Senior Conservatives fear Rishi Sunak is showing “too much promise” in solving the small boat crisis and will not deliver in time for the next general election.
The number of migrants crossing the English Channel so far this year is more than double the same point in 2022, despite the Prime Minister’s pledge to “stop the boats”, one of his top five promises to the British public .
Mr Sunak claimed new laws would ensure that “if you come here illegally, you cannot stay”, but The Independent is aware that the final details of the legislation have not yet been fully finalised.
Tory MPs are increasingly uneasy about the legislation and are putting a whole host of questions to Prime Minister and Home Secretary Suella Braverman.
A former minister tells The Independent that even if the law is introduced next week, it will face strong opposition and may be mired in new legal challenges.
“They promised too much and now they realize the clock is ticking,” added the MP. “People stand up at PMQs every week [prime minister’s questions] to say, “Where’s the legislation?”
The bill is scheduled to be published on Tuesday. Under the proposals, those entering the UK via an unauthorized route will be detained for up to 28 days before efforts are made to deport them to their home country or to Rwanda.
But the ex-Tory minister believes lengthy parliamentary processes will bring the law into the next parliamentary session, meaning nothing will be “operationalized” until the next general election.
Meanwhile, internal Home Office estimates predict a further rise in small boat crossings this year after hitting consecutive annual records as previous attempts at “deterrence” failed.
Nearly 3,000 people have crossed the Channel so far this year, more than double the number at the same time in 2022, which was itself a record year.
A former cabinet minister expressed concern that Mr Sunak might not be able to bring the numbers down, adding: “Many people are pinning hope on the fact that the Northern Ireland protocol means the French will help. But he has to try, that’s the political reality. People need to see those numbers go down before the next election.”
The government has yet to fully implement last year’s Citizenship and Borders Law, which has so far failed to achieve its goal of making migrants using small boats “ineligible” for asylum purposes.
Rishi Sunak swears that crossing the Channel will stop when he becomes prime minister
With the Rwanda program still stalled due to ongoing legal challenges and an EU-wide repatriation deal that hasn’t been replaced since Brexit, there are few countries to send asylum seekers to, even if the UK itself refuses to consider their applications.
A senior Tory MP said The Independent Many moderates in the party supported the ban on asylum claims for people arriving in small boats, but added: “It’s a real challenge to make it legal and there are logistical problems when you have to detain more people.”
“But you’re hoping it can stop so many people coming here, we’ve got to try something.”
Another senior Tory MP, who also supports banning the right to asylum for those arriving in small boats, said there was unease about possible legal challenges and warned: “Whether it’s possible remains to be seen.”
The government has not given details on how to prevent people from applying for asylum without the UK breaching the UN Refugee Convention.
Interior Ministry figures show that Afghans are now the largest group of small boat migrants, having overtaken Albanians in the autumn. Although 98 percent of Afghan asylum applications are granted, ministers have not ruled out sending them to Rwanda.
Mr Sunak said the new powers would help fulfill his promise to “stop the boats once and for all”. post on Sunday: “Make no mistake, if you come here illegally, you cannot stay.”
Several Tory MPs wanted to know when the law would be presented, and former Works and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey warned: “Time is of the essence.”
Experts and charities have forecast small boat crossings will continue to increase unless the government expands alternative routes.
Stephen Kinnock, the shadow immigration secretary, said The Independent: “Despite all the Prime Minister’s rhetoric, small boat crossings have skyrocketed, doubling compared to this point last year.
“This is the inevitable consequence of pathetic headline chasing and government by gimmicks instead of serious solutions and hard work.”
The refugee council said the increase in Channel crossings is a “direct result of safe routes being so limited and ineffective”.
Chief Executive Enver Solomon added: “Government efforts to discourage desperate people from crossing the English Channel will continue to fail, simply because they are doing nothing to address the reasons people travel. But the solution is clear: we need to create safe and orderly routes for refugees to get to Britain.”
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said the proposed new law would “do nothing to prevent dangerous crossings or save lives”.
Policy and Advocacy Manager Caitlin Boswell accused the government of “ignoring the evidence and creating a crisis”, adding: “To see Rishi Sunak announce another pointless anti-refugee law while revealing the extent of the government’s failure is nothing short of a farce. ”
The charity Care4Calais said small boat crossings “would continue to grow because our government’s anti-refugee rhetoric is no alternative to viable solutions”.
Ministers have confirmed the government has no plans to create safe and legal routes for migrants crossing the English Channel and have repeatedly urged people to seek asylum in the first safe country they reach.
Ms. Braverman said that sun on Sunday: “It must be that if you come here illegally, you will be arrested and quickly deported. Our laws will be simple in intent and practice – the only way into Britain will be a safe and legal way.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The public is right to expect us to stop the boats and fix our asylum system.
“We are taking immediate action to tackle the rise in dangerous and illegal crossings by accelerating returns and stepping up enforcement, and we will introduce new legislation to restore fairness to our system and break the business model of people smugglers killed by the Putts benefit life at risk.”