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How does the UK government plan to stop the Channel crossings?

The UK government has set out details of a new law banning the entry of asylum seekers arriving by unauthorized means, for example in small boats across the English Channel.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman admitted on Tuesday that the government had “pushed the boundaries of international law” with a bill called the “Illegal Migration Bill”, which will ban asylum applications from anyone arriving in the UK irregularly, and authorities permits to deport them “to their home country or a safe third country”.

But the proposed legislation has been criticized by critics as unworkable and inhumane.

Why is the UK introducing this law?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made stopping boat arrivals one of his top five priorities after the number of refugees and migrants arriving on England’s south coast rose to more than 45,000 last year, a 500 percent increase over the past two years, and almost 3,000 have arrived so far this year.

Sunak said the new legislation means the government will “take back control of our borders once and for all”, a reference to a slogan from the pro-Brexit campaign that successfully took the UK out of the European Union in 2016 .

Although the number of asylum applications in the UK reached a 20-year high of almost 75,000 in 2022, it is still below the EU average. Germany received more than 240,000 asylum applications last year.

How will the law work?

The legislation allows unauthorized arrivals to be detained without bail or judicial review for the first 28 days after arrival.

The legislation will disqualify refugees and migrants from using modern slavery laws to challenge government decisions to remove them in court.

Once deported, they are banned for life from entering the UK, seeking asylum or applying for British citizenship.

Only children, people deemed too ill to fly or people at “real risk of serious and irreversible harm” are allowed to apply for asylum in the UK.

Tens of thousands of people could be held in detention centers until they are transferred to another country.

The UK recently signed an agreement with Rwanda to host some of these deported people. But that policy is being challenged in the courts and so far not a single refugee has been flown to the East African country.

How have critics reacted to the proposed law?

The main opposition party, Labor, has denounced the law as “political presumption”, while other critics have highlighted several practical and legal challenges to the new law’s implementation.

The government has said it plans to house people in disused military bases and holiday parks. But there are doubts whether the government has the capacity to detain people in these centers.

There are logistical questions about how the UK could remove tens of thousands of people from the country each year and where they would go.

Rwanda had only one hostel last year, with a capacity of 100 people, to accept British arrivals, a fraction of those who arrived in the UK on small boats, and the government has yet to make similar agreements with other countries.

Refugee groups have said that most of those arriving through the Channel are fleeing conflict, persecution or famine in countries such as Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. Analysts using data from Home Office in 2021 showed that most asylum applications from people arriving by boat were granted in the UK.

The Refugee Council charity said the new plans are “impracticable, costly and won’t stop the boats”.

The charity said the law would leave refugees “trapped in a state of misery” and compared the government’s approach to “authoritarian nations” such as Russia, which have moved away from international human rights treaties.

Some lawyers have said it would be incompatible with the United Nations Refugee Convention, to which the country is a signatory, not to seek asylum from unauthorized people arriving in the UK. This is likely to lead to legal issues, which can delay removals.