Priti Patel announces the ‘biggest overhaul’ of UK’s asylum system in decades

Priti Patel (Photo: NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images).
Priti Patel (Photo: NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images).

THE British government on Wednesday (24) launched plans for what it said would be the biggest overhaul of asylum rules in decades, saying the current system was ‘overwhelmed’.

Home secretary Priti Patel said ‘The New Plan for Immigration’ would be based ‘on genuine need of refuge, not on the ability to pay people smugglers’, but drew fire from refugee groups.

The plan is focused on identifying genuine asylum seekers, deterring illegal entry and changing the rules to make it easier to deport those ‘with no right’ to be in the country.

“Under our New Plan for Immigration, if people arrive illegally, they will no longer have the same entitlements as those who arrive legally, and it will be harder for them to stay. If, like over 60 per cent of illegal arrivals, they have travelled through a safe country like France to get here, they will not have immediate entry into the asylum system – which is what happens today,” said Patel.

“We will stop the most unscrupulous abusing the system by posing as children, by introducing tougher, more accurate age assessments. Profiteering from illegal migration to Britain will no longer be worth the risk, with new maximum life sentences for people smugglers.

“I make no apology for these actions being firm, but as they will also save lives and target people smugglers, they are also undeniably fair.”

Under the new plan, improved support for refugees will be provided to help them build their life in the UK, integrate into the communities and become self-sufficient.

Last year, 8,500 people arrived into the UK by crossing the Channel in a small boat, and the majority of these claimed asylum.

Tightening immigration rules and securing Britain’s borders were key promises of those that argued for leaving the EU in the run-up to the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, called the plans “‘inhumane’.

“We should not judge how worthy someone is of asylum by how they arrived here,” he said.

“The proposals effectively create an unfair two-tiered system, whereby someone’s case and the support they receive is judged on how they entered the country and not on their need for protection. This is inhumane.”

The government will also seek to reform the judicial process to speed up the removal process, said the Home Office, and make it ‘much harder for people to be granted refugee status based on unsubstantiated claims’.

The opposition Labour party’s spokesman, Nick Thomas-Symonds, said he feared the plans would do ‘next to nothing to stop people making dangerous crossings, and risk withdrawing support from desperate people, such as victims of human trafficking’.

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