Suella Braverman appeared to be toning down some measures designed to deter migrants arriving in Britain in small boats. Changes to the immigration Bill mean that Channel migrants could get access to legal aid to fund their human rights challenges against deportation.
In an apparent move aimed at pacifying some of the more liberal MPs on the Tory benches, the Home Secretary has set out amendments to the Bill clarifying that refugees making their way to the UK by sea can get legal aid if they say their lives are at risk at home or that they would be treated inhumanely or tortured there. Ministers will also look at creating more “safe and legal routes” to Britain.
However, the measures came with other, stronger, changes demanded by rebel Conservative backbenchers who want tougher action against Channel migrants.
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One campaigner, as reported by the Mail, claimed the legal aid measures made little sense. Alp Mehmet, of Migration Watch UK, which wanted tougher controls at the border, was quoted as saying that the legal aid measure made “little sense if the Home Secretary wanted to reduce the spiraling costs of the asylum system and stem the flow of illegal boat crossings.” He urged her to “think again”.
On Friday Ms Braverman said she and the Prime Minister were “absolutely committed to stopping the boats once and for all”, adding that the changes she was announcing would “help secure our borders and make it easier for us to remove people by preventing them from making last minute bogus claims, while ensuring we strengthen our safe and legal routes.”
Last week, it was reported that opposition to the Bill from the House of Lords would probably center on the plans to give the Home Secretary powers to ignore injunctions from British courts and the European Court of Human Rights. It came in the wake of a legal move made last summer when a judge in Strasbourg issued a late-night ruling preventing the Home Office’s first deportation flight to Rwanda. But the new deputy prime minister, Oliver Dowden, said that the powers would be limited in scope.
On Sky News, he told the Sophy Ridge on Sunday program: “It is right that the Home Secretary should have a discretion so, for example, we don’t have this situation where at the very last minute an order is imposed.”
However, Sir Bob Neill, chairman of the justice select committee, said he could not back the Bill in its current form. He told Times Radio: “I don’t think it’s right for us to be saying we will ignore the rules of the European Court of Human Rights.” He urged ministers to negotiate with, rather than confront, judges in Strasbourg.
The Bill comes before the Commons this week before being sent to the House of Lords, where it is expected to get a tough ride.
According to the latest figures released by the Home Office, 497 migrants reached Dover on Saturday, the highest number of small boat arrivals so far this year and five more than the previous high, recorded on April 5. The total number of migrants to have crossed the Channel this year now stands at 5,546.