What is in Rishi Sunak's plan to stop the boats?

Proposed legislation unveiled on Tuesday in parliament by Home Secretary Suella Braverman

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calls Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, from his office. Photo: Downing Street
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The UK has set out details of its tough new plan to stop migrants from entering the country on small boats in the English Channel.

The legislation, which was unveiled in parliament on Tuesday by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, includes several elements designed to stop tens of thousands reaching the UK each year.

Some of the key details include:

Imposes a new duty on the Home Secretary to remove illegal migrants

Government briefings explained this will heavily limit the ability of “illegal migrants” to use asylum, modern slavery or human rights claims to block their removal. The use of such claims will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances, such as by unaccompanied minors or those with serious illnesses.

Extends detention powers, with faster processing

People who arrive illegally will be detained without bail or judicial review within the first 28 days of detention until they can be removed to either their home country or a safe third country, such as Rwanda. Asylum claims will be heard remotely after removal.

At present, refugees are often housed in hotels while their claims are processed. Ms Braverman, the country's interior minister, will have a legal duty to remove those entering the UK illegally. Exceptions to removals include those who are under 18, medically unfit to fly or at a real risk of serious and irreversible harm in the country the government would have removed them to. Even in case of the exceptions, the arrivals will have a maximum 45 days to remain in the UK before their appeal is exhausted.

Restricts appeals and judicial reviews

The new bill will narrow the number of challenges and appeals that can suspend removals. Those arriving illegally will be disqualified from using the UK's modern slavery rules to prevent removal.

Removes the right for migrants to return once removed

Migrants arriving on small boats will face a permanent bar on lawful re-entry to the UK and a permanent bar on securing settlement in the UK or securing British citizenship, subject to only very narrow exceptions.

Establishes a new safe and legal route

The government said new routes would come after it had "stopped the boats". A spokesman said: "Then we will have the ability to agree more safe and legal routes. Certainly we don't think it is right to introduce those routes at a time when you don't have clarity on the numbers coming into the country."

Introduces measures to block injunctions in the European Court of Human Rights

The bill will give the Home Secretary the ability to “counter” ECHR injunctions, such as the one which prevented the first deportation flight of migrants to Rwanda. People who arrive illegally will be barred from using the UK's modern slavery laws to block their removal under the plans.

Will apply retrospectively from the moment it is announced

It is hoped this will stop crossings accelerating in the short term, answering concerns raised by border force unions, which warned there could be a rush of migrants seeking to enter the country by crossing the Channel on small boats before the law comes into force.

Imposes a cap on the number of refugees admitted annually

The bill will introduce an annual cap to be determined by ministers on the number of refugees the UK will settle via safe and legal routes, taking into account local authority capacity. The cap will be kept under review.

Ms Braverman earlier acknowledged the new legislation would approach the limits of the European Convention on Human Rights.

But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told cabinet earlier that his plans to stop small boat crossings of the Channel will fall within international law.

The legislation places a duty on the Home Secretary to remove “as soon as reasonably practicable” anyone who arrives on a small boat, either to Rwanda or a “safe third country”.

Arrivals will be prevented from claiming asylum while in the UK, with plans also to ban them from returning once removed.

Mr Sunak spoke to Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame on Monday before finalising his plans and pledged to continue working with him to ensure the stalled project works.

The government has paid more than £140 million ($168 million) to Rwanda but no flights forcibly carrying migrants to the capital Kigali have taken off because of legal challenges.

Critics have warned that the proposals are “unworkable” and will leave thousands of migrants in limbo by banning them from claiming British citizenship again.

Updated: March 07, 2023, 3:42 PM