Rishi’s new (?) plan for small boats
Tomorrow the Government is expected to launch its most draconian anti-refugee legalisation yet, as Rishi Sunak bids to make the UK off-limits to any refugees other than those his government hand-picks.
It is anticipated that under the new laws, people arriving on small boats will:
• Have their asylum claims made automatically ‘inadmissible’
• Be subject to mass detention
• Be removed to a third country as soon as practicable
• Be permanently banned from returning to the UK
• Be unable to use family rights laws to stop deportation
This raises immediate practical issues.
• Firstly, mass detention may well be unlawful. If it is possible under the new law – where would thousands of people be held? And how much would this cost?
• If people are to be deported, then where does the Government intend to send them? It’s clearly not Rwanda (the Government has now said there will be no Rwanda fights before 2024) and there are no agreements in place with other countries, despite the Government’s many attempts to make them. To comply with international law, any agreement would have to be with a ’safe’ country.
The critical question that needs to be asked is, what exactly is the Government trying to achieve?
If its aim is to stop small boats and people smugglers, there is a far more effective option readily available. The UK could give safe passage to refugees in Calais who have viable asylum claims, transfer them to the UK safely, and process their claims on arrival here.
As 90 per cent of those who cross on small boats do so to claim asylum (and the vast majority have it granted) this would immediately remove 90 per cent of people smugglers’ profits. It would of course have the added benefit of saving lives. It would not drive up numbers, as these applicants are coming anyway.
Logic suggests, then, that the Government’s goal is not to stop the people smugglers. So what IS its intention?
It appears that the Government’s real aim is to stop anyone claiming asylum in the UK, other than people whom they hand-pick. This explains their favour for the limited number of ‘safe and legal routes’ that they determine.
But this is not how asylum is supposed to work.
The UN Refugee Convention bases asylum on an assessment of an individual’s need and presupposes that asylum should be open to anyone who needs it. Does our Government disagree with that principle? Does it really want to take us out of the Refugee Convention altogether? If they truly believe this is a defensible moral position, then they should show their conviction and say so publicly.
But they don’t. Instead, they proclaim that innocent refugees are ‘illegal’, criminalising those who are unable to defend themselves, and instilling fear and division in our society.
Yesterday trade union leaders sent an inspiring message of solidarity to refugees. If Rishi Sunak’s government showed half as much leadership, promoting tolerance, instead of fear and division, our country could look to the future with confidence and certainty, instead of name-calling and fighting among ourselves.
Sunak is hoping to implement the new legislation by September. It is likely that the new laws will apply to all arrivals via Calais and not just small boats. It seems a crude, cruel and impractical plan that will cause untold suffering and pain with little improvement. Such a prospect, however, has never stopped them before.
Read more about how a safe passage policy would work at care4calais.org/safepassage