A bill which makes arriving in the UK without permission a criminal offence has passed its second reading in parliament.
Priti Patel, Home Secretary says that the Nationality and Borders Bill will address the country’s ‘broken asylum system’ and ‘break the business model’ of people trafficking gangs facilitating illegal crossings into the UK.
The bill which passed its second reading in the Commons will give Border Force officers powers to turn back migrant boats attempting to cross the Channel from France and use ‘reasonable force’ if it is needed.
Reaction to the bill from the Labour party says that ‘the Conservatives voted to make it even harder to give a safe haven to children who are fleeing violence and war’ and should be very ashamed.
Prison sentences for those who enter the country without permission will increase from six months to four years and a maximum of life imprisonment for convicted people smugglers will be introduced under the legislation. Also the way an individual arrives in the UK – whether legally or illegally – will have an impact on whether their asylum application will be accepted.
The government is hoping that this overhaul of the asylum rules will deter migrants from attempting to cross the Channel.
Further to an agreement between Ms Patel and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, the Home Office also intends to give France a further £54 million to prevent the Channel crossings. The number of French police officers patrolling northern beaches will be doubled and more technology will be used to target the smugglers.
More than 430 migrants recently arrived sailing across the English Channel to the UK which is believed to be a new record for crossings in one single day.
The new Nationality and Borders Bill also includes powers to allow claims to be processed outside the UK, potentially in offshore centres.
Labour have said the legislation may break international law.
More than 250 refugee charities and campaign groups have criticised the bill and urged the government to rethink its approach. Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council said the new bill risked preventing up to 9,000 people who have fled war and persecution from being given safety in the UK.
The legislation is described as the ‘anti refugee bill’ and the Home Office is accused of ‘choosing to not only turn away those in need of safety but to also treat them as criminals’.
The Home Office however, have insisted that the changes will ‘prioritise those most in need of protection while stopping the abuse of the system’.l
Over 36,000 people applied for asylum in the UK in 2020, with a backlog of 109,000 cases still waiting to be processed at the end of the year.
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel told the Commons that the British people have had enough of open borders and uncontrolled migration, they have voted to take back control of our borders. They finally have a government that is listening to them.