Rishi Sunak vows to end asylum claims from small boat arrivals


Anyone arriving in the UK on a small boat will be prevented from claiming asylum, under new legislation expected to be unveiled on Tuesday.

PM Rishi Sunak, who has made “stopping the boats” 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.”

A new “rights brake” could stop lawyers using the right to family life to stop deportations, the paper says.

Refugee groups said it was unworkable.

The new legislation is expected to make asylum claims inadmissible from those who travel to the UK on small boats.

It would place a duty on the home secretary to remove anyone arriving on a small boat to Rwanda or a “safe” third country “as soon as reasonably practicable” and ban them from returning permanently.

Currently, asylum seekers coming to 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.

However it is not clear how exactly the government is proposing to limit the rights of asylum seekers.

Nor is the pledge to deport asylum seekers straightforward.

Despite a deal being reached last year, not one migrant has been sent to Rwanda yet and any plans to do so are currently on hold. There is also no returns agreement in place with the EU.

The Refugee Council has 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 “flawed” legislation would not stop the boats but result in tens of thousands of people locked up in detention at huge cost, permanently in limbo and treated as criminals simply for seeking refuge.

“It’s unworkable, costly and won’t stop the boats,” he said.

But Mr Sunak told the Mail on Sunday: “Illegal migration is not fair on British taxpayers, it is not fair on those who come here legally and it is not right that criminal gangs should be allowed to continue their immoral trade.”

He is expected to travel to Paris for a UK-France summit on Friday, the first since 2018. It is thought he will discuss small boat crossings with President Emmanuel Macron.

The government has long been trying to tackle the rise in numbers of asylum seekers making the dangerous crossing from France to the UK.

Last year, it announced a deal with Rwanda to send asylum seekers there on a one-way ticket.

However the plan has yet to get under way after it was met with fierce opposition from campaigners and legal interventions.

Opponents argued Rwanda was not a safe destination and the scheme broke human rights laws.

However, in December the High Court ruled the scheme did not breach the UN’s Refugee Convention. That decision is facing further challenges in the courts, with a preliminary hearing expected on Monday at the Court of Appeal.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who will introduce the new laws, told the Sun on Sunday “the only route to the UK will be a safe and legal route”.

The Home Office says there are a number of “safe and legal” routes to the UK. However, some are only available to people from specific countries such as Afghanistan and Ukraine, or for British National status holders in Hong Kong.

Other asylum routes only accept a limited number of refugees according to precise criteria.

The government’s Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme the new legislation would only form one part of the UK’s response, adding: “We need a full range of things in our arsenal to try and stop both people trafficking and illegal migration across the Channel.”