Home secretary Suella Braverman is expected to lay out plans at the Conservative party conference to change legislation in order to create a blanket ban on anyone claiming asylum if they enter Britain through an “illegal” route – rather than applying through a government scheme. The new rules would allow the government to deport anyone who arrived illegally.
Sabir Zazai, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, said there is “no illegal method by which to enter a country” under the UN Refugee Convention and accused the government of “playing politics” with people’s lives.
More than 30,000 people have crossed the Channel in small boats so far this year, more than in the whole of last year, while government officials have warned the total could double by December.
Mr Zazai said: “Today’s announcement from the Home Secretary is shocking, incredibly cruel and risks breaking international law. This government is shamefully playing politics with the lives of people who have fled war, terror and oppression.
“We cannot stress this enough – under the UN Refugee Convention, to which the UK is a founding signatory, there is no illegal method of arrival to a country to seek asylum.”
He added: “The majority of people making small boat crossings to seek safety in the UK are from countries which have high grant rates of refugee protection. The top nationalities of people making these dangerous journeys include Afghanistan, Eritrea, Syria and Iran. 97 per cent of asylum claims made by Afghans are successful, 98 per cent of claims from Syrians are granted, 97 per cent of claims from Eritreans are granted and 85 per cent of applications from Iranians are successful.
“We’ve seen increasingly cruel policies on refugee rights be announced by UK Governments in recent years. But we cannot accept this lack of humanity as the norm.”
Ms Braverman's speech has been trailed by government sources ahead of her appearance at the conference this afternoon.
"It's right that we extend the hand of friendship to those in genuine need," Ms Braverman will say.
"Parts of the system aren't delivering. We need to end abuse of the rules and cut down on those numbers that aren’t meeting the needs of our economy."
Ms Braverman said at the conference this afternoon that it would be "her dream" to have a newspaper front page with a photo of a plane taking off to Rwanda with asylum seekers on board. A scheme unveiled earlier this year to heavy criticism, would send refugees who arrive in the UK and are considered “inadmissible” - such as those who have travelled using people smugglers, or on boats which have crossed the Channel – to the African country, where they will stay if their application is granted – they would not be allowed to return to the UK.
The first flight under this plan received legal clearance from the High Court and was scheduled for 14 June. A last-minute interim measure by the European Court of Human Rights led to the flight being cancelled.
"Unfortunately we have got to let that play out," she says.
Earlier in the party conference, Ms Braverman told a fringe event conference that the number of foreign students coming to the UK should be cut in a bid to reduce immigration.