The British government wants to “take back control” of immigration and asylum laws from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
In a Tuesday evening speech at the Conservative Party’s autumn conference in Birmingham, immigration minister Suella Braverman said that people who arrive by unauthorised means should not be allowed to claim asylum in the UK and she doubled down on contentious plans to send some asylum-seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda.
However, Braverman acknowledged that a legal challenge to the policy means it’s unlikely anyone will be deported to the east African country this year.
“We need to find a way to make the Rwanda scheme work,” said Braverman.
“We cannot allow a foreign court to undermine the sovereignty of our borders,” she continued, to cheers and applause from the audience.
“A few months ago the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg did just that. By a closed process, with an unnamed judge, and without any representation by the UK. A European Court overruled our Supreme Court. And as a result our first flight to Rwanda was grounded. We need to take back control.”
She didn’t say how the government intends to ‘take back control’.
Under a deal signed in April, Britain plans to send some migrants who arrive in the UK as stowaways or in small boats to Rwanda, where their asylum claims would be processed. Those granted asylum would stay in the African country rather than returning to the UK.
The British government has said the policy will deter people-trafficking gangs who ferry migrants across the English Channel. Human rights groups say it is unworkable and inhumane to send people thousands of miles away to a country they don’t want to live in.
Braverman said many migrants were “leaving a safe country like France and abusing our asylum system,” adding that she wanted to work more closely with French authorities “to get more out of our partnership.”
“We’ve got to stop the boats crossing the Channel,” she said, to more applause.
What has the reaction been to UK’s Rwanda policy?
Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive of the group Refugee Action, said sending asylum-seekers to Rwanda would be a “a blatant breach of the international refugee laws that the U.K. proudly helped create in the first place.”
Clare Mosley, founder of refugee charity Care4Calais, said it was “barbaric, untruthful and unnecessary.”
“If this government truly wanted to stop small boat crossings it would offer safe passage to those who have a viable claim for asylum,” she said.
Britain has already paid Rwanda 120 million pounds (€137 million) but no one has been sent there as part of the deal. The UK. was forced to cancel the first deportation flight at the last minute in June after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the plan carried “a real risk of irreversible harm.”
Thousands of people a year try to cross one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in dinghies and other fragile craft in hope of a new life in the UK. More than 35,500 people have made the crossing so far this year, up from 28,000 in 2021.
Dozens have died in the attempt in recent years.
The crossings, and how to stop them, are a source of friction between the UK and France. Braverman said the UK was committed to working with France to stop the smuggling gangs.
She said French authorities were stopping between 40% and 50% of boats trying to leave.
“That’s not good enough but it’s better than nothing,” she said.