JRS UK condemns government proposals to arrest and deport people arriving in the UK to seek asylum. Proposals will ostensibly make it a criminal offence for asylum seekers to enter the UK on small boats across the Channel and will be introduced in the new Nationality and Borders Bill which is due for its first reading in the House of Commons tomorrow.
Sarah Teather, Director of JRS UK said:
“Proposals that criminalise people arriving in the UK to seek asylum are cruel and fundamentally dishonest. To prevent people from risking their lives making dangerous crossings, we must create new, safe routes to sanctuary, not punish people desperate to flee persecution. The government knows this well, but has chosen a path of dog whistle policy making.
“These dreadful proposals will result in locking up torture survivors and trafficking victims, making a spectacle out of their suffering and our aggression for media headlines. Is this really the Britain we aspire to be?”
The proposed legislation will create the new criminal offence of “arriving in the UK without a valid entry clearance (or electronic travel authorisation) where required” and will give police the power to lock up asylum seekers and put them on trial instead of sending them to a hotel or detention centre while their asylum claim is processed. Those who cross the English Channel in small boats will face the threat of a maximum prison sentence of four years, while the maximum sentence for facilitating the entry of others in to the UK will increase from 14 years to life imprisonment.
Penalising those who enter the UK in order to seek asylum breaches international law, and goes against the Refugee Convention, of which the UK is a signatory.
This happens as part of a new system to be outlined in the Nationality and Borders Bill, which will be introduced in the House of Commons tomorrow – a bill that will contain a number of the proposals set out in the government’s New Plan for Immigration. The proposals put forward in the New Plan for Immigration, to overhaul the asylum system have been widely condemned as inhumane and unworkable, as they set out to undermine the refugee convention and make it as hard as possible to get asylum.
Other plans which have been widely condemned are plans for the offshore detention of people seeking asylum in the UK, and plans for ‘receptions centres’ – probably entailing continued use of degrading ex-military barracks to house people seeking asylum, and plans to open a new detention centre at Hassockfield.
One widely condemned policy already in force is the ‘inadmissibility rules’, under which the government will try to remove asylum claimants who have passed through third countries without even examining their asylum claims, to anywhere that will take them. It is understood that the government has failed to secure any bilateral agreements to enact this policy. In the absence of these, the policy will simply prolong and complicate the asylum process.