The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak, made a promise to his citizens: We stop the boats! He meant the boats used by smugglers who bring people illegally across the English Channel to Great Britain. According to the British government, 45,728 people came to the United Kingdom this way last year alone. This should be over now.
The British government published a draft for stricter asylum law, which provides that migrants who have illegally entered the country via the English Channel can be arrested and deported more easily. At the same time, new “legal and safe ways” are to be opened up for asylum seekers. “Our measures will be simple in principle and in application: the only route to the UK will be a safe and legal route,” Home Secretary Suella Braverman said. “Enough is enough,” when presenting the bill in the House of Commons. The patience of the British people has been exhausted, so the government will act now and stop the tugboats. Braverman said she is confident it can do so in accordance with international law. She became a little clearer even before her appearance in Parliament. Braverman told the Daily Telegraph: “We have pushed the limits of international law to resolve this crisis.”
The British government has been under political pressure for months due to a record number of migrants arriving via the English Channel. Last year alone, almost 45,000 people crossed the English Channel from France to England – compared to almost 30,000 in 2021. According to the plans, the government wants to ban people who have entered illegally from returning to Great Britain for life. They also provide for the deportation of rejected asylum seekers to East African Rwanda.
Such plans had so far failed. A flight of deported refugees to Rwanda that was planned for June 2022 was canceled at short notice by a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. In December, however, the London High Court ruled that the deportations to Rwanda were lawful.
Human rights organizations have sharply criticized the proposed legislation. In the eyes of the British Refugee Council, Britain is in breach of its obligation under the United Nations Refugee Convention to grant people a fair hearing, regardless of their route of arrival. Large parts of the opposition also accused the government of violating the law. Labour leader Keir Starmer questioned whether the plans would be legal. According to government circles, it is assumed that the legality of the law will be clarified in court – but probably only after the elections next year.
For Sunak, this would have the advantage that he could at least claim during the election campaign that he would keep a Brexit promise: namely to regain control of his own borders. Take back control is the battle cry of the Brexiteers, which has not stopped to this day. And so Sunak promised the Sun tabloid that this would happen “once and for all” with the new law. “This law will send a clear signal that anyone entering this country illegally will be turned away.”
Sunak also held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. The prime minister wanted to try to find a way together with France to take action against the gangs of human smugglers on the English Channel. But it is not that easy. In addition to the legal hurdles, there are all sorts of practical problems – not only on the French coast, but also at Sunak’s home. After all, people who come to Britain illegally need to be accommodated first. So far, hotels and disused military sites have been used primarily for this purpose. According to the Ministry of the Interior, the number of asylum applications that have not yet been finally examined is currently 160,000. Once the new law comes into force, it should also apply retrospectively to these old cases.
The question, however, is whether the government will even succeed in deporting people within 28 days as planned. London has already concluded a controversial migration pact with Rwanda, a safe third country, and paid the country 140 million pounds, the equivalent of around 156 million euros, for it. The agreement provides that after deportation from Britain, migrants can apply for asylum in Rwanda and – if granted – live there. However, since the European Court of Human Rights intervened, there has not yet been a single deportation flight to Rwanda.
All publishing rights and copyrights reserved to MENA Research and Study Center.