What are the Government’s plans to curb small boats crossing the Channel?

Rishi Sunak is in the process of bringing in controversial legislation to remove the incentive to make the crossings.

The sinking of a small boat in the Channel with the loss of six lives is the latest incident to highlight the Government’s attempts to deter migrants from making the perilous crossing.

What is the Government’s main plan?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to stop the crossings and is in the process of bringing in controversial legislation to remove the incentive to make the crossings.

The Illegal Migration Act received royal assent last month after much wrangling in the Houses of Parliament.

(PA Graphics)

The Government says the new law will mean people who come to the UK illegally will not have a right to stay, and will be liable to be returned either to their home country or relocated to a “safe third country”.

People who arrive illegally will be banned from lawfully re-entering the UK and will not be eligible for settlement or citizenship, except in limited circumstances.

– What do critics say about the plans?

Campaigners have criticised the proposals, warning that they are cruel, inhumane, unworkable, and will not stop people trying to come to the UK to seek asylum. Some have argued that the law strips away long-standing promises the country has made to provide sanctuary and aid to refugees.

– Why does the Government disagree?

Mr Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman insist the Act is paramount to deterring Channel crossings and controlling the number of people arriving and staying in the UK, as well as overhauling elements of the asylum system.

Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman
Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman (Phil Noble/PA)

– Which ‘safe third country’ will people be sent to?

In April 2022, the UK Government announced a multimillion-pound five-year trial with Rwanda which would see some asylum seekers sent to the central African country.

They would then either be granted refugee status to stay in Rwanda or they could apply to settle there on other grounds or seek asylum in another “safe third country”.

– Why have people not yet been sent to Rwanda?

In June, the Court of Appeal overturned a ruling by the High Court that the Rwanda agreement was lawful because of “deficiencies” in the country’s asylum system which could lead to some claimants being sent back to their home countries where they might face prosecution.

The Court of Appeal also ruled that the policy breached Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), although the Government has been given leave to appeal against these rulings in the Supreme Court.

– What has been the response in the Conservative Party to the ruling?

Small boats and engines in storage after being used to cross the Channel
Small boats and engines in storage after being used to cross the Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Reports suggest some senior ministers believe the UK should pull out of the ECHR, which is ruled on by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, to enable the Government to move forward with the Rwanda plan.

– What else has the Government been doing to stop small boat crossings?

In March, the UK announced an “unprecedented” £478 million package to fund a new detention centre in France and hundreds of extra law enforcement officers on French shores.

The package comes on top of the more than £300 million the UK has committed to France in the last decade to help tackle unauthorised migration.

It is understood the detention centre, which is expected to be located in Dunkirk, will be run by French officials with the UK contributing £25 million over three years.

People detained at the site are to be returned to their home country if safe, or if not, the last country they passed through.

The Government has also attempted to show that asylum-seekers will not receive “luxurious” treatment while waiting for their status to be confirmed by bringing in the use of disused military sites for housing as well as the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, Dorset, to accommodate more than 500 men.

However, the first arrivals on the barge had to be removed on Friday after traces of Legionella bacteria were found onboard, meaning a further postponement of the already-delayed plan to reduce the reliance on hotels to accommodate migrants.

Other measures include a communique with Albania making it more difficult for people to come to the UK from the eastern European country by actions including a joint migration taskforce, with more than 1,000 Albanian nationals already returned.

The Government has also set up partnerships with social media companies to remove people-smuggling adverts from websites and action to tackle rogue immigration lawyers reported to have been illegally helping people get around the asylum system.

The UK has also agreed a partnership with Turkey to tackle organised immigration gangs and disrupt the supply of boat parts and other materials used as part of illegal migration journeys.

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