'They can't just vanish': Boris defends 'draconian' plans to electronically tag migrants

18 June 2022, 07:26 | Updated: 18 June 2022, 13:13

Priti Patel&squot;s year-long pilot has been slammed as being "draconian" but Boris Johnson said it will stop migrants "vanishing" into the country.
Priti Patel's year-long pilot has been slammed as being "draconian" but Boris Johnson said it will stop migrants "vanishing" into the country. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Boris Johnson has defended "draconian" plans to electronically tag some asylum seekers who arrive in the UK, insisting migrants "can't just vanish" into the country.

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The Prime Minister said he is "proud" of the Home Office's plans to tag those who arrive in the country in small boats or in the back of lorries.

The Home Office's year-long trial, which began on Wednesday, will test whether it's an effective way to give immigration bail to those who arrive in the country via "unnecessary and dangerous" routes.

It's likely some of the first people to be tagged will be those who successfully challenged their removal to Rwanda earlier this week.

The plans have been criticised as being "punitive" and "draconian" by campaigners, who argue that those fleeing to Britain for safety are being treated like "criminals".

Read more: 'Kick these b*****ds into touch': Tory fury at Euro judges for Rwanda flight block

Read more: Boris refuses to rule out leaving European human rights treaty after Rwanda fight

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They claim the plans show "no compassion" for those desperately seeking safety.

Chief executive of the Refugee Council Enver Solomon said: "It's appalling that this government is intent on treating men, women and children who have fled war, bloodshed and persecution as criminals.

"This draconian and punitive approach not only shows no compassion for very vulnerable people it will also do nothing to deter those who are desperately seeking safety in the UK."

Mr Johnson has come out in support of the plans, telling reporters at RAF Brize Norton it is essential that people can not simply "vanish" into the rest of the country.

"This is a very, very generous welcoming country. Quite right too. I am proud of it, but when people come here illegally, when they break the law, it is important that we make that distinction," he said.

"That is what we are doing with our Rwanda policy. That is what we are doing with making sure that asylum seekers can't just vanish into the rest of the country."

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The Home Office said its new trial will test whether tagging aids regular contact with those given bail and progresses their claims more effectively.

Those tagged will have to regularly report in person to authorities, may be subject to a curfew or excluded from certain locations, and failure to comply could see them returned to detention or prosecuted.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday granted an injunction that resulted in a chartered aircraft to Kigali being unable to depart Wiltshire.

Migrants being brought to safety by the border force.
Migrants being brought to safety by the border force. Picture: Alamy

Home Secretary Priti Patel accused the ECHR of being politically motivated in its "absolutely scandalous" decision, while Justice Secretary Dominic Raab suggested new laws could ensure that interim measures from the Strasbourg court could effectively be ignored by the Government.

Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told LBC the ECHR decision to halt Tuesday evening's flight was a "farce".

"It has turned into a legal farce really, because all our courts have agreed that the government may go ahead with this including the Supreme Court, to be overruled by a court that had no representations made to it and just intervened on the back of stuff it had read," he said.

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The proposals come after new figures revealed the number of people crossing the Channel to reach Britain this year has passed 11,000, with more than 150 people arriving on Thursday alone.

With 13 days of June left to go the number of people crossing the Channel is almost double this time last year.

Warm weather and calm seas this week may have encouraged an increase in attempted crossings.