UK

English Channel crossings: The proposed solutions Priti Patel was offered before striking Rwanda deal

The British government refused a series of proposals to reduce the smuggling of asylum seekers over the years leading up to the Rwanda deal, The Independent can reveal.

On Monday, Priti Patel accused critics of failing to “offer their own solutions” following an outcry over plans to send migrants arriving on small boats to the central African countries for their claims to be considered.

A joint letter with the Rwandan foreign minister said they aimed to “disrupt the business model of organised crime gangs and deter migrants from putting their lives at risk”.

“Illegal migration is a global issue and we are jointly leading in setting a viable plan to deal with one of the most complex challenges facing the world today,” it added.

“We are taking bold and innovative steps and it’s surprising that those institutions that criticise the plans, fail to offer their own solutions.”

But numerous changes aiming to reduce the demand for people smugglers promising transport to the UK have been rejected since the current government came to power in 2019.

They include laws proposed in the House of Lords and official recommendations by a parliamentary committee, borders watchdog and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

All have repeatedly called for an expansion of safe and legal routes to the UK, or changes to the system to mean that asylum does not have to be claimed on British soil.

Several refugee advocacy groups have already raised concerns that the Rwanda deal will not achieve the government’s stated aims, and could create more business for people smugglers as asylum seekers attempt to leave the country and journey to the UK once more.

Researchers found that many refugees subjected to a previous scheme that saw Israel transfer them to Rwanda then embarked on dangerous journeys to Europe, where some were subjected to human trafficking, violence, torture and slavery before attempting deadly crossings over the Mediterranean Sea.

The home secretary issued a rare “ministerial direction” to force the plans through after the Home Office permanent secretary, Matthew Rycroft, warned there was no evidence that the “policy will have a deterrent effect significant enough” to justify the huge costs.

These are the proposed solutions previously refused by the government:

The House of Lords has proposed amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill to increase the number of refugees resettled directly from outside Europe, and expand family reunion schemes to allow asylum seekers to join relatives in the UK more easily.

The government objected to both amendments and MPs voted them down on 22 March. Peers lodged updated amendments on 5 April but the government is expected to reject them again.

Backing the changes, the Lord Bishop of Durham said: “The fundamental premise of the bill is that people seeking safety in the UK should arrive by safe and legal routes, rather than by making irregular journeys.

“My concern in tabling this amendment is that there are not sufficient safe routes from the countries where the majority of asylum seekers arriving in the UK originate.”

Lord Dubs, who was behind a previous law allowing unaccompanied child refugees in Europe to reunite with family in Britain, said increasing official pathways would “lessen the dangerous journeys that young people make to join their families”.

He added: “If we believe that traffickers should not have opportunities, surely the right thing to do is to provide a safe and legal route.”

The government refused the Lords’ call for a minimum resettlement target of 10,000 refugees a year, and a Home Office minister said it also “cannot accept” a requirement to set any target.

Xural.com

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