Britain is set to carry out the “biggest overhaul” of its immigration system, with those who enter the country illegally to be denied asylum.
In a major speech at the ruling Conservative Party’s annual conference, Home Secretary Priti Patel made it clear she believed the system for granting asylum was “fundamentally broken” and put forward new “firm and fair” rules.
Ms Patel has pledged to explore “all practical measures” to deter illegal immigration, including a legal assumption that those who enter the country unlawfully will not be granted asylum.
“I will accelerate our operational response to illegal migration,” Ms Patel told delegates. "We will continue to hunt down the criminal gangs who traffic people into our country.”
She said the government had a responsibility to act.
Last week, it was leaked that the government was looking at housing thousands of immigrants on the remote South Atlantic islands of St Helena and Ascension.
Ms Patel’s department was heavily criticised for the plan, which was described as illegal and impractical.
But the minister, whose parents, of Indian descent, emigrated from Uganda to Britain in the 1960s, said the new rules would welcome people through “safe and legal routes” and stop those who arrived illegally “making endless legal claims to remain”.
Ms Patel said there would be a fair asylum system that would “provide safe haven to those fleeing persecution, oppression or tyranny”.
“Right now, the most vulnerable are stuck in this broken system with over 40,000 other people,” she said.
“Almost half of these claims take a year or more to reach a decision, costing UK taxpayers over £1 billion ($1.29bn) each year – the highest amount in almost two decades.”
The new rules will also speed up the removal of asylum seekers “who have no claim for protection”.
Ms Patel pledged to crack down on migrants who “shop around” for a state in which to live, having passed through several other European countries before arriving in Britain.
Last month a record number of migrants made the dangerous trip across the English Channel before winter storms make it impassable.