The Illegal Immigration Bill introduced on Tuesday March 7 is not the first attempt by a British Conservative government to stop the phenomenon of migrant dinghies crossing the English Channel, but it is probably the most controversial attempt to this day. Home Secretary Suella Braverman has introduced this new text in the House of Commons, which allows anyone who arrives on the Kent coast by inflatable boat to be denied the right to seek asylum in the United Kingdom – the ministry recorded 45,000 passages via these frail boats in 2022. The text raises many moral, legal and practical questions.
With the sole exception of minors and very ill people, arrivals will be detained and then sent back either to their country of origin if it is “safe” or to a third country also deemed “safe” by London, such as Rwanda, with which the UK signed an already highly contested agreement to outsource its asylum applications in 2022. Attempts to invoke protective laws – the UK’s “anti-modern slavery” law for example – will only be considered once the person is expelled.
“It is unfair that people who have traveled through a whole series of safe countries and then arrived in the UK illegally are abusing our asylum system. It has to stop.” judged Suella Braverman, who, despite being the daughter of immigrants of Indian origin, has advocated an assumed anti-immigrant policy and is regularly criticized by Labor and NGOs for her provocative rhetoric – she called it“invasion” arrivals of inflatable boats in 2022.
The bill is “tough but necessary”, Rishi Sunak said at a press conference on Tuesday. Considered a moderate, the British Conservative Prime Minister, also of Indian origin, has nevertheless made the fight against Channel crossings one of his priorities. He is responding to a pressing request from elected officials in his camp, worried that one of the main Brexit promises (“regaining control” of the borders) has not been kept. In fact, crossings have increased by more than twenty in four years (less than 1,900 crossings were counted in 2019).
The leader hopes that migration will be one of the major topics of the Franco-British summit, Friday March 10 in Paris. Unlike the French, who would prefer to insist on a moment of reconciliation – the first of its kind since 2018 – after years of tensions sharpened by the excesses of Boris Johnson, then Prime Minister.
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