80,000 people could arrive in UK by small boats in 2023 despite crackdown, Braverman
uella Braverman admitted on Wednesday that 80,000 people could cross the Channel in small boats this year despite a flagship new crackdown which the United Nations refugee agency has branded a “clear breach” of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
The Home Secretary argued that the Illegal Immigration Bill is lawful despite such deep doubts by Government lawyers that it was written on the face of the bill that it may not be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The proposed legislation has been widely condemned by legal experts as it would allows adults who arrive by “small boats” to be detained without bail or judicial review for up to 28 days, denied asylum, sent to their home country, or a third “safe” nation such as Rwanda, and banned for life from returning to Britain – even if they have compelling asylum claims.
But even if the bill was found to be lawful, it was far from clear whether the Home Office has the ability to deliver the key measures in it and stop the increasing number of people, many of them economic migrants but others who are genuine asylum seekers, from seeking to cross the Channel in small boats.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme how many people were expected to reach the UK by small boat this year, Ms Braveman said: “On the basis of previous years we have to expect that we may see in the region of 40,000 people or more coming this year, that’s the forecast.”
Pressed by presenter Nick Robinson that the Home Office model was up to 80,000, she added: “It may well be, that is a possibility….that is why this action is necessary.”
However, Vicky Tennant, the UNHCR’s representative in the UK, challenged the lawfulness of the policy.
She told BBC’s Newsnight: “This is effectively closing off access to asylum in the UK, for people arriving irregularly.
“We believe it is a clear breach of the refugee convention. Remember, even people with very compelling claims will simply not have the opportunity to put these forward. “
She added: “We believe there are other ways to address this. It’s clearly a big challenge, it’s a challenge the UK shares with other countries, including EU countries, irregular arrivals at the southern borders and the eastern borders of the EU.
“So, we say, get the asylum system working, get fair, efficient, faster asylum processing happening if people aren’t entitled to asylum, send them back to their own countries and if they are then allow them to integrate and move that process on far more quickly.”
Britain’s asylum system has become clogged up with a backlog at the Home Office of more than 160,000 cases.
In a highly unusual situation, Ms Braverman admitted to MPs on Tuesday that there is a “more (than) 50 per cent chance” that the new “small boats” legislation may not be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
However, the Government was still pressing ahead with the bill despite the likelihood that its measures will be found to not be lawful.
Legal experts say ministers are heading for a Supreme Court showdown against charities, campaign groups or individual over the bill.
Mr Sunak declared he was “up for the fight” against those opposed to the Illegal Migration Bill, designed to stop people claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive through unauthorised means.
He added he was “confident” the Government would win legal battles over the “tough” but “necessary and fair” measures.
The Prime Minister will on Wednesday face MPs for the first time since detailing the plans for fresh laws to curb Channel crossings.
He will go head to head with Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions after Labour described the proposed policy as a “con” that was no more likely to be successful than prior Tory efforts to tackle the migration crisis.
Some senior Tories, including former Cabinet minister David Davis, believe the new plan, which does not differentiate between genuine asylum seekers and economic migrants from safe countries such as Albania, will not work.
Critics also included BBC presenter Gary Lineker, who faced censure from the broadcaster after writing on Twitter: “This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s.”
In an email to Tory members, the Home Secretary claimed that previous attempts to end Channel crossings without resorting to changing the law had been blocked by “an activist blob of left-wing lawyers, civil servants and the Labour Party”.
Mr Sunak will meet French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday to discuss further co-operation that will be required to reduce boat crossings.