A bill that will make knowingly arriving in the UK without permission a criminal offense has passed its final parliamentary hurdle.
House secretary Priti Patel said the Nationality and Borders Bill would tackle the country’s “broken asylum system” and “break the business model” of trafficking gangs facilitating crossings UK.
The bill, which passed its second reading in the Commons Tuesday evening by 366 votes to 265, will give border force officers the power to turn back migrant boats attempting to cross the Channel from France and use “force. reasonable, if necessary “.
Responding to the vote, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “The Conservatives have just voted to make it harder to provide a safe haven for children fleeing violence and war. They should be ashamed of themselves.”
Prison sentences for those entering the country without permission will be increased from six months to four years and a maximum of life imprisonment for convicts smugglers will be introduced under the legislation
And, for the first time, how a person arrives in the UK – legally or illegally – will affect whether their asylum claim is accepted.
The government hopes that the post-Brexit overhauling asylum rules will deter migrants from attempting to cross the Channel.
And on Tuesday evening, the Home Office announced Britain would give France an additional £ 54million to prevent level crossings following an agreement between Ms Patel and French Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin.
The number of French police patrolling the northern beaches will be doubled and more technology will be used to target smugglers, the department said, noting that the changes will take effect in the coming days.
It comes as analysis of data by the PA news agency found that at least 8,452 people crossed the Channel in small boats this year, exceeding the total for all of 2020.
On Monday, more than 430 migrants crossed the Channel to the UK – a new single-day record, surpassing the previous daily record of 416 set in September of last year.
The 87-page Nationality and Borders Bill also includes powers to allow the processing of applications outside the UK, potentially in offshore centers – something former Prime Minister Theresa May said she has concerns about. “practical concerns”.
Labor said the legislation could violate international law.
And a coalition of more than 250 refugee charities and campaign groups criticized the bill and urged the government to rethink its approach, with one calling the legislation “extreme and wicked.”
Refugee Council chief executive Enver Solomon said the new bill risked preventing up to 9,000 people who fled war and persecution from being brought to safety in the UK, although ‘they are eligible under the previous rules.
He called the legislation an “anti-refugee bill” and accused the Home Office of “choosing not only to refuse those in need of safety, but also to treat them as criminals”.
The Home Office has insisted the changes “will prioritize those most in need of protection while stopping abuses of the system.”
More than 36,000 people applied for asylum in the UK in 2020.
At the end of the year, there was a backlog of 109,000 pending cases.
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said responsibility for the “broken asylum system” rests on the Conservative Party’s shoulders.
“Yet despite these failures, the measures proposed in this bill do not address the chaos they have created,” he said.
“They don’t take into account the fact that the time needed to process claims has skyrocketed or that desperate people are still victims of criminal gangs.
“Instead, they will reduce support for victims of human trafficking, potentially violate international law, and there are still no effective and meaningful proposals to deal with the growing number of people risking their lives by crossing the English Channel. “
But Ms Patel maintained that the government listened and acted on what the British people wanted.
“The British people are fed up with open borders and uncontrolled migration,” the Home Secretary told the Commons.
“Enough of a broken asylum system that costs the taxpayer over £ 1 billion a year, enough canoes arriving illegally on our shores run by organized crime gangs, enough people drowning on these dangerous journeys , illegal and unnecessary.
“Enough people trafficked and sold as modern slaves, enough economic migrants pretending to be genuine refugees, enough adults pretending to be children to seek asylum.
“Enough of the people trying to enter illegally, before those who play by the rules, enough foreign criminals – including murderers and rapists – who abuse our laws and then play with the system so that we can’t suppress them.
“The British people are tired of being told that none of these issues matter – enough of being told they are racist to even think about addressing public concerns and seeking to fix this system failing.
“The British people have voted repeatedly to take back control of our borders. They finally have a government that listens to them.”