Legal process and the number of asylum appeals draws criticism from Priti Patel
Home Secretary restates New Plan for Immigration aims in keynote conference speech
05 October 2021
Home Secretary Priti Patel delivered her keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester today.
As expected, immigration and asylum, particularly small boat Channel crossings, featured heavily among the speech's topics.
The speech largely restated the aims of the Government's New Plan for Immigration. There were no new polices detailed, but the Home Secretary did promise "new sea tactics" in response to what she called the "unacceptable" situation in the English Channel.
Patel said there was no reason why any asylum seeker should come to the United Kingdom directly from France. She said the "vast camps outside Calais" were composed "mainly of male economic migrants" and the exploitation of them by people smugglers "cannot continue".
Whilst the current number of asylum applications in the UK remains much lower than its 2002 peak and much lower than comparable European countries such as France and Germany, the Home Secretary said the was system was collapsing under the pressures created by illegal routes facilitated by people smuggling gangs.
The Home Secretary also spoke to criticise the legal process and the number of asylum appeals.
"If an asylum claim is rejected, there is nearly always an automatic right to appeal. And no surprise that everybody appeals, even if the decision to refuse asylum is upheld, there can be yet another appeal, right up until the possibility of further appeals at the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. And if that fails, the claimant, and the lawyers can start a fresh claim. And then, even when seated on a plane their lawyers can still block their removal," Patel stated.
She added that under the New Plan for Immigration: "Our new one stop shop will tackle the multiple claims and appeals which frequently frustrate removals, and our new laws will speed up the removal of those with no legal right to be in our country."
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has expressed deep concern over the Government's New Plan for Immigration, warning that it risks breaching international legal commitments and would undermine global refugee cooperation.
UNHCR said that at the heart of the Plan is "a discriminatory two-tiered approach to asylum", as it would differentiate between asylum seekers who arrive through legal pathways, such as resettlement or family reunion visas, and those who arrive irregularly, such as by crossing the Channel by boat.
UNHCR UK posted on Twitter today: "Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right. There is no requirement in international law for people to claim asylum in first safe country they reach. A policy based on this would be unworkable, adding more strain to developing countries."
The full text of the Home Secretary's conference speech can be read here on the Conservative Party website. The section of the speech on immigration and asylum is excerpted below:
KEYNOTE SPEECH. PRITI PATEL, HOME SECRETARY:
"We have finally ended free movement.
"Delivered our new points-based immigration system, welcoming people to our country based on the skills they have to offer, not the colour of their passport.
"Our new routes are attracting the best and brightest talent from around the world…
"Welcoming brilliant scientists, the finest academics, and leading people in their fields…
"All helping to drive our economy forwards as we Build Back Better from the pandemic.
"And at long last:
"The British immigration system is under the control of the British Government.
"But despite what we have already delivered, we must be honest with ourselves about the long-standing problems we still face.
"We owe it to our country to continue confronting difficult issues, no matter how controversial, or complex.
"Taking action on the difficult decisions that have stumped politicians for too long.
"All states have a responsibility to control their borders.
"For where there is a door, there must be a door keeper.
"What is happening in the Channel with small boats is unsafe, unfair, and unacceptable.
"From the vast camps outside Calais of mainly male, economic migrants
"To the shocking images of people crammed onto flimsy boats crossing the Channel, exploited by people smugglers.
"Vile criminals characterised by ruthlessness and greed, who even threaten to drown small children to line their pockets.
"This cannot continue. Which is why we are going after the criminals behind this perilous trade in people smuggling.
"And then there is the legal process.
"If an asylum claim is rejected, there is nearly always an automatic right to appeal.
"No surprise that nearly everybody appeals.
"Even if the decision to refuse asylum is upheld, there can be yet another appeal.
"Right up until the possibility of further appeals at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
"If that fails, the claimant and their lawyers can start a fresh claim.
"And then, even when seated on the plane, their lawyers can still block their removal.
"Britain’s asylum system might have worked twenty years ago, but not now.
"The system is collapsing under the pressures created by these parallel illegal routes to asylum, facilitated by criminal smuggling gangs.
"Labour would have you believe the capacity of our asylum system is unlimited.
"But the presence of economic migrants – through these illegal routes – is undermining our ability to support those in genuine need of protection.
"To that I say, NO. Our system must uphold our reputation as a country where criminality is not rewarded, but where playing by our rules is.
"My New Plan for Immigration is already making its way through Parliament.
"At the heart of this Plan is a simple principle.
"That is not unreasonable.
"Through our New Plan for Immigration, Britain will be fair but firm.
"We will continue to be outward facing and provide sanctuary to those in need through safe and legal resettlement routes.
"From Uganda to Syria, Hong Kong to Afghanistan, under Conservative leadership, the United Kingdom will always hold out the hand of friendship to those most in need…
"Which is why I established a new resettlement route for Afghans fleeing persecution, prioritising women and girls.
"And we will always support the brave men and women of our armed forces who served in Afghanistan and continue to keep us safe around the world.
"We are smashing the economic model of the people-smugglers so that they can no longer profit from human misery.The current maximum penalty for entering the country illegally is six months. We are increasing that to four years.
"The current maximum sentence for people smugglers is fourteen years.
"We are changing that to life.
"In standing by the world’s most vulnerable, we will prioritise those who play by our rules, over those who seek to take our country for a ride.
"For the first time, how somebody arrives in the United Kingdom will impact on how their asylum claim is processed.
"Our new "one stop" shop will tackle the multiple claims and appeals which frequently frustrate removal.
"And our new laws will speed up the removal of those with no legal right to be in our country.
"I know from the briefings I receive from the intelligence and security agencies that there are people who attempt to come to our country to do us harm. Plotting to strike at our way of life.
"AND, I shall continue to fight with every ounce of my being to protect and uphold the safety and security of our nation.
"WITH all of this, we will continue to pursue joint solutions to joint problems.
"France is a safe country, one not riven by war or conflict.
"There is no reason why any asylum seeker should come to the United Kingdom directly from France.
"We make no apology for securing our borders and exploring all possible options to save lives by ending these horrific journeys.
"Which is why, right from the start, Boris and I have worked intensively with every institution with a responsibility to protect our borders…
"Border Force, The police, The National Crime Agency…
"Maritime experts, And yes, the military…
"To deliver operational solutions
"Including new sea tactics, which we are working to implement, to turn back the boats.
"Whilst this represents progress, this single measure alone cannot solve this problem.
"We must stay the course and see this whole New Plan for Immigration through.
"It will take time.
"But I will continue to take the difficult action needed to address this long-standing issue.
"And what do our opponents say about our plans?
"Of course, they attack them, because they want open borders…
"They do not care about intolerable pressures on public services and local authorities.
"They do not care about damage to our labour market and driving down the wages of the hardworking majority.
"They do not care about the British people who will have to foot this bill.
"And what is worse…
"…They do not care about ensuring victims of crimes, committed by foreign national offenders, can rebuild their lives safe in the knowledge their attackers are no longer here.
"Labour MPs, some of whom even sit with the Leader of the Opposition at his Shadow Cabinet table, shamefully campaign to halt the removal of these murderers, rapists and child abusers.
"Criminals who have caused untold harm and devastation on our soil, including to women and girls.
"Whilst they busy themselves writing letters defending these convicts, this Home Secretary will always put the rights of victims first…
"We have removed nearly eight and a half thousand foreign national offenders from our country.
"Conference, I will never flinch from taking the difficult decisions needed to keep our country safe and secure."