The Daily Telegraph

Stopping the boats


For the second time in just over a week, Rishi Sunak has set out to solve a seemingly intractabl­e problem. Last Monday, it was the Northern Ireland Protocol and the unfinished business of Brexit. His success or otherwise in securing DUP support for the Windsor Framework has yet to be determined.

This week, it is the vexed issue of illegal migration across the Channel in small boats. Dealing with this was one of the Prime Minister’s five pledges with which he opened the year and on which he wishes to be judged. Voters tell government pollsters that this is a big concern, so it makes sense for Mr Sunak to be seen to be doing something about it. But voters also dislike politician­s promising what they know they cannot deliver, and a long line of prime ministeria­l pledges in this area have foundered.

Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, will soon publish legislatio­n that we are assured will put an end to the traffic. The remedy is surely obvious: make coming to the UK illegally so onerous a task that it puts people off paying criminals large sums to bring them across the Channel. Sending them to Rwanda for cases to be processed was one idea, yet not a single person has been removed. Even if the scheme does get up and running, it will affect just a few hundred out of tens of thousands.

Mr Sunak says the Government’s plan will allow the UK to detain and deport Channel migrants almost immediatel­y, without breaching internatio­nal treaty obligation­s. Yet under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, asylum seekers cannot be treated as criminals and their applicatio­ns must be considered. Has the proposed new legislatio­n found a way to square that circle?

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