Priti Patel today unveiled a major overhaul of the UK’s asylum system as she said illegal migrants ‘should and could’ make claims in the European countries they pass through on their way to Britain.
The Home Secretary warned the current asylum system is ‘collapsing’ because of the strain placed on it by people smugglers and dangerous Channel crossings.
She said people who arrive in the UK illegally having travelled through France and Germany are ‘not seeking refuge from persecution’ but rather ‘you are choosing the UK as your preferred destination’.
Outlining a raft of measures designed to toughen up the current system, Ms Patel said the changes will mark a ‘step change in our approach’ to asylum which will ‘deter illegal entry and the criminals that endanger life by enabling it’.
The Home Secretary said the changes will help ‘create safe and legal routes to give people the chance to resettle and access our asylum system’ while also combatting people smuggling and dangerous Channel crossings.
Defending the need to toughen up the system, Ms Patel said the European countries many migrants travel through to reach the UK are ‘not war zones’.
Ms Patel said a crackdown is necessary to ‘protect lives because we cannot carry on as we are with people dying in the hands of gangsters and smugglers’.
Her comments came as UK Border Force today brought more people ashore as a result of small boat crossings in the Channel, with 800 people estimated to have made the crossing so far this year.
The overhaul will see Ms Patel introduce a ‘two-tier’ system which will slash the right of migrants who arrive in the UK illegally.
A young family amongst a group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, by Border Force officers following a small boat incident in the Channel today
Priti Patel said changes will help ‘create safe and legal routes to give people the chance to resettle and access our asylum’ while also combatting people smuggling and dangerous Channel crossings
Migrants are helped ashore on the Border Force vessel ‘Hunter’ as they walk onto Dover Harbour in Kent yesterday
No right to settle under Priti Priti’s asylum blitz
- Illegal migrants will no longer have the right to settle in the UK, even if granted asylum. Instead, they will get ‘temporary protection’ status for 30 months, with only limited access to benefits.
- Efforts to remove those who enter illegally via a safe country to be stepped up.
- Appeals streamlined to stop last-minute legal bids thwarting the removal of failed asylum seekers.
- Judicial review process to be reformed so it is used less frequently.
- Maximum sentence for people smugglers raised to life, and to five years for foreign criminals who return to the UK in breach of a deportation order.
- Reception centres to provide ‘simple, safe’ housing while claims are processed.
- Asylum seekers must give more evidence of ‘well-founded fear of persecution’.
- More rigorous age assessments to stop adult asylum seekers posing as children.
- New humanitarian routes for the ‘vulnerable’ in ‘immediate danger’.
People who come via unauthorised routes – such as crossing the Channel in small boats – will be given far fewer privileges.
Even if they have a legitimate claim to refugee status, migrants who arrive illegally will be granted permission to stay in this country only temporarily. They will be barred from claiming most welfare benefits.
And their ability to bring relatives here to join them, currently permitted under ‘family reunification’ rights, will be curtailed.
At the same time, efforts to remove Channel migrants who could have claimed asylum in safe countries they travelled through – such as France – will be stepped up.
By comparison, successful asylum seekers who applied in advance to come here through legal routes, such as the United Nations’ refugee agency, will be rewarded.
They will win permission to come to Britain immediately and will be allowed to stay here indefinitely. The Home Secretary will unveil full details later today of the biggest shake-up of the asylum system for a generation.
The Sun reported the proposals will include ‘boomerang’ deportations which will see people arriving on UK beaches being sent within 24 hours to facilities outside the EU to have their claims processed.
Refugee charities claim many migrants have no choice but to come here by illegal routes and have slammed the proposals as ‘inhumane’.
Ms Patel told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We are unable as a country right now to fully help people that are fleeing persecution and are destitute in the world because of the extent of illegal migration that is taking place where people are putting their lives at risk and also fuelling criminality.
‘Whether it is buying fake passports or even paying your way to come to the United Kingdom through a safe country – France, Germany, Italy – through the back of a lorry or even in a small boat.’
Asked to confirm that the changes will effectively result in a two-tier system based on how migrants arrive in the UK, Ms Patel replied: ‘We will bring in changes to the system where we effectively create safe and legal routes to give people the chance to resettle and access our asylum system, those that are fleeing persecution.’
Told that critics believe it is unfair to differentiate based on method of arrival because many people arriving via unauthorised routes will still have strong asylum claims, Ms Patel said: ‘Well, they would also have a perfectly acceptable case to be given asylum in the same countries that they have travelled from, so France, Germany, Italy, Belgium.
‘These are not war zones, they are safe countries, and it is important to emphasise that, they are absolutely playing into the hands of the people smugglers, the criminals who not only put their lives at risk by smuggling them into the UK but these criminals are also part of OCGs, organised criminal gangs, that are responsible for a raft of criminal activity – smuggling guns, drugs, people into the country.
‘That is not right and it is important that as a country we do much more to stop that from happening and also to protect lives because we cannot carry on as we are with people dying in the hands of gangsters and smugglers and I think until we can actually tackle these issues, inaction is not an option.’
The Home Secretary said overnight that under her ‘New Plan for Immigration’ people arriving illegally ‘will no longer have the same entitlements as those who arrive legally, and it will be harder for them to stay’.
‘If, like over 60 per cent of illegal arrivals, they have travelled through a safe country like France to get here, they will not have immediate entry into the asylum system – which is what happens today,’ she said.
More than 100 migrants crossed the English Channel yesterday on what is believed to be the record day of the year
A map shows the points along the coast where migrants have landed in the UK over the past year after crossing from France
The number of asylum applications lodged in the UK in the years ending December 2011 to December last year, dropping after the Covid pandemic was declared
The number of people offered protection in the form of resettlement (bottom line), asylum and alternative forms of leave (middle line) totalled 9,936 in 2020. The total number of people granted asylum or some form of protection (top line) fell by more than half that of 2019
Priti Patel mocked over ‘OCGs’ reference as Twitter users ask if she has been watching Line of Duty
Priti Patel was mocked this morning after she referred to ‘OCGs’ during an interview as Twitter users asked if the Home Secretary had been watching Line of Duty.
The TV crime drama is well known for its extensive use of authentic police jargon.
One of the terms used on the programme is OCG which stands for organised crime group.
Ms Patel told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that people smugglers are ‘also part of OCGs, organised criminal gangs, that are responsible for a raft of criminal activity’.
The comment prompted ridicule on Twitter as one user said: ‘Priti Patel just used the acronym OCG on R4. Line of Duty has real cut through.’
Another said: ‘Priti Patel’s obviously been watching Line of Duty…’
Another user added: ‘Did Priti Patel really just say OCG on R4? What next? Illegal immigrants spotted at 1A on the matrix??’
‘I make no apology for these actions being firm, but as they will also save lives and target people smugglers, they are also undeniably fair.’
Other elements in the wide-ranging package announced today will include streamlining the asylum appeals process, and setting up reception centres to replace hotel accommodation and ex-Army barracks used during the pandemic.
It will also be made harder for asylum seekers to make unsubstantiated claims of persecution.
An independent body will be set up to determine the true age of applicants suspected to be posing as children, as revealed by the Daily Mail last week.
Jail sentences will be increased for people smugglers and foreign criminals who sneak back into the country after being deported.
A new humanitarian route will be created to make it easier to bring individuals to Britain if they face imminent danger in their homeland – as in the case of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian who spent eight years on death row on blasphemy charges before she was acquitted in 2019.
Labour shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said he feared the changes would not curtail the number of people making ‘dangerous crossings’ to reach Britain.
‘Measures are clearly needed to speed up processes and stop criminal gangs profiting from dangerous crossings,’ he said.
‘However, we fear these plans will do next to nothing to stop people making dangerous crossings, and risk withdrawing support from desperate people, such as victims of human trafficking.’
The number of asylum applicants to the top five countries in the EU+ and the UK for the years ending November 2014 to November last year, with Italy receiving the smallest number of applications in 2020. The other EU+ category includes all other countries that are European Union member states, part of the European Economic Area and Switzerland
The top 10 nationalities claiming asylum in the UK and the grant rate at initial decision (shown by percentage) in 2019 and 2020. The most applications in both 2019 and 2020 came from Iran, while Eritrea and Syria had the highest grant rates last year
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, accused the Government of ‘seeking to unjustly differentiate between the deserving and undeserving refugee by choosing to provide protection for those fleeing war and terror based on how they travel to the UK’.
He claimed the plans could undermine the country’s traditions of providing protection for people ‘regardless of how they have managed to find their way to our shores’.
Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, branded the changes ‘inhumane’, adding: ‘We should not judge how worthy someone is of asylum by how they arrived here.’
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