The Daily Telegraph

Channel crackdown to see families deported

People who arrive across the Channel illegally will effectivel­y be barred from claiming asylum in the UK

- By Charles Hymas Home Affairs editor

Families face detention and deportatio­n if they enter the UK illegally under a new crackdown on migrants crossing the Channel. The move is expected to be announced tomorrow as part of Rishi Sunak’s new Bill to deter illegal immigratio­n. The law will bar any migrants who arrive across the Channel on small boats from claiming asylum in the UK. Those who do arrive illegally will be swiftly removed to their home country or a safe third country.

FAMILIES face detention and deportatio­n if they enter the UK illegally under a new crackdown on migrants crossing the Channel, in order to prevent people smugglers from targeting women and children.

The move is due to be announced tomorrow as part of Rishi Sunak’s new Bill to deter illegal immigratio­n.

The law will effectivel­y bar any migrants who arrive across the Channel on small boats from claiming asylum in the UK. Those who do come to the UK illegally will be removed to their home country or a safe third country such as Rwanda to claim asylum from there.

Families who enter the UK illegally will face the same regime, amid fears that the UK could have become a magnet for people smugglers focusing on women and children if they were excluded. Other measures in the Bill will include restrictin­g migrants’ use of appeals and judicial review to fight deportatio­n on human rights’ grounds.

Sources said the right to appeal before deportatio­n would be “exceptiona­lly limited”. Once migrants are removed, they will have no right to return to the UK.

The Bill will also place a legal duty on the Home Secretary to detain and deport migrants who enter the UK illegally as soon as practicabl­e.

It will also set out a new law extending and setting detention time limits, with migrants’ cases fast-tracked so that they can be processed for removal while they are detained. European human rights case law requires that there must be a realistic prospect of removal of migrants for them to be held for any length of time.

There will be no route to settlement or citizenshi­p in the UK for migrants who arrive illegally under the Bill.

However, the Government is proposing that there should be new safe and legal routes to claim asylum. The overall number of asylum seekers will be capped by Parliament.

Sources said the new legislatio­n would “pull no punches” and go further than any other previous government in pushing the boundaries of what is possible within the UK’S internatio­nal obligation­s without breaching them.

If the package is blocked by Strasbourg, it is understood that Mr Sunak is prepared to consider leaving the European Convention on Human Rights.

There will be measures in the Bill, however, to prevent a repeat of the lastminute injunction by the European Court of Human Rights which blocked the first deportatio­n flight of Channel migrants to Rwanda.

Ministers have maintained that the injunction, known as rule 39, is not grounded in the ECHR but is part of the court’s “internal rules” so is not binding on UK courts and can therefore be disregarde­d by them. The late-night injunction by a single Strasbourg judge barred flights to Rwanda until all UK courts had ruled on the legality of the policy. Although the Home Office won in the High Court, it has been appealed and the legal process is unlikely to be completed until later this year.

All the asylum seekers on the flight were male. Since January 2018, 76 per cent of arrivals have been adult males aged 18 and over. But around one sixth (16 per cent) have been children aged 17 and under with the remainder women.

Unaccompan­ied children are expected to be excluded from deportatio­n but ministers believe families should not be exempted amid evidence of how people-smuggling gangs have exploited them by offering cut-price deals for families and children to lure them into potentiall­y deadly crossings.

It comes amid fears 85,000 migrants could reach the UK this year if the doubling trend of the first two months continues. A record 45,728 crossed in 2022 following 28,526 in 2021.

To counter appeals, it is thought that parts of the human rights act will effectivel­y be suspended for illegal migrants so they can be deported even if they have human rights claims. There will also be limits on what and when migrants can claim through judicial review.

During an appearance on BBC One’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg, Chris Heaton-harris, the Northern Ireland Secretary, was shown a graph displaying a fall in asylum seeker returns since 2010 as he insisted that legislatio­n was just one aspect of the Government’s “arsenal” on the issue.

“We need a full range of things to try and stop people traffickin­g and illegal migration across the Channel,” he said.

“That involves proper conversati­ons, that are ongoing, with our French counterpar­ts, and indeed other European counterpar­ts, to try and ensure that people are held in the first safe country that they come to. That also includes internatio­nal developmen­t aid.”

He insisted that a tightening of the law was required “because the law has been challenged on pretty much all those occasions and equally when we announced the Rwanda scheme, it was challenged immediatel­y”.

Mr Heaton-harris signalled that the Government may look at opening more “safe and legal routes” for asylum seekers in the future.

“I’m quite sure there’ll be more safe and legal routes,” he said. “They’ve been proven to work.”

Tory backbenche­rs have pressed the Prime Minister for firm action to tackle the crossings. Kit Malthouse, the Former cabinet minister, told Times Radio he would “wait and see” what the legislatio­n looked like, but added: “Will it actually be a bit of a marketing tool for the gangs? Will they say, ‘here’s this legislatio­n coming, it’s going to make our lives more difficult, better get in quick’, and whether that will accelerate numbers a little bit in advance.”

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “The Government’s flawed legislatio­n will not stop the boats but result in tens of thousands locked up in detention at huge cost, permanentl­y in limbo and being treated as criminals simply for seeking refuge. It’s unworkable, costly and won’t stop the boats.”

The debate about the Channel crossings is as dishonest as with immigratio­n as a whole. The Left has no interest in stopping the waves of migrants who reach our shores, while on the Right some pretend the problem is caused only by a lack of political will.

Ministers have no room for the luxury of political postures that will never be tested. Almost 46,000 migrants crossed the Channel last year: a number that without change will be exceeded this year. With the asylum system overloaded and anger building about migrant accommodat­ion, the changes the Home Secretary makes must turn things round fast.

The new immigratio­n bill, due this week, is not, as some say, a repeat of last year’s Nationalit­y and Borders Act. That made important changes, such as the distinctio­n in law between asylum seekers who come here illegally and those who do not. The new legislatio­n seeks to go as far as ministers can – consistent with their obligation­s in internatio­nal law – to remove the rights-based appeals that allow migrants to thwart their deportatio­n.

To appreciate why this is so important, consider the difficulti­es in stopping the Channel crossings and removing migrants – failed asylum seekers, foreign criminals and illegal immigrants – from the country.

First, our law enforcemen­t agencies can investigat­e, disrupt and prosecute the criminal gangs that bring people here, but this cannot alone solve the problem. While migrants can make it through the “forward border” in places like Libya and into Europe, with its borderless Schengen zone, there will be a demand among many to come to Britain. While France could help to close down the routes – by taking migrants back and policing its borders better – it shows limited interest in doing so.

Second, we cannot simply “turn back the boats” or the people on them. Australia has successful­ly turned back migrants at sea by putting them in lifeboats to return to Indonesia without the fuel to reach Australia. This is not feasible in the 21 mile-wide English Channel. Nor can we return migrants to France or to any other country without agreements to do so legally.

Third, migrants and the gangs who bring them here know that once an individual is in Britain it is next to impossible to remove them. Our asylum grant rates are higher than in Europe. Our human rights laws grant copious avenues of appeal. Our modern slavery legislatio­n allows migrants to claim they have been trafficked to evade removal. Migrants are prepped to destroy their identity documents, lie about their age and nationalit­y and make claims about their religion or sexuality. They know how to play the system.

It is important to assess the dishonesti­es put forward by government critics. Some claim the Channel crossings are the result of Brexit. They say that in the EU, Britain had a returns agreement to send all migrants back to claim asylum in the first European country they had reached. But in the last year we were able to use the Dublin Regulation, as this rule is called, only 105 out of more than 8,500 requests by Britain were granted – just 1.2 per cent of the total.

Others claim the reason for the Channel crossings is that Britain does not have “safe and legal routes” for people to come here. This is obviously untrue: in the last year 89,000 Ukrainians, 28,000 Hong Kongers and up to 21,000 Afghans arrived. What these campaigner­s mean is they want even more such routes for more nationalit­ies, including those already in safe countries like France. But even if we did this – and sacrificed any semblance of control in the process

– it would not stop the crossings, unless these routes were completely unlimited in scope.

The only workable solution, then, is to do what the Government is attempting to do. Along with efforts to disrupt the criminal gangs and make our asylum system more effective, we must break the link between making the journey and getting to stay in Britain afterwards.

In other words: migrants should be detained upon arrival and swiftly deported to their own country or to a safe third country like Rwanda – a country with which we have a migration partnershi­p.

There are logistical challenges, such as the capacity of the detention estate, but they are surmountab­le. The real difficulty is the maze of modern slavery claims and human rights appeals that migrants use to avoid deportatio­n, and when deportatio­n is not imminent, detention too. That is what the new legislatio­n needs to fix.

Ministers know there is no prospect in this Parliament of leaving the European Convention of Human Rights and with it the Strasbourg court that does much to render immigratio­n law unenforcea­ble. So their plan is to do everything they can – pushing internatio­nal law obligation­s to the limits – to remove the migrants who come here illegally.

It seems likely almost all claims will be made “non-suspensive”, so unless migrants can show they will face a real risk of serious and irreversib­le harm their claim will be heard in Rwanda, and not used to hold up deportatio­n. It is also likely that claims must be made in one go and straight away to prevent cases dragging on for many months. If measures such as these work, rapid deportatio­n will allow ministers to bar those who enter the country illegally from claiming asylum at all – and cap the number of people claiming asylum here.

This is potent stuff, and if it works it will mean that many more migrants are deported quickly. But the policy faces two tests. First, can migrants be removed in sufficient numbers that we reach a tipping point, when the migrants realise that there is no longer any point in attempting to cross the Channel?

And second, can this new approach survive litigation and prove compatible with the European Convention? Ministers have worked hard to design a scheme that is robust enough and able to withstand legal challenge. We must hope they have squared that circle, but if the Convention foils them, Britain will be able to avoid the question no longer. Then, the case for withdrawal from the court will become unanswerab­le.

Our asylum rates are higher than in Europe. Our human rights laws grant copious avenues of appeal

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