Geneva [Switzerland] : The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) on Wednesday (local time) said that the UK asylum bill would ‘undermine’ international law.
British Home Secretary Suella Braverman introduced an Illegal Migration Bill this week aimed at tackling people crossing the English Channel to reach the UK, which if passed “would amount to an asylum ban,” the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said in a statement.
The UK government has made stopping small boats arriving a top priority. Under the plans, those arriving via this route face detention and deportation. Those removed will be banned from returning.
Migrants who come to Britain illegally by boat “will be detained, removed” and “banned from re-entering” the country,” said the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Over 45,000 people illegally crossed the Channel in small boats last year.
“That is unfair to those who come here legally and unfair on the British people who play by the rules. Today’s Illegal Migration Bill introduces new laws to stop the boats,” said Sunak.
“The Illegal Migration Bill ensures that if you come to the UK illegally you can’t stay. People must know that coming here illegally will result in their detention and swift removal – once they do, they will not come, and the boats will stop,” he added.
But the UNHCR said Tuesday the bill would be a “clear breach” of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which defines refugees as those who are seeking refuge from persecution. It also gives them the right to not be sent back home into harm’s way, except under extreme circumstances.
“Most people fleeing war and persecution are simply unable to access the required passports and visas. There are no safe and ‘legal’ routes available to them. Denying them access to asylum on this basis undermines the very purpose for which the Refugee Convention was established,” added the statement from the agency.
As per the Illegal Migration Bill, people who come to the UK illegally cannot claim asylum, benefit from UK’s modern slavery protections, make spurious human rights claims and also cannot sytay in the country.
“Today we are introducing new laws that mean if you come to the UK illegally you will be banned from ever re-entering our country. This is how we will break the business model of the people smugglers; this is how we will take back control of our borders,” said Sunak.
“If you come to the UK illegally you will be stopped from making late claims and attempts to frustrate your removal. You will be removed in weeks, either to your own country if it is safe to do so, or to a safe third country like Rwanda,” added the UK PM.
An increasing number of refugees and migrants fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty risk the perilous crossing between Britain and France every year, inflaming a national debate on the issue of migrant crossings to the UK.
Tens of thousands of people travel in dinghies unfit for the voyage, and at the mercy of people smugglers, hoping to claim asylum or economic opportunities in the UK. In 2022, 45,755 people crossed the Channel in small boats, according to UK government data. More than 3,000 people have already made the crossing this year.
Last year, the UK government announced a scheme which would see asylum seekers deemed to have entered the UK illegally sent to Rwanda to have their asylum claims processed.
The first planned deportation flight to Rwanda was blocked under the European Convention of Human Rights, a major point of contention in post-Brexit British politics.
However, the controversial policy was deemed lawful by the country’s High Court in December.