The British government has been widely reported on its controversial asylum policies to tackle the growing number of Channel crossings by migrants in boats, with some accusing it of “scapegoating” migrants for the country’s “broken immigration policy”.
The increasing number of Channel crossings, a pressing issue in the UK, is mainly rooted in Brexit, as well as global developments such as increased conflict, violence and human rights abuses around the world.
Before Brexit, the UK was part of the European Union’s Dublin Regulation, which allowed it to return some asylum seekers to EU member states without considering their asylum claims.
When the UK left the EU in 2020, it became a country that had to make new return arrangements with any EU member state.
The UK’s new policies on asylum seekers, or the “immigration problem”, came to light mainly after it announced the Rwandan asylum plan in April last year, called the UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership. formal.
Under then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, people identified by the UK as illegal immigrants or asylum seekers would be relocated to Rwanda, which the government claimed was an “essentially safe and secure country” for processing, asylum and relocation.
Many non-governmental organizations and international organizations, including United Nations institutions, as well as politicians, strongly rejected the plan.
READ: UK asylum seekers get permission to challenge Rwandan plan
One of the points was that although the number of asylum applications in the UK reached a 20-year high of almost 75,000 in 2022, it was still well below the EU average, as Germany received more than 240,000 claims on asylum last year.
After controversies, court decisions and criticism, 2023 began with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak identifying the issue as one of his five priorities in a speech in January, after a record turnout of more than 45,000 people to cross the English Channel in small boats in 2022, up more than 60 per cent from the previous year.
New bill ‘of great concern’
Two months later, in early March, the British government unveiled the Illegal Migration Bill, the toughest measure yet, aimed at removing migrants who were coming into the country in small boats.
The plan includes holding people for the first 28 days without bail or judicial review.
The Bill has drawn criticism from human rights organizations and refugee advocates, who argue that it breaches international law and the UK’s obligations under the Refugee Convention.
The Bill has also sparked mass protests across the UK, with concerned citizens and NGOs accusing the government of fleecing migrants.
Asking the government to review the move, “seeking asylum is not a crime” was one of the slogans chanted at protests across the country.
There has also been fierce criticism of the language used in the Bill and its representation of “illegal immigrants”.
Qirjako Qirko, Albania’s Ambassador to the UK, has said that Albanian children in Britain are facing “racial bullying” in schools because of the debate over the arrival of small boats.
The Refugee Council charity said the new Bill “ignores the basic point that the majority of people in small boats fleeing terror and bloodshed from countries are men, women and children”.
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There was another pushback on the Bill, which led to almost a week of conflict BBC Sports presenter Gary Lineker said: “This is just a really cruel policy aimed at the most vulnerable people in language not dissimilar to the language used by Germany in the 30s.”
A few days after the new Bill was announced, Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron met in Paris, the first summit between the two countries in five years.
During the discussion, Altar promised that the UK will pay around £476 million ($588 million) to France over the next three years as part of a deal to curb Channel crossings.
From time to time, France has been blamed for “failing to meet its moral obligation” to protect vulnerable people and stop smugglers from exploiting migrants seeking passage to the UK.
One of the latest allegations came from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which said it was “deeply concerned” about the recent proposed changes to the UK’s modern slavery protection system as part of the Illegal Migration Bill new.
Another issue for the UK is housing unaccompanied asylum seekers at hotels, where an estimated 51,000 migrants are staying in 395 hotels at a cost of more than £6 million a day.
In their latest move, the British government on Wednesday set out details of a plan to house asylum seekers and migrants in former barracks, barges and military ships, as it seeks to cut the costs of providing temporary accommodation. . accommodation.
READ: UK apologizes for asking Afghan asylum seekers to get documents stamped by the Taliban
The following is a timeline of key moments in British asylum policies, agreements and related developments starting from the controversial Rwandan plan.
The then UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, and the Rwandan Foreign Minister, Vincent Biruta signed the Rwandan plan. The new plan will see asylum seekers seeking to enter the UK sent to Rwanda for resettlement.
Asylum seekers at a UK detention center went on hunger strike after being told they would be deported to Rwanda.
The UK’s first planned flight was launched following a last-minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights.
Rwanda’s plan has been brought before the court, with lawyers representing asylum seekers arguing that the British government has ignored evidence that the central African country violates human rights.
The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, described the arrival of the asylum seekers on the south coast of the United Kingdom as an “invasion”, which drew a fierce backlash.
The interior ministers of France and the United Kingdom have signed an agreement to step up police patrols on beaches in northern France to stop people trying to cross the English Channel in small boats.
Investigations revealed that there was a lack of cooperation between the French and British authorities and they failed to rescue 27 drowned migrants in November 2021.
After four people died when a migrant boat capsized in southeast England, the UK and France pledged to crack down on people smuggling in the Channel.
The High Court in London ruled that the plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda while their legal status is in principle broad.
The high court in London granted an appeal to a charity which challenged the December ruling.
The UK government has introduced an illegal immigration bill which would allow anyone who enters the UK illegally to be detained and quickly removed.
Meeting with Macron in Paris, Sunak said the UK will pay France around £476 million ($588 million) over the next three years to help tackle the Channel crossings.
During a trip to Rwanda, British Home Secretary Braverman took part in laying the foundation stone for the construction of 500 housing units that will accommodate migrants deported from the UK.
READ: ‘We have to stop the boats,’ says UK Home Secretary ahead of statement on new Bill
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.