Rishi Sunak’s government is keen to see how far it can push the limits of international human rights law to push its new immigration policy forward. The Minister of the Interior, Suella Braverman, has sent a letter to the Conservative deputies in which she explains the reasons for promoting the new law, which will veto the asylum application of those who arrive by boat on the coast of the United Kingdom.
Braverman has drawn on section 19 of the Human Rights Act of 1998, the text that the United Kingdom approved so that its judges and courts conform to the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which it is a party. That section 19 obliges the minister responsible for a new bill, in the event that he is not clear about its compatibility with the Convention, to formally admit that doubt if he wants to continue with the process. It is the way to transfer all responsibility to the Government and avoid it to Parliament.
“Our approach is robust and innovative, and that is why I have made the formal admission (to which I would be required). This does not mean that the provisions of the new law are incompatible with the rights of the Convention, only that there is a little more than a 50% chance that they are not ”, Braverman acknowledges in his letter. “We are testing the limits, but we are confident that the new text is compatible with international law.”
I mean, it may be legal… or it may not be. It is proof of the flexibility with which Anglo-Saxon common law deals with these matters, but also of Downing Street’s willingness to put the international credibility of the United Kingdom at stake in exchange for flattering the ears of the most extreme Conservative deputies.
It gives the impression, many of Sunak’s critics suspect, that the prime minister wants to be forgiven for the excess of diplomacy and white glove displayed last week with the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to push forward a new agreement on Northern Ireland. North and its fit in the Brexit. One of lime and one of sand. The new plan against irregular immigration (which the British government insists on calling “illegal immigration”, contrary to United Nations recommendations) attacks the two black beasts of the tories from the hard wing of the party: immigration and the European Court of Human Rights.
“In the last two years, we have seen a 500% increase in the arrival of small boats (crossing the English Channel). This is the key point to which this law responds. We will not be able to stop these arrivals until the whole world knows that if you enter the United Kingdom illegally, you will be immediately detained and deported to your country of origin or to a safe third country such as Rwanda,” Braverman said in the Chamber on Tuesday. of Commons, where he has presented more details of the new Illegal Immigration Act. It was the European Court of Human Rights, based in Strasbourg, that paralyzed the first attempt to deport immigrants to Rwanda in June last year, after the agreement reached between London and Kigali to send the detainees there and process from that country their asylum applications. The minister has announced the start of talks with Strasbourg to avoid new interventions like that, which she has described as “defective” and “opaque”.
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New tougher measures
Braverman has confirmed in Parliament the new measures contemplated in the law, which represent a draconian effort to stop the arrival of small boats to the coasts of southern England. If in 2018 there were 299 immigrants intercepted, according to figures from the British Ministry of the Interior, in 2022 it had risen to 46,000. These are the news of a project whose text has not yet been published:
—The head of the Ministry of the Interior is under a legal obligation to “remove all persons who have entered the United Kingdom illegally”. They will be returned to their country of origin or “to a safe third country”. In other words, the possibility of starting the asylum application process for those who enter the country irregularly is prohibited. Only minors, those who cannot fly due to their medical condition, or those “who face a risk of serious and irreparable harm” will be able to delay their deportation.
—The Government may retain intercepted irregulars for up to 28 days, without the need for judicial authorization or giving them the opportunity to request bail from a magistrate. However, the right to habeas corpus, that is, the right to physically appear before the judge to determine the legality of the detention. The Ministry of the Interior will have that period of four weeks to proceed with hardly any obstacles to the deportation.
—Downing Street claims the retroactivity of the law. In other words, while waiting for it to go through all the parliamentary procedures and enter into force, in a few months, its application will start counting from this very Tuesday. The Sunak government wants to reinforce the deterrent effect of the rule.
—The possibility of settlement will be prevented at all costs for people who enter the United Kingdom irregularly and are intercepted. Unlike the existing legislation until now, which imposed a punishment of between five and ten years, with the new project, the return to British territory will be prohibited for life.
—Parliament will approve each year the limit number of people who will be able to enter the United Kingdom legally, through the “safe routes” that the Government has promised to design (and has not yet done).
wave of criticism
The Labor opposition, aware that irregular immigration is a swampy electoral terrain, has focused its criticism of the project on the foreseeable impossibility of putting it into practice, its inefficiency, its high cost and the fact that it is the umpteenth Conservative promise to solve the problem . “We know that they are going to dedicate themselves, throughout the next year, to blaming others for the fact that the plan has not worked. Stop. We cannot afford more slogans instead of solutions”, the Labor spokesperson for Immigration, Yvette Cooper, has reproached Braverman.
Other deputies from the left, eager to intervene in the debate, lashed out more harshly against the law. “I ask the minister to reduce her inflammatory tone, which is putting immigrants and those who represent them at risk,” demanded John McDonnell, who was number two of the Labor Party in the previous era led by Jeremy Corbyn. Braverman had just harangued Conservative MPs with the promise of the prompt expulsion from the country of all “foreign criminals.”
Sunak visited this Tuesday, while Braverman explained the new law to the deputies, the port facilities in the town of Dover, where immigrants arriving by boat on the British coast and intercepted by the Coast Guard are collected and distributed. The prime minister would get there by helicopter, meet with the officers in charge of the operation and use that scenario to personally defend the project with which he intends to fulfill the most relevant promise made at the beginning of his term, at the end of last year: put a stop to the phenomenon of small boats, already well known in the EU, but whose novelty in the United Kingdom has conditioned and altered the political debate.
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