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New legislation set to be announced by the government next week will curtail the rights of asylum seekers if they did not arrive to the UK via a safe or legal route.
Appearing on Ridge on Sunday on Sky News, Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris described the new plans as “black and white”.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman is reportedly designing the laws to limit the ability of asylum seekers attempting to prevent deportation by relying on human rights laws.
It would allow the government to detain thousands of asylum seekers before deporting and banning them if they did not arrive by a safe or legal route.
It would also help strengthen the government’s controversial Rwanda asylum scheme which has so far failed to successfully deport any asylum seekers due to clashes with human rights laws.
“What the Prime Minister’s saying is that we also need some legislation on top of what we are doing so we can make sure that people who come into this country illegally are returned very quickly,” said Heaton-Harris.
“And that’s what I expect to see in the legislation.”
However, despite his remarks, Heaton-Harris conceded he does not know the details of the legislation.
“It’s not my portfolio, but we have got a cabinet briefing pre-announcement,” he said.
“And we’ve been talking about this for quite some time. So I don’t know the actual words of the legislation – but I know it has to be extremely clear.”
Currently, asylum seekers have the right to remain in the U.K. to have their asylum claims processed, regardless of the method by which they arrived.
And under international law, asylum seekers have the legal right to claim asylum in any country they choose.
Heaton-Harris told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg the government is also seeking other ways to disincentivise asylum seekers coming to the UK via unsafe or unauthorised routes.
“We need a full range of things in in our arsenal to try and stop both people trafficking and illegal migration across the channel that involves proper conversations, that are ongoing, with our French counterparts – and indeed our other European counterparts – to try and ensure that people are held in the first safe country that they come to that and also includes international development aid,” said Heaton-Harris.
“Because you want to try and make sure that the economy in places where people are trying to come from develop themselves, so they don’t need to make that journey.”
The government’s new legislation comes after 46,000 migrants and asylum seekers crossed the channel in 2022, the highest number on record.
However the UK system is plagued by severe backlogs, with around 166,000 asylum seekers waiting for a decision on their claims – also a record high.
Rishi Sunak has made “passing new laws to stop small boats” one of his five priorities ahead of the next election alongside growing the economy, growing the economy, reducing debt, and cutting waiting lists.
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