Priti Patel is set to announce what’s being called ‘the biggest overhaul of our asylum system in decades’ after days of controversy over her plans to send migrants offshore.
In a speech to the online Conservative party conference, the home secretary is expected to say the UK’s asylum system is ‘fundamentally broken’ and should be replaced by something that’s ‘firm and fair’.
It’s after record numbers of migrants crossed the Channel from Calais over the summer and Government plans to look at processing asylum claims on islands thousands of miles away were leaked.
Ms Patel will tell those tuning into her online speech: ‘A fair asylum system should provide safe haven to those fleeing persecution, oppression or tyranny.
‘But ours doesn’t. Because our asylum system is fundamentally broken. And we have a responsibility to act.’
The home secretary, whose own parents fled from Idi Amin’s Uganda to the UK, will go on to say: ‘From the expulsion of Ugandan Asians from a repressive regime, to proudly resettling more Syrian refugees than any other EU country, to supporting campaigners fleeing political persecution in Hong Kong.
‘Under Conservative leadership, the United Kingdom has and always will provide sanctuary when the lights are being switched off on people’s liberties. So, I will introduce a new system that is firm and fair.
‘Fair and compassionate towards those who need our help. Fair by welcoming people through safe and legal routes.’
The latest estimates show five times as many migrants made the perilous crossing from France to the UK this year, compared to the first eight months of last year. At least one person is known to have died while attempting the journey.
It’s thought the rise is partly down to an increase in the number of Syrians fleeing their country after years of bloody civil war.
But Ms Patel has criticised lawyers’ attempts to stop those who make it across the Channel from being deported.
She’ll say ending ‘the abuse of the broken system’ will be one of her objectives in making the changes.
One of her promises will be to stop migrants from being able to make repeated claims to remain in the UK and she’ll also announce plans to speed up the time it takes to ‘remove’ those who don’t have a ‘legitimate’ case.
She’ll say: ‘After decades of inaction by successive governments, we will address the moral, legal, practical problems with this broken system. Because what exists now is neither firm nor fair.
‘And I will bring forward legislation to deliver on that commitment. I will take every necessary step to fix this broken system. Amounting to the biggest overhaul of our asylum system in decades.’
Ms Patel has previously promised to make Channel crossings ‘unviable’. It’s recently been reported that she considered using wave machines and floating walls to keep the small boats out.
Places such as Ascension, St Helena and Papua New Guinea were also briefly considered as bases to process claims, it has emerged.
In her speech, the home secretary is expected to say targeting the criminal gangs who organise the sea crossings will be a key part of her strategy.
She will say: ‘We will continue to hunt down the criminal gangs who traffic people into our country.
‘I will continue to use the full force of our outstanding National Crime Agency and intelligence agencies to go after them.
‘We will make more immediate returns of those who come here illegally and break our rules, every single week. And we will explore all practical measures and options to deter illegal migration.’
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