Rishi Sunak has announced plans for a new bill to make asylum claims from anyone reaching the UK on a small boat inadmissible. These refugees will either be deported to Rwanda, or to any other “’safe’ third country”. They will be prevented from making an asylum claim whilst in this country, and will be unable to return once they have been removed. Anyone arriving in a small boat would also be barred from ever applying for British citizenship.
The Prime Minister has also now pledged half a billion pounds to the French Government in exchange for increased coastal patrols, and the establishment of a refugee detention centre on French soil.
Under the UN Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights, asylum seekers arriving in the UK have the right to remain here until their asylum claims have been settled. But the Mail on Sunday says a clause in the Illegal Migration Bill will apply a ‘rights brake”, allowing the conventions to be circumvented, although it is unclear how this might work.
Previously, Conservative sources have hinted that a proposal for the UK to leave the EHCR would be included in the Conservative Party manifesto before the next election.
Downing Street has added that the Government would open up more safe routes for asylum seekers, but only “once we have control of our borders”.
The Refugee Council , one of many charities to criticise the plans, said that the plans would shatter the UK’s adherence to the UN Convention, and would “add more chaos and cost to the system”, whilst failing to stop the boats.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Wednesday that the bill is a “clear breach” of the refugee convention.
The new legislation “would undermine a longstanding, humanitarian tradition of which the British people are rightly proud”, according to the UN.
It would also violate the European Convention on Human Rights. The former government lawyer, Jonathan Jones, has noted: “The government itself accepts the bill may well breach a whole toxic soup of ECHR rights (life, torture, slavery, fair trial, detention, family and private life, discrimination, right to a remedy”. The only European countries who don’t adhere to the Convention are Belarus and Russia.
Meanwhile, figures obtained by the BBC show that Home Office charter flights to remove asylum seekers cost more per person than a first class ticket to New York. The average cost for each of the 62 flights chartered by the Home Office in 2022 was £205,000.