Channel migrants face ban on claiming asylum in UK

Migrants crossing the Channel will face a ban from claiming asylum in Britain under plans announced by the Home Secretary.

At the Conservative Party conference, Suella Braverman used her first major speech since taking on the role to set out the proposals.

The new laws – which go further than the Nationality and Borders Act which came into force in June – will impose a blanket ban on anyone deemed entering the UK illegally from seeking refuge.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman leaves the stage
Home Secretary Suella Braverman leaves the stage after speaking at the Tory party conference (Aaron Chown/PA)

The announcement marks the latest attempt by the Government to curb the growing numbers of Channel crossings after its flagship policy to send migrants on a one-way trip to Rwanda stalled amid legal challenges.

So far this year more than 33,500 people have arrived in the UK after making the journey from France.

Ms Braverman told the conference in Birmingham: “We have got to stop the boats crossing the Channel. This has gone on far too long.

“But I have to be straight with you: there are no quick fixes and the problem is chronic.”

She said the law “simply isn’t working” and legislation was being “abused” by people smugglers, people making “multiple, meritless and last-minute claims” and – taking aim at lawyers – by “specialist small boat-chasing law firms”, adding: “This cannot continue.”

“Conference, I will commit to you today that I will look to bring forward legislation to make it clear that the only route to the United Kingdom is through a safe and legal route … So if you deliberately enter the United Kingdom illegally from a safe country, you should be swiftly returned to your home country or relocated to Rwanda. That is where your asylum claim will be considered.”

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
More migrants arrived in the UK on Tuesday after Channel crossings (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Campaigners condemned the plan as further “attacks” on “genuine refugees” and branded them a “blatant breach” of Britain’s international obligations under the Refugee Convention.

Clare Mosley, founder of refugee charity Care4Calais, said the proposal was “barbaric and unnecessary” while claiming the Government’s rhetoric on Channel crossings was “simply false”.

“There is a mountain of evidence that the vast majority are genuine refugees; this criminalisation of them is blatant victim blaming of incredibly vulnerable people, simply for the purpose of grabbing headlines.

“Those who have escaped from the worst horrors in this world should not be risking their lives once again simply to claim asylum in the UK. The obvious answer is to give them safe passage. This would break the model of people smugglers and save lives.

“If this Government truly wanted to stop small boat crossings, it would offer safe passage to those who have a viable claim for asylum.”

Refugee Action chief executive Tim Naor Hilton said: “It is now clear that this Home Secretary cares only for keeping people out, not keeping them safe.

“Banning those crossing the Channel from claiming asylum is a blatant breach of the international refugee laws that the UK proudly helped create in the first place.”

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, warned that declaring the country an “asylum-free zone would make the UK a beacon for illegality” and that the Government’s behaviour was “doing serious damage to the UK’s international reputation”.

Steve Crawshaw, director of policy and advocacy at Freedom from Torture, said the “inhumane plans clearly undermine international rules introduced after the Holocaust that ensure no-one fleeing persecution is refused protection because of how they arrive in a country.”

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, branded the proposals “deeply worrying and out of step with the majority of the public who support giving refugees protection”.

Zoё Abrams, executive director at the British Red Cross argued: “We need more safe routes for people at risk,” adding: “The vast majority of people that make it to our shores go on to have their asylum claim approved.”

Setting out her intention to ensure UK immigration policy is not “derailed” by modern slavery laws, the Human Rights Act or the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), she also said she would “work closely with the French to get more out of our partnership”.

Ms Braverman insisted it was not “racist” to “want to control our borders”, or “bigoted to say that we have too many asylum seekers who are abusing the system”.

“It’s not xenophobic to say that mass and rapid migration places pressure on housing, public services and community relations. I reject the Left’s argument that it is hypocritical for someone from an ethnic minority to tell these truths,” she added.

Ms Braverman told delegates she would allow “the kind of immigration that grows our economy”, but said: “We’ve all heard pledges and promises but this is problem is complex and entrenched. And there are many forces working against us.

“The Labour Party will try to stop this. The Lib Dems will go bananas. The Guardian will have a meltdown.

“As for the lawyers. Don’t get me started on the lawyers. And I’m a recovering lawyer.”

In a conclusion which prompted two standing ovations, cheers and applause from the audience, she pledged her “total and undeniable and unfettered and unconditional commitment to doing whatever it takes”, adding: “It’s time to tackle the small boats – no ifs, no buts.”

Conservative former chief whip Andrew Mitchell said her plan would only work if the UK makes a deal with France, telling BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme Ms Braverman would need to “improve and mend the extremely fractious relationship which existed between Boris (Johnson) and President Macron.”

Channel crossings continued on Tuesday after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) recorded 541 arrivals in nine boats on Monday. In September, 7,961 made the crossing to the UK.

Prime Minister Liz Truss told GB News she wanted to “look at more deals beyond Rwanda” and make the policy “work”.

Earlier on Tuesday, Ms Braverman told a conference fringe event she would “love to be here claiming victory, I would love to be having a front page of the Telegraph with a plane taking off to Rwanda, that’s my dream, that’s my obsession.”

It would be “amazing” if the first flight could take off by Christmas, she said, but added: “If I’m honest I think it’s going to take longer.”

Appearing on the Chopper’s Politics podcast, she said her “ultimate aspiration” would be to get net migration down into the tens of thousands but refused to set a target for the next election.