The right to send asylum seekers back to other EU countries after the Brexit transition period ends will be lost and this will throw the governments immigration policy into disarray.
EU negotiators are believed to have rejected UK requests for a new agreement to replicate the Dublin Regulation which binds EU member states to process certain asylum claims at the request of neighbours.
This provision is regularly used by the UK to turn back refugees arriving on the south coast after travelling overland through France and other European countries. The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier is expected to elaborate on the situation, which has moved into the spotlight after an upturn in the number of dinghies landing on the Kent coast in recent months.
Under the current system certain asylum seekers can be returned to the member state where they first entered the EU, even if they claimed asylum in another country such as the UK. It is reported that this provision, which is continuing through the transition period is now very unlikely to be extended, with Brussels rejecting demands for a similar agreement to be put in place after Brexit. The European Commission have however, declined to comment on the situation in talks which are said to be ongoing, but an official reiterated that the UK would leave the Dublin Regulation when the transition period ends at the end of 2020. EU officials stressed that Mr Barnier’s negotiating mandate does not cover asylum matters.
The EU has long sought to reform the Dublin Regulation, which is widely seen as unfair to countries such as Greece and Italy, where people crossing the Mediterranean tend to land first, as a matter of geography. Political deadlock on this issue at EU level means the regulations remain in place for now, but EU member states are understood to see Brexit as an opportunity to encourage the UK to take its fair share of people fleeing conflict and disaster. The Dublin Regulation does not restrict where a person can actually claim asylum or make their attempt illegal, it does determine the country that will ultimately process their claim.
The UK’s obligation under the refugee convention means that it must allow asylum claims from people who arrive on its shores. It is illegal under the UK domestic law to enter British territory without permission, but crown prosecutors take into account a person’s status as an asylum seeker when deciding whether to charge them with an offence.
Priti Patel, home secretary said that she could send in the Royal Navy to intercept boats arriving in Britain, after the leader of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage, accused a group of people arriving on a Kent beach of an ‘invasion’.
It is reported that the UK is pushing ahead with the deportation of asylum seekers arriving in boats, with France and Spain seen as viable return countries.