Home Secretary vows to overhaul ‘fundamentally broken’ UK asylum system

4 October 2020, 16:12 | Updated: 4 October 2020, 16:34

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she “will introduce a new system that is firm and fair”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said she “will introduce a new system that is firm and fair”. Picture: Getty

By Joe Cook

Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced plans to “overhaul” Britain’s asylum immigration system, in a speech to the virtual Conservative party conference.

The planned new legislation, set to be introduced next year, would toughen up the asylum system in the biggest change seen in decades.

Ms Patel said she “will introduce a new system that is firm and fair”, committing to “expedite the removal of those who have no legitimate claim for protection” and make immediate returns “every single week”.

She also pledged to deny entry to migrants who cross the English Channel on boats or take other "illegal" routes.

The Home Secretary told the Tory party conference: “For years people have risked their lives to enter our country illegally. Like those crossing the Channel in dangerous small boats.

“If the solution to stop this was simple and straightforward, then believe me, this issue would have been resolved by now.

“After decades of inaction by successive governments we will address the moral, legal and practical problems with the asylum system. Because what exists now is neither firm nor fair.”

Responding to the announcement Bella Sankey, director of immigration charity Detention Action told LBC: “These plans are either dangerous or vacuous.

“In many ways it is nothing new, this is the same old tired rhetoric, false claims, misleading claims, from government that we have actually had for the best part of two decades from successive governments.

“No attempt to grapple with the actual problems that exist in the asylum system, like lack of resources, cases taking too long because of Home Office delays. But, just more of the dog whistle and outright inaccuracies.

“If you come to this country, even by irregular means like across the Channel, and you claim asylum you haven’t done anything illegal or unlawful. The Refugee Convention is quite explicit about that.”

Ms Sankey added: “If the government does try to do this I imagine they will get dragged through the courts and the whole will come down in flames.”

Acknowledging the opposition that the new rules will face, Ms Patel said: “As for those defending the broken system – the traffickers, the do gooders, the leftie lawyers, the Labour Party – they are defending the indefensible. And that is something I will never do. If at times it means being unpopular on Twitter. I will bear it.

“We made the British public a promise that this Conservative Government would end free movement. And we will. For the first time in decades, the British Government will determine who comes in and out of our country.”