British interior minister Suella Braverman set out plans on Tuesday for new powers which would ban migrants who cross the English Channel from claiming asylum and said it was her “dream” to see a government flight deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.
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The government has been under pressure to deal with the rising number of people making dangerous journeys despite plans to deport those arriving illegally to Rwanda.
More than 30,000 people have made the crossing in small boats so far this year, already surpassing last year’s record. Government officials have warned the total could reach 60,000 by the end of 2022.
Braverman used her speech to the governing Conservative Party's annual conference to commit to looking at new legislative powers so the government can deport those who come to Britain illegally.
“We have to stop the boats crossing the Channel. This has gone on for far too long,” Braverman said.
“I will pledge to you today that I will bring forward legislation to make it clear that the only route to the United Kingdom is through a safe and legal route.”
The new powers would go further than existing legislation and were designed to create a blanket ban on anyone who enters Britain illegally, including on small boats across the English Channel, from claiming refuge, a government source said.
The charity Care4Calais called the government’s proposals “barbaric, untruthful and unnecessary” and said most asylum seekers who come to Britain are genuine refugees.
This “is blatant victim blaming of incredibly vulnerable people, simply for the purpose of grabbing headlines,” said Clare Mosley, the founder of the charity.
The previous prime minister Boris Johnson had hoped that a plan to deport those arriving illegally to Rwanda would act as a deterrent to those arriving in dinghies and small boats, but numbers hit record levels over the summer.
The first planned deportation flight in June was blocked by a last-minute injunction from the European Court of Human Rights.
Braverman said earlier at an event on the fringes of her party’s conference that she will work to prevent the court from overruling the British government in future, but does not expect any planes to take off until after Christmas, because of continuing legal challenges.
She said seeing a flight leaving to take asylum seekers to Rwanda is her “dream” and “obsession.”
The UN refugee chief has called the policy of deportation to Rwanda “catastrophic” and the entire leadership of the Church of England denounced it as immoral and shameful.
Braverman said she wants to stop migrants from using slavery laws to avoid deportation.
Braverman, whose parents arrived in Britain in the 1960s from Kenya and Mauritius, said in her speech that the government will continue to help genuine asylum seekers. But she will say that changes are needed to stop it being abused.
“It’s not racist for anyone, ethnic minority or otherwise, to want to control our borders,” she said. “It’s time to tackle the small boats – no ifs, no buts.”
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