London, Mar 24 (PTI) British Home Secretary Priti Patel on Wednesday announced a major overhaul of the country's asylum system, which includes tougher measures to break what she described as the business model of people smugglers and remove illegal migrants more easily.
In a speech in the House of Commons, the senior Indian-origin Cabinet minister laid out a 'New Plan for Immigration' because she said the current system is becoming overwhelmed, as 109,000 claims are sitting in the asylum queue and 42,000 failed asylum seekers have not left the country, despite having their claim refused.
The plans have been dubbed the 'biggest overhaul of the UK's asylum system in decades' as Patel said parts of the immigration system have been 'open to abuse... for too long'.
'Our system is collapsing under the pressure of parallel illegal routes to asylum, facilitated by criminal smugglers,” said Patel.
'Which is why our New Plan for Immigration is driven by three fair but firm objectives: First, to increase the fairness of our system so we can protect and support those in genuine need of asylum. Second, to deter illegal entry into the UK – breaking the business model of people smugglers – and protecting the lives of those they endanger. Third, to remove more easily from the UK, those with no right to be here,' she said.
The minister said the persistent failure to enforce the current immigration laws, with a system that is open to 'gaming by economic migrants and exploitation by criminals', is eroding public trust, and disadvantaging vulnerable people who genuinely need help.
Under the new proposals, whether people enter the UK legally or illegally will have an impact on how their asylum claim progresses, and on their status in the UK if that claim is successful. Some charities have warned that treating claims depending on how people arrived could create an unfair two-tiered system for asylum.
Patel insists the new plan will 'create safe and legal routes' for those fleeing persecution from warzones and other troubled regions.
At the same time, she vowed to make 'every effort' to remove those who enter the UK illegally having travelled through another country in which they could have claimed asylum. When this is not possible, those who enter the UK illegally and make successful asylum claims will no longer have the same entitlements as those who arrive legally.
'We must act to reduce the pull factors of our system and disincentivise illegal entry. For the first time, whether people enter the UK legally or illegally will have an impact on how their asylum claim progresses, and on their status in the UK if that claim is successful,' she said.
Under the new plan, the UK’s judicial process will also be reformed to speed up removals and limit the scope for repeated drawn-out appeals. Tough new rules will include new maximum life sentences for people smugglers and facilitators; new rules to stop unscrupulous people posing as children; and strengthening enforcement powers for the UK Border Force.
'This government promised to take a common-sense approach to controlling immigration – legal and illegal – and we will deliver on that promise,” said Patel, the minister who has been working on the UK’s post-Brexit visas and immigration policies as European Union (EU) rules no longer apply to Britain. She said her latest long-term plan, pursued doggedly, will fix the 'broken system”. PTI AK ZH ZH