The new law of the Sunak Government intends to ban for life people who try to reach the country without papers by sea in what could be a violation of the European convention on human rights
The British Government will present this Tuesday one of the toughest immigration regulations in Europe to punish people who cross the English Channel in small boats without papers. If they arrive in the United Kingdom in this way, they will not be able to apply for asylum even if they meet other requirements or ask for papers in the future, according to the new legislation that has to pass the parliamentary process and that could face impediments in the courts, including the violation of the European convention of human rights.
In 2022, the British authorities recorded the arrival of more than 45,000 people on boats and other small craft without a visa or permission to enter the UK. Asylum seekers continue to arrive through other routes, but these entries have received more attention due to the increase (in August 2022, the highest number of arrivals of this type was detected since data exists) and due to the trafficking networks involved. Most of the people who are identified on these boats come from Albania and Afghanistan, although they also come from Syria, Iran and Iraq. 90% ask for asylum when they reach the coast or when they are intercepted by the coast guard in the United Kingdom or France. The majority -more than 60%- receive it, according to British data from 2018.
The case of Albania, the dominant nationality since May 2022, is especially significant since many are fleeing from local gangs, but the British government assures that they fall into networks that traffic people to reach France and the United Kingdom. Afghanistan is one of the places of origin of people who usually receive asylum almost automatically (it is also the case in Ukraine and Hong Kong), but if the new law is passed, even Afghans could lose the right to request asylum .
The Minister of the Interior, Suella Braverman, will present the plan this Tuesday in Parliament, but the Government has been advancing details. Braverman, who ran in the race to succeed Boris Johnson last summer, is one of the most right-wing conservative politicians in Sunak’s government and an advocate of the toughest rules against migration with and without papers. Opposition to immigration was at the root of the campaign for Brexit in 2016.
Detention centers and dangerous hotels
According to the new law, migrants will have to be returned to their country of origin or a third country considered “safe” within 28 days after being detained by the British authorities, although the places designated for arriving migrants -hotels, among others – are already overwhelmed and have been denounced for unsanitary conditions and lack of security that makes minors especially prey to local human trafficking networks. More than 160,000 people are now waiting for a decision on their asylum request.
Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, recalled that the majority of those arriving are refugees and described the new bill as “inhumane” because it will cause tens of thousands of migrants to be detained and “treated like criminals.” “It is not fair and underscores the lack of a clear process in the UK for most asylum seekers. It is not a crime to seek security. No person sends her child on a desperately dangerous journey for no good reason,” he said.
The plan that the Interior wants to apply since last year to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was declared legal by the British high court, but several judges have paralyzed the first attempts to deport refugees. Minister Braverman says that the “scale” deportation of refugees to that country continues to be her priority.
One of the criticisms even from the representatives of the border agents is that the plan to send these people out of the United Kingdom is confusing and has not been able to be put into practice. “Unless we have a safe third country other than Rwanda to send people to, this is simply not going to be possible,” Lucy Moreton, a spokeswoman for the border and customs agents union, said Monday morning at the bbc radio. In addition, she noted that the focus on small boats may prompt people smugglers to turn to organizing truck trips now while accelerating sea arrivals in the coming months with even more crowded boats and more dangerous crossings.
The British government may also run into a violation of the European convention on human rights, from which it even contemplates going out in line with the Tories further to the right.
Another option that Sunak considers is to introduce a legislative change so that humanitarian requirements do not have to be met in the case of some refugees and thus deportations are not paralyzed as now in the British courts.