply unsustainable. As we’ve always said, we recognize that this type of legislation is likely to be challenged in many forms.”
A spokesperson for No. 10 said the government would stop all small boats, but refused to put a timetable on the plans.