Be as kind and tough as Tony Abbott, British government urged on asylum
London: Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel has been urged to be as tough and kind as Tony Abbott towards asylum seekers to stop illegal boat arrivals across the English Channel.
Patel, who met Abbott in London last October, set out a new plan for immigration for Britain aimed at punishing those who travel by boat, traditionally across the English Channel from France.
She said the current system was “broken” and was too easily exploited with 16,000 illegal arrivals in the UK in 2019 and 32,000 attempts prevented in France.
Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel.Credit:AP
The number of journeys made by boat reached a record level with 8500 crossing, although illegal entries by other routes declined because of the COVID-19, according to government statistics.
Of those making boat crossings, 87 per cent were male.
Some measures being considered included immediate and forced deportations of boat arrivals, temporary protection visas for those who cannot be deported but are found to be refugees.
Under the new visa, refugees would be regularly reassessed for removal from the UK, have limited family reunion rights and no access to government support.
Migrants packed tightly onto a small inflatable boat bail water out as they attempt to cross the English Channel near the Dover Strait.Credit:Getty
The measures involve life sentencing for people smugglers, increased prison terms for those illegally entering the country and sending asyum seekers to more asylum estates instead of hotels.
“For the first time, whether you enter the UK legally or illegally will have an impact on how your asylum claim progresses, and on your status in the UK if that claim is successful,” Patel said.
“We need to break this trade,” she told the House of Commons.
Noticeably missing from the buffet of options was a plan floated in the British press last week for offshore processing centres, possibly on Gibraltar and the Isle of Man.
But Britain has had difficulty finding a jurisdiction willing to house its asylum seekers like Narau and Papua New Guinea have done for Australia with both Gibraltar and the Isle of Mann rejecting the prospect.
Sir Edward Leigh, a Conservative MP, urged the minister to copy Australia’s offshore processing regime.
“Is the Home Secretary prepared to do what prime minster Abbott of Australia did?” Sir Edward said.
“He ensured that because all arrivals were put in a secure location and left there until their claim was processed and they were deported or allowed to stay there are now no unsafe arrivals in Australia,” Leigh said.
“There are no deaths, there are no criminal gangs, the policy works – is the Home Secretary prepared to be really tough in order to be kind?
Australian government figures show there were 431 illegal maritime arrivals in immigration detention as of January 31, 2021.
Patel said the British system was different to Australia’s but “firm and fair”.
The proposals, now out for public consultation before legislation is drawn up, were savaged by some Labour, the Scottish National Party and refugee advocates.
Labour’s opposition spokesman for home affairs Nick Thomas-Symonds said the proposals lacked compassion.
“She said in her statement that the asylum system is broken, and she talked about a persistent failure of the rules,” he said.
“They are stark admissions for a Conservative Home Secretary whose party has been in power for 11 years.”
Matthew Saltmarsh from the UNHCR said while states have a right to control their borders, “people have a universal right to seek asylum, even when they arrive without documents or by non-traditional means.”
“There is no blanket international law making it illegal to claim asylum just because someone has come to the UK through France or another safe country,” he said.
“Penalising asylum-seekers on this basis risks making claimants destitute and leaving more people in limbo, without addressing the fundamental causes behind displacement and onward movements.”
But the proposals were widely welcomed by Conservative MPs who have been under pressure from former UKIP and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage who has gone to the Channel to film asylum seekers packed into dingheys landing on Britain’s shores.
Farage, who uploaded the footage onto his social media channels which his office says reached about 68.3 million people online.
He told the Herald and The Age that Patel’s actions were “more tough words” but “no decisive action.”
“An Australian style solution where we stop the boats from coming would work but the Government don’t have the guts,” he said.
“This problem will get worse before it gets better.”
Farage has previously interviewed Abbott advocating Australia’s immigration system.
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