The scenes of people trying to cross the Channel demand urgent action. They also show that the Government’s approach isn’t working.
in her two years as Home Secretary, Priti Patel has only made the problem worse."
These crossings are incredibly dangerous – as demonstrated so tragically by the deaths of 27 people when their dinghy sank two weeks ago. They line the pockets of the criminal gangs engaged in people smuggling and human trafficking. And they undermine public confidence in our whole immigration system.
These crossings need to stop, but the Conservatives’ Anti-Refugee Bill – officially the ‘Nationality and Borders Bill’ – will only make things worse.
Priti Patel likes to talk tough about this, and keeps putting forward ever more cruel and impractical proposals, from housing refugees on North Sea oil rigs to building a floating wall in the Channel. But in her two years as Home Secretary, she has only made the problem worse.
We know that the best way to stop refugees taking dangerous and irregular journeys to the UK is by providing safe and legal routes to sanctuary instead. Yet Priti Patel has closed them down.
Last year, she ended the scheme for resettling unaccompanied refugee children from elsewhere in Europe after bringing just 480 to the UK. This year, she closed the UK’s three biggest resettlement schemes and replaced them with a single much smaller scheme. She has also changed the rules to make it harder for people to claim asylum in the UK – yet another example of this Conservative Government breaking international law.
The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary"
The result? The dangerous Channel crossings have increased.
The Government’s Anti-Refugee Bill, now before Parliament, doubles down on that failed approach.
It does nothing to expand safe and legal routes for refugees – despite amendments the Liberal Democrats tabled to require the Government to do so. It does nothing to tackle the huge backlog of asylum claims, but will actually create even more delays.
It does nothing to increase cooperation with other countries on combating the cross-border smuggling and trafficking gangs. And it does nothing to reverse the Conservative cuts to international aid that will only create more refugees.
Instead, the Bill would make it harder for refugees to claim asylum in the UK and give many of them fewer rights if they are successful. It reduces vital protections for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery, making them less likely to come forward and therefore allowing more criminals to get away with it. And it further undermines the UK’s long-standing commitments under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.
The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary for people forced to flee their homes because of war or persecution. Priti Patel’s Anti-Refugee Bill undermines that tradition. It is fundamentally un-British. And it wouldn’t stop the dangerous Channel crossings. That’s why Liberal Democrats are fiercely opposing it.