On the day the European Court of Human Rights banned the first flight from London to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, on June 14, 2022, six immigrants were in a machine with a capacity for 220 passengers. The Conservative British government, then led by Boris Johnson, was determined to the last minute to show its constituents and the rest of the world that it was serious about its commitment to ending irregular immigration. A year later, the new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, finally managed to pass an extremely tough illegal immigration law with a dubious legal framework. This happened just as the Bibby Stockholm, a huge ship in which Downing Street plans to accommodate newcomers to the country after crossing the dangerous waters of the English Channel, was arriving on the island of Portland on the south coast of England. There are almost 500 people. According to critical humanitarian organizations, the government says the first 50 will begin inhabiting this “floating prison” in the coming weeks. Around 160,000 people are waiting across the UK while authorities process their asylum application. Last year, more than 46,000 people descended on the country’s south coast in flimsy boats.
Sunak and his home secretary, Suella Braverman, have insisted on making firm gestures to reassure their party’s hard wing, but recognize they cannot open doors to the sea.
“Ministers use vulnerable and traumatized people for political purposes. They are fueling the public with a disinformation campaign around asylum issues, creating division and resentment,” said Sacha Deshmukh, UK director at Amnesty International. “The use of former military barracks and other totally inappropriate housing must end, as must this horrible law or the Rwanda deal. [para deportar inmigrantes]demands Deshmukh.
The migration crisis facing the UK government is a perfect storm… in a glass of water. It is true that the number of people crossing the English Channel from the French coast to the UK has increased significantly and exponentially in recent years. Last year there were nearly 46,000 immigrants; in 2021 28,500; in 2020 8,466; in 2019 1,843; In 2018, the first year the UK government began counting intercepted immigrants, the figure was 299. It may seem alarming, but Frontex, the EU borders agency, has detected around 330,000 irregular border crossings by communities over the past year. And about 105,000 people arrived on the shores of Italy.
When Brexit and all its consequences became a reality on December 31, 2020, the United Kingdom stopped applying the Dublin III Regulation, the regulation that determines which country is responsible for processing an asylum application. It’s usually the first thing the applicant arrives at. London did not want to include refugee and asylum issues in its negotiations with Brussels. Result: Since then, the conservative government has been desperately looking for bilateral agreements with other EU countries – especially with France – and always gets the same answer. It is a matter for the Community institutions to negotiate.
The solution was to pass a draconian law that many experts say directly clashes with international law. “Thanks to this government, Britain’s historical reputation as a refugee-hosting country, which we were so proud of, is a thing of the past,” laments Josie Naughton, director of refugee agency Choose Love. “It’s a law that effectively eliminates the right to asylum for many people,” he says.
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The new regulations were accompanied during the parliamentary process by a political campaign with the slogan Stop The Boats (Let’s stop the boats), which Sunak incorporated into a poster at his lectern each time he addressed the issue. And his minister, Braverman, is not afraid to refer to the arrival of irregular immigrants as an “invasion.”
With the passage of the text of the law, the asylum claims of all people who reach the coasts on board the boats that clandestinely cross the English Channel will be rejected as inadmissible. And unlike current legislation, which imposes a five- to 10-year re-entry ban on those deported from the country for attempting to enter the country illegally, the Sunak government wants the ban to be lifelong. The new law on illegal immigration will place an obligation on anyone holding the post of interior minister to deport all irregular refugees to third countries “as soon as possible” – as has already been attempted in the Rwanda case.
“The law will allow the government to commit human rights abuses without consequences. Excluding refugees and immigrants from human rights protections is abhorrent and wrong. “Human rights are universal and the executive branch has no right to decide who deserves them and who doesn’t,” condemned the humanitarian organization Liberty, which managed to collect the signatures and support of nearly 300 NGOs to continue the fight against Sunak’s immigration policies.
The prime minister pledged at the start of his term to halve the number of asylum seekers and end the arrival of boats carrying irregular migrants. The opposition Labor Party laments the lack of resources, organization and plans to alleviate the administrative bottleneck, but avoids substantive criticism of the law so as not to frighten the electorate. The latest YouGov poll shows three in four Britons (73%) believe the government is responding to the migration crisis in an incompetent or chaotic manner. But while only 15% of Conservative voters accuse Sunak of treating irregular arrivals in the UK cruelly and unfairly, around 70% of Labor voters think so.
Minister Braverman used an unusual warning in the preamble to the new law, in which she raised the possibility that the text partially violated the European Convention on Human Rights (although at the same time she affirmed her belief that ultimately it would not). The Conservative government has made it clear to its own constituents that it is willing to take the risk of violating international law.
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