LET us first look at the context that forced the Government to place on the statute book the Nationality and Borders Bill, now an Act (NBA), and agree the deal with Rwanda.
The batch of 554 people who reached the UK on June 15 and 19 took the number who crossed the English Channel illegally in boats since the start of 2018 to more than 50,000.
The Channel crisis, for that is what it is, has to date seen more than 75,000 people arrive without prior permission by lorry and boat since January 1, 2018. There were just 299 boat arrivals in the whole of 2018.
In 2021 there were more than three times those of 2020 and over 15 times the 2019 figure. So far in 2022, the rate is more than twice that of last year’s record numbers.
The situation in which unvetted people are entering the UK in their thousands has major implications for public safety, and is also adding huge strains to our already overwhelmed and massively abused asylum system. This crowds out genuine refugees and is completely unfair for hard-working UK taxpayers.
There is also the significant pressure that these arrivals place on public services (such as the NHS) and housing. That there is simply not enough accommodation available can be seen by the fact that 25,000 asylum seekers are presently housed in hotels.
It’s worth noting that: 90 per cent of Channel-crossers are male; 70 per cent are adult men between the ages of 18 and 39; nearly all those arriving via this illegal route claim asylum; and 98 per cent of all arrivals have no passport when processed. Many have been seen discarding documents and mobile phones at the point of being picked up by British vessels. Why would genuine asylum seekers want to do that?
The concept of ‘inadmissibility’, now entrenched in statute, will allow us to categorise as inadmissible claims for asylum from those coming illegally from a safe country or who have passed through a safe country or countries to reach the UK and failed to claim asylum in that country or have had a claim rejected there.
Many setting off from French shores have already been denied asylum in other European countries. Asylum rejection rates at first instance are much higher in France and the EU than the UK.
The Schengen Agreement on open internal borders exposes EU and European Free Trade Area countries to the weak and porous external borders of the EU, where migrants posing as asylum seekers, pour in, both legally and illegally.
According to Facts4EU.org, in 2021 there were nearly 230,000 illegal migrants detected entering the EU, an increase of over 60 per cent on 2019 – the pre-pandemic year. I have no doubt that this number will grow, impacting on both the EU and the UK.
Boris Johnson and Priti Patel have described the agreement with Rwanda as, ‘a world-leading partnership’. In fact, sending asylum seekers to a (safe) third country where their asylum claims can be considered is not a novel idea. Australia has, on and off, since 2001, had offshore processing centres in place in the tiny Pacific island of Nauru and in Papua New Guinea.
Also, in 2003, Tony Blair’s government failed to persuade the EU to adopt something similar. In 2005, the German Interior Minister, Otto Schily, ran with the idea, also unsuccessfully.
Coming back to today, as we know, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, bizarrely, blocked the first flight to Rwanda. This perverse, 11th-hour, decision came in the wake of the UK Attorney-General’s advice that sending asylum seekers to the safe country of Rwanda did not conflict with asylum seekers’ rights under the European Convention on Human Rights or the 1951 Refugee Convention.
The High Court and Supreme Court in this country agreed with the Government. Moreover, those being sent to Rwanda would be helped to lodge asylum claims and if successful, be supported financially. This strikes me as a pretty fair deal.
The ECHR partly justified its decision by citing the suggestion of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that asylum seekers in Rwanda would not have access to fair procedures on their claims.
How ironic then that the UNHCR itself has been closely involved in the transfer of migrants to Rwanda from camps in Libya, as well as some 30,000 refugees from Burundi.
So what do the ECHR, the UNHCR and countless virtue-signalling open-borders politicians, commentators and non-governmental organisations have against Rwanda, exactly?
I have long argued that the processing of asylum applications in safe third countries like Rwanda is not, on its own, going to stop illegal immigration across the Channel.
However, determined implementation of the policy, perhaps working with friendly countries facing similar problems, could play a critically important part in solving the issues.
Significant numbers have to be sent to Rwanda if the policy is to have any impact. At the same time, those permitted to lodge claims in the UK must be held in secure areas and not be given the freedom to roam about at will, provided with spending money and transport to the nearest shopping mall.
Just as important, their applications have to be dealt with quickly. It really shouldn’t take months, and sometimes years, to process meritless asylum claims.
Ultimately, the only strategy that will work is one which sends the clear message that making your way across the Channel illegally will not lead to a permanent stay in the UK.
If in the end this means withdrawing from the human rights court, then so be it. But the first step must be to extract the human rights convention from UK law by repealing Tony Blair’s 1998 Human Rights Act.
This is a major problem demanding drastic action, if there is to be any hope of a solution.