Priti Patel promises changes to make migrant deportations 'swift and efficient'

24 March 2021, 09:47 | Updated: 24 March 2021, 18:31

By Kate Buck

Home Secretary Priti Patel today told LBC her planned shake-up of asylum seeker rules will make deportations as "swift and efficient" as possible.

Speaking with LBC's Nick Ferrari, the Home Secretary said the country "needs to absolutely be firmer in dealing with illegal migration".

Britain's current asylum system was described by the Home Office as "collapsing under the pressures of what are in effect illegal routes to asylum, facilitated by criminals smuggling people into the UK and often resulting in the loss of life".

The department said "fairness" and a genuine need for refuge are at the heart of the proposals, which also include measures to tackle people smugglers and "remove more easily from the UK those with no right to be there".

Ms Patel said: "Currently, we have endless legal challenges and legal appeals, we are going to bring in changes to that entire system. We are effectively introducing a one stop shop so that we cannot get repeat claims from individuals who are refusing to leave the country."

"But also do much more work with countries, get bilateral agreements in place so that we can remove people in a much faster way.

"This change has to happen because we've not been able to remove people. Since 2013 the number of removals have gone down and that is mainly because our courts have become clogged up with all these various cases that have come forward."

Priti Patel spoke with LBC's Nick Ferrari
Priti Patel spoke with LBC's Nick Ferrari. Picture: LBC

Pushed on whether people could be deported within 24 hours, Ms Patel said they would be conducted in a "swift and an efficient way".

She added: "I think it's really important that our ability to remove individuals with no right to remain in the UK is constan

Ms Patel said: "If people arrive illegally, they will no longer have the same entitlements as those who arrive legally, and it will be harder for them to stay.

"If, like over 60 per cent of illegal arrivals, they have travelled through a safe country like France to get here, they will not have immediate entry into the asylum system - which is what happens today.

"And we will stop the most unscrupulous abusing the system by posing as children, by introducing tougher, more accurate age assessments.

"Profiteering from illegal migration to Britain will no longer be worth the risk, with new maximum life sentences for people smugglers.

"I make no apology for these actions being firm, but as they will also save lives and target people smugglers, they are also undeniably fair."

Last year, roughly 8,500 people reached Britain by crossing the Channel in small boats and the majority claimed asylum, the Home Office said. Some 800 are believed to have made the crossing so far in 2021.

The Home Office said: "For the first time, whether people enter the UK legally or illegally will have an impact on how their asylum claim progresses, and on their status in the UK if that claim is successful.

"We will make every effort to remove those who enter the UK illegally having travelled through a safe country in which they could and should have claimed asylum."

Access to benefits and family reunion rights could be limited while the appeals and judicial process will be reformed to "speed up" removals for those whose claims are refused.

The government promises to continue to welcome refugees and to help them build a life in the UK, with Ms Patel having the ability to offer protection to vulnerable people in "immediate danger and at risk in their home country".

But the measures, anticipated to be brought forward as part of a Sovereign Borders Bill, will also make it "much harder for people to be granted refugee status based on unsubstantiated claims" and include "rigorous age assessments" to stop adult migrants pretending to be children.

Tougher laws will be introduced to "withhold protection and remove dangerous criminals, even when they improperly claim to be victims of modern slavery", the Home Office added.

Life sentences will be brought in for people smugglers, harsher offences will be imposed on people trying to enter the country illegally and foreign criminals who breach deportation orders and return to the UK could be jailed for up to five years instead of the current six months.

A new "one-stop" legal process is also proposed, so asylum, human rights claims and any other protection matters are all made and considered together ahead of appeal hearings.

Labour shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said he feared the changes would not successfully curb the number of people attempting "dangerous crossings" to the UK.

"Measures are clearly needed to speed up processes and stop criminal gangs profiting from dangerous crossings," he said.

"However, we fear these plans will do next to nothing to stop people making dangerous crossings, and risk withdrawing support from desperate people, such as victims of human trafficking."

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, accused the government of "seeking to unjustly differentiate between the deserving and undeserving refugee by choosing to provide protection for those fleeing war and terror based on how they travel to the UK".

He claimed the plans could undermine Britain's traditions of providing protection for people "regardless of how they have managed to find their way to our shores".

Kolbassia Haoussou, of Freedom from Torture, warned the proposals could see most of the people the charity helps become "criminalised".

He said: "These unreal proposals make it clear that this Government isn't serious about improving lives and creating a fair asylum system."

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the charity British Red Cross, slammed the changes, branding them "inhumane".

He added: "We should not judge how worthy someone is of asylum by how they arrived here.

"The proposals effectively create an unfair two-tiered system, whereby someone's case and the support they receive is judged on how they entered the country and not on their need for protection. This is inhumane."