The primary goal of the bill currently in the works, labelled the biggest overhaul of the UK’s immigration system in decades, is to deport illegal migrants. This has been a growing problem in recent months. Over this past weekend alone, 315 migrants crossed the English Channel, upping the total for this year to 5,676.
The UK is currently in talks with Denmark over sharing an asylum centre in Africa, as Conservative Home Secretary Priti Patel is expected to introduce laws next week to enable the government to send asylum seekers abroad for processing.
The Nationality and Borders Bill will for the first time in British history include a provision to create an offshore immigration processing centre for asylum seekers. The legislation has been described as the biggest overhaul of Britain’s asylum system in a generation. Migrants who arrive illegally will have their status automatically downgraded on arrival so that they can only be considered for a temporary stay. They would be denied access to benefits and be regularly reassessed for removal.
Denmark passed its own law last month to process asylum seekers outside Europe and is reportedly planning to establish a centre in Rwanda. Two Danish ministers visited the African Commonwealth country last month to sign a memorandum on asylum and migration.
A British government source told The Times that the UK is closely monitoring the situation and that representatives of both countries discussed how the Danish government managed the laws domestically, their negotiations with third countries, and the “potential” to share a processing centre abroad.
The Home Office also reportedly studied Australia’s policy, which meets asylum seekers travelling by sea halfway and redirects them to offshore immigration accommodation centres in neighbouring states, including Papua New Guinea.
The new legislation currently in the works is designed to discourage migrants from making dangerous trips in small boats to the UK from continental Europe and strike a blow against smuggling gangs profiteering from the routes.
Over this past weekend alone, 315 migrants crossed the English Channel, upping the total for this year to 5,676. Talks with France, the most important player from the European side, were said to be “non-existent”. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to be keen on the plan to cooperate with Denmark, and government sources describe a “pretty strong sign of intent”. “The prime minister and home secretary are determined to look at anything that will make a difference on Channel crossings”, the sources said.
Yet, as with the Danish initiative itself, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) promptly accused the British government of trying to shift its duty to look after asylum seekers to developing countries that are “much less well resourced” than the UK.
UNHCR spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh described this initiative as “burden-shifting rather than responsibility-sharing”.
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds labelled the plans “unconscionable” and vowed to oppose the bill during voting.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the charity Refugee Council described offshore processing as an act of “cruel and brutal hostility towards vulnerable people who through no fault of their own have had to flee war, oppression, and terror”.