UK wants to revive bill of rights to curb migrant crossings

Ministers are under intense pressure to deal with the migrant crisis

Almost 40,000 asylum seekers have arrived in the UK this year via the dangerous English Channel route. PA/AP
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The British government will try to revive the British Bill of Rights as a weapon in its arsenal to tackle record number of migrants landing on England’s south coast, deputy prime minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday

Mr Raab, who is also justice secretary, said the legislation would give the UK courts supremacy over the European Court of Human Rights which was responsible for blocking the first deportation flights to Rwanda.

Almost 40,000 asylum seekers have arrived in the UK this year via the dangerous English Channel route using often unseaworthy boats to try to traverse one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

How the government handles the crisis is a political priority for the ruling Conservatives who were elected on a promise of being tough on immigration and Brexit.

Mr Raab, who championed the legislation before he was sacked by Liz Truss during her brief premiership, said it will return to Parliament “in the coming weeks”.

“It builds on the UK's proud tradition of liberty by strengthening freedom of speech, reinjecting a healthy dose of common sense to the system and ending abuse of our laws,” Mr Raab said.

“It will put an end to the mission creep of continuously expanding human rights laws, and re-establish proper democratic oversight from Parliament.

“It will make crystal clear that the UK Supreme Court is not subordinate to the European Court of Human Rights.”

When it was first introduced under then-prime minister Boris Johnson, ministers said it would prevent judges in the Strasbourg court from interfering in the government's controversial policy to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda to have their claims processed.

However, the bill was shelved by Ms Truss in September after being told it was “unlikely to progress in its current form”.

Nevertheless, the Bill of Rights is unlikely to provide a quick fix as it is also highly controversial and the government is likely to face a tough battle — particularly in the House of Lords — to get it on to the statute book.

So far the Rwanda deportation flights — a policy the government says is a deterrent to criminal traffickers and the trafficked people — have not taken off because of intervention from the European court in Strasbourg.

Ministers are under intense pressure to deal with the migrant crisis after the disclosure of dangerously overcrowded conditions at a processing centre at Manston in Kent.

Conditions at Manston have left the UK’s immigration watchdog “speechless”. Concerns were further heightened at the weekend when petrol bombs were thrown at the Dover migrant centre.

Dover, just 33 kilometres from France at the channel’s narrowest point, is the focal point of British processing of asylum seekers.

There were 299 people who made the journey in 2018. The next year, 1,843 crossings were recorded, followed by 8,466 in 2020 and 28,526 last year.

The government has tried increasing naval patrols, asking France to step up land operations and the Rwanda deportation policy to discourage people from attempting the trip.

Updated: November 06, 2022, 1:22 AM
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