Under the new Home Secretary, Suella Braverman failed policies continue and even hardens through the announcement of plans to ban people arriving across the channel from asylum in the UK with no exceptions and the “dream” and “obsession” to see deportations to Rwanda implemented.

CEO for ECRE member, Refugee Council, Enver Solomon and CEO for Legatum Institute, Philippa Stroud recently urged the new Home Secretary, Suella Braverman to “reset Britain’s refugee policy, writing: “We are in desperate need of a long-term vision if our response is to move from crisis management to compassionate and well-managed welcome. The principles which should govern this strategy should be that anyone fleeing war and persecution can access a fair hearing, safety, dignity, and opportunity”. However, Braverman’s first period in office reveals no such intentions – in fact she stated her “ultimate aspiration” was to reduce migration to the UK. The new Home Secretary has announced plans going further than her predecessor, Priti Patels notorious Nationality and Borders Act with a proposal of barring anyone who crosses the Channel from claiming asylum in Britain with no exceptions. Sabir Zazai, chief executive of ECRE member the Scottish Refugee Council, labelled the policy “shocking, incredibly cruel” and warned it “risks breaking international law”, adding: “We cannot stress this enough – under the UN Refugee Convention, to which the UK is a founding signatory, there is no illegal method of arrival to a country to seek asylum”. Another, ECRE member, Refugee Action stated: “Let’s be 100% clear: any such ban would be a blatant breach of the international refugee laws the UK helped create in the first place. This is all about keeping people out, not keeping them safe”.

Further, Braverman has no plans to revise the unworkable Rwanda outsourcing scheme that ‘crashed on the runway’ in June when court interventions emptied the first deportation flight. The Home Secretary recently stated: “I would love to have a front page of The Telegraph with a plane taking off to Rwanda, that’s my dream, it’s my obsession,” noting however, that she does not expect any planes to take off until after Christmas, because of ongoing legal challenges.

The independence of experts appointed to the governments ‘Independent’ panel tasked with overseeing the partnership with Rwanda’ continues to be questioned. Following the controversy over the appointment of Morten Lisborgs from the consultative agency Migration Management Advice – considered the “brain” behind the similar Danish outsourcing vision – critique has followed the appointment of Alexander Downer. As former Australian foreign minister and high commissioner to the UK, Downer was a regular and prominent defender of Australia’s offshore detention regime asylum seekers. “Put them onto stable craft and drive them back to France – that’s the simple solution and would destroy the smugglers’ business model in a week,” Downer stated on the UK outsourcing scheme, adding: “Short of that, making sure they can’t settle in the UK under any circumstances – the [agreement the] government negotiated with Rwanda – is a good solution as well” Eva Sêrro Spiekermann from the advocacy group People and Planet commented on Downer’s appointment stating: “In Australia he was a leading defender of a detention and deportation regime that locked up people on the move, rode roughshod over human rights, and cost lives. His appointment is meant to challenge abuse in UK border policy, but instead launders it”.

Meanwhile, the arrivals these policies aim to deter continue as does the lack of clarity on the practical implications of a proposed ban. On 29 September almost 500 people crossed the Channel in 10 small boats according to the Ministry of Defence. Reportedly, the arrivals brought the total number in 2022 to 32,841. Plans of pushback tactics on open sea were abandoned in April and as pointed out by Home Editor for BBC News, Mark Easton on 4 October: “Almost 700 asylum seekers arrived on the Kent coast last week, all escorted ashore by UK authorities, making them ‘passenger arrivals’, not ‘illegal migrants’ under the law. Unclear how Suella Braverman’s proposed asylum ‘ban’ changes that fundamental point”.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.