UK home secretary Suella Braverman has insisted that Britain’s new migration bill is within the bounds of international and domestic law, as the government braces for legal disputes over the controversial legislation.
The illegal migration bill, unveiled in the House of Commons earlier this week, bars any individual regarded to have entered into the UK illegally from ever claiming asylum.
The legislation also imposes a “legal duty” on the home secretary to remove such people to a “safe” third country or to their country of origin.
Braverman, in a letter to Conservative MPs earlier this week, conceded there was a “more than 50 per cent chance” the policy would be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
However, on Wednesday in an interview with Sky News, she defended the legality of the measures, arguing that ministers were not “breaking the law” in pursing the policy.
“In fact, we’ve made it very clear that we believe we’re in compliance with all of our international obligations, for example the Refugee Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights, other conventions to which we are subject,” she said.
Speaking to the BBC, Braverman said it was a “possibility” that as many as 80,000 people could enter the UK across the Channel this year.
She argued that the number of small boat crossings was “unsustainable” and at an “unprecedented level”, with an estimated £6mn spent each day on housing asylum seekers in hotels.
“We therefore need to take robust, necessary and fundamentally humanitarian measures to deter people from travelling in the first place,” she said, adding that last year more than 45,000 people travelled to the UK on small boats.
“We want to ensure that people understand that they shouldn’t make the journey in the first place because they will be removed if they do so.”
Speaking on Tuesday, prime minister Rishi Sunak told reporters he was “up for the fight” if the policy was challenged in the courts.
However, opposition parties and human rights organisations have questioned both the morality and practicality of enforcing the proposals in light of challenges with the government’s plans to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda.
The UN refugee agency said it was “profoundly concerned” about the legislation which amounted to an asylum ban, “extinguishing the right to seek refugee protection in the UK for those who arrive irregularly, no matter how genuine and compelling their claim may be, and with no consideration of their individual circumstances.”
The agency added that this was a violation of the 1951 UN refugee convention, introduced after many countries had refused Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis during the second world war and to which Britain is a signatory.
International aid agencies are also alarmed that the UK’s approach to asylum seekers could undermine the global protection system for refugees and encourage other countries to flout the rules.
“The UK helped author the global Refugee Convention, and it’s right that we continue to do our bit. If Britain does row back on our obligations, it could spark a race to the bottom, with other countries following suit,” said Laura Kyrke-Smith, executive director of the UK branch of the International Rescue Committee.
Meanwhile, BBC Match of the Day host Gary Lineker tweeted the language in which the proposals were set out was not “dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s”, prompting calls for the broadcaster to take action.