A new law is intended to largely abolish the right to asylum in Great Britain. It’s still in the upper house, but that can no longer prevent the reform from failing. The law is hardly compatible with international law.
“I have a dream,” said Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who belongs to the far right wing of the Tories at the last Tory party conference, “my dream is that before Christmas the first plane with refugees to Rwanda will take off. That would be a victory, that is my dream and my obsession”.
Braverman’s “dream” is that so-called “illegal migrants”, who are currently increasingly landing in small boats on the British coast, are first arrested without any judicial review, held on ships off the coast or in barracks and then sent to a third country such as Rwanda is to be flown out, with which Great Britain has a corresponding agreement.
Everything without a visa “illegal”?
Braverman defines “illegal migrants” as anyone arriving in the UK without a valid visa. She rejects exceptions for children and families. Only after deportation should they have the right to apply for asylum.
If the application is successful, there is no way back to the UK, they would have to stay in Rwanda instead. In effect, this is the abolition of the fundamental right to seek asylum in Britain.
The draft law is unlikely to be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. Opposition leader Keir Starmer also said the draft violated the Geneva Refugee Convention’s obligation, which requires that people, regardless of their route of arrival, have the right to a fair hearing.
International law – initially not a factor
Braverman is aware of this. In the House of Commons, she was unable to answer the question of whether her bill was in line with international law. The foreword to the draft even contains the interesting sentence that she cannot say unequivocally whether the draft is in line with the European Convention on Human Rights.
For the time being, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will be ignored with a national law created specifically for this purpose. If that doesn’t work, you have to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights entirely, she explained to the press elsewhere.
It would be a step that only Russia and Belarus have taken so far and that at least the current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak would rather not take because of the expected international outcry, even if he doesn’t say so publicly. In fact, he gives his interior minister a free hand instead.
The actual goal of this draft law is to deter people-smuggling gangs, he explains when asked about it, knowing full well that this plan hasn’t really worked out so far. Last year, the number of boat people with 45,000 people was higher than ever before, the number of asylum applications rose by 30 percent compared to the previous year to 75,000.
Impractical and extremely expensive
The opposition and numerous human rights organizations declared that the British government’s approach could hardly be surpassed in terms of cynicism. The planned radical changes to asylum law are not only incompatible with international law, they are also not very practicable and also extremely expensive, because the expected disputes with the courts are likely to be expensive and protracted.
In addition, the Ministry of the Interior is already hopelessly overwhelmed with processing asylum applications. Some 160,000 people have been waiting for the decision of the migration authorities for years as to whether they are allowed to stay in the United Kingdom. The government still has no answer on how to detain and quickly deport additional refugees when the asylum system is already overburdened.
Law not enforceable?
Many refugee organizations and migration experts therefore believe that the asylum law cannot be implemented at all in purely practical terms. In addition, there is also a massive labor shortage in the United Kingdom, many of the refugees and migrants are needed and could help to stimulate the British economy again instead of additionally burdening the state budget.
“Invaders” and a “Front”
Instead, Braverman cranks up the rhetoric of fear. In October, she declared the people arriving on the coast “invaders”; a term that until now has only been used by the right-wing extremist scene on the island and which Braverman made socially acceptable. The BBC reported shortly thereafter that the Home Secretary would now check on the spot “how the United Kingdom could defend itself against migrants at the front”.
Braverman then used that language with the appropriate imagery as she approached a refugee center in a military helicopter. A deliberately staged appearance, because that day she came from Dover, which was only a few kilometers away; with a car it would have been quicker and easier to get there.
Look at the election campaign
As with Brexit, problems are being created here that are not currently in the UK. The small number of tens of thousands of people arriving on UK shores each year compared to the EU should be relatively easy to cope with in a country of 67 million people, migration experts say.
However, the topic is an excellent weapon for the upcoming autumn election campaign in Great Britain, and this is probably the real reason why the otherwise rather pragmatic Prime Minister Sunak is allowing his interior minister to continue.
Because even if you don’t have a practicable solution to the refugee issue – with the new law it’s the Brexit opponents, the courts and the “activist lawyers” who can be blamed for the alleged wave of refugees on the British coast – one Rhetoric that began under Boris Johnson and that Sunak is continuing with his home secretary.
Sunak apparently accepts that this large-scale diversionary maneuver will also further undermine trust in the rule of law and the British judiciary. His big mantra when he took office, that he would finally bring “moral integrity and professionalism” back into politics after Johnson, is obviously worth as much as the promises made by his predecessor.
And so the aggressive rhetoric against refugees in the UK is likely to intensify significantly in the coming months, while a solution for the asylum seekers who are still stranded in the UK is a long way off for the time being.