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Plans to cut UK political asylum applications implode "morally objectionable"

LONDON – The UK government has proposed new laws aimed at stopping migrants and asylum seekers from entering the country without prior permission. The bill, introduced by the government in the House of Commons on Tuesday, has been called “deeply worrying” by the UN refugee agency and “morally bankrupt” by opposition lawmakers.

If passed, the law would mandate the deportation of migrants or asylum seekers who enter the UK irregularly, such as on small boats across the English Channel from France, and ban them from returning home or applying for British citizenship.

Alongside the legislation, UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman included a letter saying there was a more than 50% chance the legislation would be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, which the UK signed in 1951, CBS News partner network BBC News reported.

Migration Britain

Britain’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman listens as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks at a press conference after the launch of new laws on migrant channel crossings in Downing Street, London, March 7, 2023.

Leon Neal/AP

“For a government not to respond to the wave of illegal arrivals breaching our borders would be a betrayal of the will of the people we were elected to serve,” Braverman said Tuesday. “If you don’t act today, the problem will be worse tomorrow.”

has been widespread Increase in boat crossings in the UKFor the last five years. According to the BBC, in 2018, there were 300 boat crossings, while in 2022, around 45,000 risky crossings were reported.

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Critics say the government’s plans are ineffective, do not respect international obligations to refugees and fail to address problems in the existing asylum system, including extremely long processing times.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas described the bill as “morally repugnant” and said alternative legal routes to claiming asylum in the UK “mostly do not exist” or “do not work.”

“Compassion for people is not at the heart of this bill,” said Laura Kirke-Smith, UK executive director of the refugee charity International Rescue Committee, adding that there are more effective and compassionate alternatives.

“First, extend safe routes to those who need them,” Kyrke-Smith said. “Second, fix the asylum system to ensure claims are heard fairly and decisions are made quickly. Third, redouble diplomatic and humanitarian engagement to address the crises that cause people to flee in the first place.”

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, also spoke out against the bill on Tuesday, saying it was “deeply concerned.”

“The law, if passed, would amount to an asylum ban – stripping away the right to seek refugee protection in the UK for those arriving irregularly, regardless of how genuine and compelling their claims are, and regardless of their personal circumstances,” UNHCR said. “The effect of the bill (in this form) would be to deny protection to many asylum seekers in need of safety and security and even to deny them the opportunity to file a case.” This would be a clear violation of the Refugee Convention. and would undermine a long-standing, humanitarian tradition of which the British people are rightly proud.”

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UNHCR said the UK Home Office’s own data showed that most of those who entered the country on small boats would be accepted as refugees under their own policies if their claims were processed.

“Branding refugees as ineligible based on mode of arrival distorts these fundamental facts,” UNHCR said, urging the UK government to “reconsider the bill and instead come up with a more humane and practical policy solution.”

Prominent British sports commentator and TV personality Gary Lineker drew a backlash on Wednesday after comparing the language in the bill to that of Nazi-era Germany.

“There is no massive influx. We accept far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in a language not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s,” Lineker said in a tweet.

Although he does not work in its news department, Lineker’s long-standing position at the publicly funded BBC is being investigated for possible breaches of the organisation’s impartiality guidelines over his comments.

He thanked his supporters on Wednesday and said he would “continue to try to speak for those poor souls who have no voice.”

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Haley Ott

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