ASYLUM: Kirk opposes law to stop illegal Channel crossings

Suella Braverman addressing parliament
Home Secretary Suella Braverman says the new bill will “respond to waves of illegal migrants breaching our borders”.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the Illegal Migration Bill would “stop the boats which are bringing tens of thousands to our shores”.

She also said the law would put a cap, determined by Parliament, on the number of people granted asylum in the UK.

However, the Rev Karen Hendry, convener of the Church of Scotland’s Faith Impact Forum, said:  “I am deeply concerned by the growing hostility towards people seeking safety both in the way they are viewed, and as displayed today, in policy by the UK Government.

“The proposed ‘Illegal Migration Bill’ goes against everything that we uphold and value in our faith and communities–the dignity and value of all humans and their right to seek safety when their lives and threatened and torn apart.

“We urge the UK Government to rethink their proposal and take a sharp U-turn. This bill will not just strip people fleeing war and persecution of their right to seek safety in the UK but punish them, based simply on how they came here, not whether they need protection from war and persecution.

“If someone risks their life in search for safety then we must assume that what they are leaving is worse by far and grant them the right to prove their case.

“Only a tiny fraction of people fleeing their own country make their way to the United Kingdom. We have a responsibility to share the duty of offering hospitality for those seeking sanctuary along with all the other nations of the world. If every country adopted a policy of closed borders to refugees, then ordinary people would be left at the mercy of warlords, terrorists and dictators.”

“Nearly two thirds of people who arrive by small boats are granted refugee status following rigorous checks by the Home Office. Many arrive from countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and Sudan and do not have the opportunity to seek the promised ‘safe and legal’ routes that are open to a very limited number of people.

“We strongly oppose this bill and will continue to work with partners and in our local communities to ensure Scotland is a welcoming and safe place for all.”

Labour’s Yvette Cooper said called the legislation a “con that risks making the chaos worse”.

The shadow home secretary said: “We need serious action to stop dangerous boat crossings, which are putting lives at risk and undermining border security. Instead, today’s statement is groundhog day.”

More than 45,000 people entered the UK via Channel crossings last year, up from around 300 in 2018.

The government believes stopping small boats is a key issue for voters.

Under the new law, the home secretary will have a “duty to remove” those entering the UK via illegal routes.

This will take legal precedence over someone’s right to claim asylum – although there will be exemptions for under-18s, those with serious medical conditions, and some “at real risk of serious and irreversible harm”.

Any other asylum claims will be heard remotely after removal.

The bill allows for the detention of illegal arrivals without bail or judicial review within the first 28 days of detention, until they can be removed.

And it will also introduce an annual cap – to be determined by Parliament – on the number of refugees the UK will settle by safe and legal routes.

Ms Braverman said the new law would radically narrow the number of challenges and appeals being seen – by taking away the right of illegal entrants to use modern slavery laws to prevent their removal.

The home secretary continued, saying the arrivals were “in flagrant breach of our laws and the will of the British people”.

“For a government not to respond to waves of illegal migrants breaching our borders, would be to betray the will of the people we have been elected to serve.

“If you enter Britain illegally, you will be detained and swiftly removed. Removed back to your country if it’s safe, or back to a safe third country like Rwanda.

“That is precisely what this bill will do, that is how we will stop the boats.”

She also noted the UK had given sanctuary to people seeking refuge from countries including Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Ahead of the announcement, the prime minister’s official spokesman said more safe and legal routes would be created once the small boat crossings had been stopped.

Asked if it would not make more sense to increase the routes first, he said: “Certainly we don’t think it is right to introduce those routes at a time when you don’t have clarity on the numbers coming into the country.”

Responding to comments made by the Home Secretary this morning on the government’s small boats proposals, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said: “Suella Braverman can’t even answer basic questions about her flawed, callous and inhumane policy.

“To suggest that those who oppose these divisive plans are somehow betraying Britain is stooping to a new low. It is an insult to all those worried about the dangerous rhetoric of this Conservative government and their heartless, unworkable approach.

“Britain has a proud history of offering sanctuary to refugees. To turn our back on those fleeing war and persecution trashes that proud legacy – and that’s the real unpatriotic move.”

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