Priti Patel Accused of "Empowering" People Smugglers With Latest Immigration Proposals
The government's latest immigration plans will create a "more chaotic, dangerous and fragmented" asylum system, leading charities have warned.
The Home Secertary has come under fire from the groups following the publication of her new plan to overhaul the UK's immigration system as they accused her of treating refugees as a "political football".
Speaking to MPs on Thursday, Patel said the immigration proposals would make it harder for people entering the country illegally to claim asylum, with fewer rights to appeal any decisions made by the Home Office about their status.
Patel claimed the plans, which would also include tougher penalties for those entering illegally, would reduce the number of people making dangerous crossings across the English Channel.
Home Office figures say that 8,500 people arrived via the Channel in 2020, and estimated that 800 have made the crossing this year.
But her claims have been dismissed by charities who say that the lack of available legal routes for people to claim asylum in the UK would instead push more people into the hands of criminal gangs.
Minnie Rahman, Campaigns Director for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, told PoliticsHome: "It is extremely cynical for Priti Patel to claim this will protect vulnerable people, when this plan will only lead to a more chaotic, dangerous and fragmented asylum system.
"Creating one narrow and limited route to resettlement will not provide robust routes to safety for the majority of asylum seekers, including LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and those fleeing political and religious persecution."
"Like every other asylum reform proposal over the past two decades, these plans will not prevent perilous crossings," she added.
"With every avenue shut, the stakes are raised, and people will be forced into taking more dangerous journeys – empowering people smugglers and others willing to exploit them. The Home Secretary is using refugees as political football, instead of proposing evidence-based asylum policies based on reality."
Nazek Ramadan, director of Migrant Voice, told PoliticsHome: "We welcome the Home Secretary’s statement that the government will work towards the creation of safe and legal routes, and we look forward to further details.
"From years working with asylum seekers and refugees we know that the reality is that currently it is near impossible to find legal routes. Planned resettlement has been mentioned as an option and can and does work, but is also fraught with problems, and only a small fraction of those who need sanctuary can use this route.
"Yet without establishing legal routes the proposal will establish a second class of refugees whose rights will be taken away and who will be subjected to a permanent threat of deportation."
He warned that the measures to stop smugglers would not stop people trying to join family in the UK because to be reunited they would "make whatever journey, in whatever circumstances.
"The proposed rules would not have stopped the father wanting join his wife and three children in Scotland even though he passed through Italy on his way and was told he had to return there.
"Or the teenager in France refused permission to join her parents in Britain. Or the Iranian, one of many smuggled to the UK without being told of their final destination," he said.
"People who are oppressed, desperate and fleeing for the life, will not know the details of British regulations."