Amid Great Opposition: Will Sunak’s Plan Succeed to Stop the Flow of Immigrants Across the Channel?

Murad Jandali | a year ago




British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiled new legislation announced last week denying immigrants who arrived in Britain by small boat or truck the right to claim asylum, even if they come from war-torn areas, regardless of whether they face persecution in countries known for human rights abuses.

Instead these people are deported to a third country or territory that will receive them, which may be the country from which they left for Britain, their country of origin, or another country.

The new bill sparked widespread controversy, and critics said it was shocking, flawed, and doomed to fail because it would be challenged in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), pointing out that the Labour Party may use this file to gain greater popularity during the upcoming general elections.

The hashtags #StopTheBoats and #IllegalImmigrationBill also topped the Twitter platform after a campaign of harsh criticism of the Conservative government for ignoring more important crises, such as helping the NHS and others.


Harsh Plan

Under the slogan “Stop the boats,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on March 7, 2023, his new plan to stop immigrants arriving illegally in the country through the Channel that separates Britain and France, as reported by The Economist.

As soon as the details of the bill were announced, a wide legal and human rights controversy erupted in Britain, which stipulates the rapid deportation of immigrants who arrive illegally and prevents them from seeking asylum, settling in the U.K., or applying for British citizenship. It also facilitates detention of immigrants until deportation to another country deemed safe.

The plan also includes opening new detention centers, some of which are on military bases, and then banning deportees from entering Britain for the rest of their lives.

In this regard, ministers plan to convert a former British Royal Air Force base in Essex into a detention center, along with another base in Lincolnshire, according to The Times.

In 2022, about 20,446 people were detained, and official statistics indicate that 47% of asylum seekers were detained for seven days or less.

The magazine criticized the plan and said it contains many flaws, as Britain does not have the ability to imprison large numbers of immigrants.

The current U.K. capacity for detention is 2,286 people, according to the Refugee Council, so holding everyone in a small boat for 28 days would require extra capacity.

Some critics pointed out that detaining a person for one day costs about £120, so detaining 65,000 people over 28 days would cost £219 million annually, in addition to the costs of building more detention centers.

In turn, lawyer Bassam Tablieh described, in a statement to Al-Estiklal, Sunak’s plan as shocking, illegal, and impractical, expecting that it would contribute to aggravating the file of asylum seekers in Britain and would not solve it.

He stressed that this bill and previous experiences reaffirm that any plans to prevent and arrest illegal immigrants to Britain always fail because it is difficult for the Home Office to arrest all of them and organize their deportation.

The lawyer also stressed that the proposed British bill is incompatible with the Refugee Convention and violates international human rights law and the ancient human traditions of which the British people are proud.

Mr. Tablieh called on the British government to listen to human rights organizations and deal with asylum seekers fairly and effectively instead of abandoning them and leaving them to an unknown fate that might endanger their lives.

“The U.K. must open humanitarian asylum to those affected in crisis countries through its embassies, and facilitate the issuance of visas for them, which may help asylum seekers and prevent them from dealing with human smugglers to reach the U.K. illegally,” he added.



PM Rishi Sunak justified his approval of this plan by the inability of his government to find a solution to the boats flowing into the country and that he had no choice but to deny everyone who arrived by these boats the right of asylum.

Sunak, who is of Indian descent, has made stopping boat arrivals one of his five priorities after the number of immigrants arriving on England’s south coast rose to more than 45,000 last year, up 500% in the past two years.

The British PM also indicated that the deportation of immigrants to Rwanda may begin next summer, as the British government seeks to deport thousands of immigrants to the African country.

Sunak expressed confidence in his government’s ability to avoid legal challenges to the plan to deport the immigrants to Rwanda.

The conservative government is trying through the new plan to circumvent the decision of the ECHR, which previously canceled the Home Office’s decision to deport several asylum seekers to Rwanda last June.

The British Supreme Court has confirmed the legality of the decision to deport immigrants to Rwanda, while the Court of Appeal is currently considering the legality of the decision.

In turn, Home Secretary Suella Braverman claimed that her proposed plan to deport refugees to Rwanda had limited the flow of 100 million refugees into Britain.

She claimed that most Britons are tired of the asylum-seekers flooding U.K. shores.

Braverman’s inflammatory language on refugees has been widely criticized.

On her part, Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, confirmed that the Sunak government’s mishandling of the refugee file exacerbated the crisis and pushed the country to more unrest.

In the first British moves following the announcement of the new immigration bill, the British government pledged to provide France with a grant amounting to more than $600 million to prevent the flow of boats carrying refugees or illegal immigrants to the U.K., according to what was published by The Independent.

The British pledge was one of the provisions of the new deal that was signed during a summit that brought together British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on March 10, 2023.

The new deal includes the establishment of a new detention center in northern France for asylum seekers, with Paris deploying more French security personnel and advanced technologies to patrol its beaches.

In November 2022, the two countries signed an agreement to work together to prevent migrants from crossing the Channel, but funding was only planned until 2023.

In another context, the i newspaper indicated in its report on March 8, 2023, that the new British plan on illegal immigration might spoil the relations that Rishi Sunak tried last month to rebuild with European countries, by concluding an agreement on trade rules with Northern Ireland.

This comes after senior politicians in Europe expressed their fear that Britain prioritizes domestic politics over human rights.


Controversial Bill

In this regard, several parties accused the new draft law on immigration of violating international law.

The United Nations refugee agency considered that the British bill amounted to a ban on asylum, would be a clear breach of the Refugee Convention, and would undermine the ancient traditions of humanity of which the British people are so proud.

The director of the British Red Cross, Christina Marriott, criticized the bill, which does not take into account the circumstances that compel immigrants to escape and seek asylum in Britain.

Charlie Whelton, policy and campaigns officer at Liberty, said the fact that in the past the government had not resorted to Article 19(1)(b) flags up that this will absolutely, without any doubt whatsoever, be challenged.

On Twitter, former footballer and popular BBC presenter Gary Lineker likened the British government’s language on refugees to that of Germany in the 1930s, which sparked the discontent of the conservative MPs and ignited controversy on social media platforms and the media over the past days.

On its part, Doctors Without Borders said it condemns the U.K. government’s approach to migration as cruel and inhumane.

On the other hand, right-wing extremists in Europe praised the new immigration law introduced by Rishi Sunak, as reported by The Guardian on March 9, 2023.

The AfD party praised the British bill, posting on its social media page: “Germany should follow Britain’s example, why don’t we take similar steps?”

Far-right Eric Zemmour, who is a follower of the Great Replacement theory, which claims that Muslims will replace indigenous Europeans, praised Sunak’s new policy.

Matteo Salvini, the Italian deputy PM and head of the far-right League party, described Britain’s new immigration bill as tough and fair.