Britain’s plan to refuse to allow asylum seekers arriving in small boats the right to claim asylum may breach its international obligations. This was according to the EU’s home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, on 9 March. Johansson said she had spoken to home secretary Suella Braverman to discuss the planned legislation, which may breach European and UN conventions.
On 8 March, Braverman told ITV News that she had invited Johansson to study the UK proposal in more detail. However, she stressed:
We are no longer members of the European Union and so we are free to determine our own borders and migration policy.
PM Rishi Sunak also threatened to “take back control of our borders once and for all” by detaining and deporting any migrants caught crossing the Channel from France or Belgium in small boats.
Due to the UK’s already-unfit asylum system, the backlog of asylum claims now exceeds 160,000. The crossings, many organised by smuggling gangs, are incredibly dangerous. In November 2021, at least 27 people drowned in a single incident.
Opponents, rights groups, and the United Nations say the new draft law would turn Britain into an international pariah under European and UN conventions on asylum.
Unperturbed, Sunak hopes to strike a deal with France to halt the asylum seekers on its coast. The PM will meet President Emmanuel Macron at a summit in Paris on Friday. An aide to the French leader told reporters the pair were working on a deal to increase the border-policing resources.
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However, arriving at the Brussels meeting, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin warned the proposed UK law could harm relations. He also stressed that Britain should work with the EU to better co-ordinate migrant policy.
Darmanin said Macron and Sunak would discuss the legislation on Friday. He stressed that the goal should be a treaty between the UK and the EU to provide legal access routes for migrants. Further, Britain also needs a system to return those refused asylum.
The EU ministers, meanwhile, were to discuss their own differences about how to better divide the task of sharing migrant arrivals and managing asylum claims
‘A clear breach’
On Tuesday the UN refugee agency UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) said the plan removes:
the right to seek refugee protection in the United Kingdom for those who arrive irregularly, no matter how genuine and compelling their claim may be.
By denying protection to asylum seekers and even the opportunity to put forward their case, the plan “would be a clear breach” of the international Refugee Convention, it said.
Campaign group Refugee Action also pointed out that the plans are unlikely even to reduce the number of refugees. It stressed that:
These deterrence policies will never work because a tiny minority of people fleeing war and persecution around the world will always want to come to the UK to seek safety.
Most have powerful reasons to want to come here that we can all understand – they have family here, or friends here, or community here. The Home Office’s own research has backed this up.
Additional reporting via Agence France-Presse
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