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Sunak and Braverman test limits of international law with plan to ‘stop the boats’

07 Mar 2023 3 minute read
Home Secretary Suella Braverman. Photo Stefan Rousseau PA Images

Suella Braverman has said a plan to prevent migrants using small boats to reach the UK “pushes the boundaries of international law” but insisted action is needed because the asylum system is being “overwhelmed”.

The Home Secretary and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will formally unveil their plans to remove and ban asylum seekers from re-entry if they arrive in the UK through unauthorised means.

Mr Sunak has argued that his new Illegal Migration Bill, which is key to one of his five priorities for his premiership, will “take back ­control of our borders, once and for all”.

But critics have warned that the proposals are “unworkable” and will leave thousands of migrants in limbo by banning them from ever claiming British citizenship again.

Despite plans such as forcibly removing asylum seekers to Rwanda being mired in legal challenges, ministers are expected to approach the limits of the European Convention on Human Rights with the new legislation.

Writing in the Telegraph, Ms Braverman said: “Myself and the Prime Minister have been working tirelessly to ensure we have a Bill that works – we’ve pushed the boundaries of international law to solve this crisis.

“If you come here illegally it must be that you cannot stay.”

A duty will be placed on the Home Secretary to remove “as soon as reasonably practicable” anyone who arrives on a small boat, either to Rwanda or a “safe third country”.

And arrivals will be prevented from claiming asylum while in the UK, with plans also to ban them from returning once removed.

Ms Braverman said that last year more than 45,000 people made the “unsafe, unnecessary and illegal” journey across the Channel.

“Our asylum system has been overwhelmed,” she said, with almost £7 million a day being spent on hotels to house people while their claims are processed.

“Enough is enough,” she said. “We must stop the boats.”

Mr Sunak spoke to Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, before unveiling his plans, and pledged to continue working with him to ensure their stalled project works.


The Government has paid more than £140 million to Rwanda but no flights forcibly carrying migrants to the capital of Kigali have taken off because of legal challenges.

The Prime Minister will meet French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday to discuss further co-operation that will be required to reduce boat crossings.

Mr Sunak admitted voters “have heard promises before” without seeing results, but insisted his legislation “will mean that those who come here on small boats can’t claim asylum here”.

He wrote in the Sun: “This new law will send a clear signal that if you come to this country illegally, you will be swiftly removed.”

The Prime Minister said it is a plan “to do what’s fair for those at home and those who have a legitimate claim to asylum — a plan to take back control of our borders once and for all”.

The Immigration Services Union, which represents border staff, said the plans are “quite confusing” and do not seem “possible” without the Rwanda policy functioning.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer raised doubts about the legality and feasibility of the plans after the last attempt to get tough on migrants failed “to get us very far”.

Mr Sunak has made “stopping the boats” one of his five priorities and has been under pressure to tackle the issue amid dire polling figures for the Tories.

Almost 3,000 migrants have made unauthorised crossings of the English Channel already this year.

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago

In that case re-nationalise all water, energy, rail companies and tell their foreign owners to lump it…

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