Enough is enough… the system is broken and we simply have to be tougher on asylum
The current asylum system is collapsing. The pressures caused by illegal and dangerous routes to claim asylum, facilitated by serious organised criminal gangs exploiting people and profiting from human misery, not only costs lives but undermines public confidence.
This is counter to our national interest because the same criminal gangs and networks are also responsible for other illicit activity, ranging from drugs and firearms trafficking to serious violent crimes.
It is also counter to our moral interest, as it means people are put in the hands of ruthless criminals who facilitate illegal entry by barbaric means.
We’ve seen the consequences of people being lost at sea after being placed on to small and unsafe boats, and the tragic loss of life at Purfleet in October 2019, when 39 people died after a gang sealed them in a lorry.
As Home Secretary in 2021, I created a clear approach, called the New Plan for Immigration, which set out a simple principle: access to the UK’s asylum system should be based on genuine need, not on the ability to pay people smugglers.
The first objective was to increase the fairness of the asylum system so that we can better protect and support those in genuine need of refuge.
Second, the focus was to deter illegal entry into the UK, breaking the business model of people-smuggling networks.
If you illegally enter the UK via a safe country in which you could have claimed asylum, you are not seeking refuge or are in imminent peril, you are an economic migrant.
The third objective was to remove more easily from the UK those with no right to be here.
This is vital to tackling the legal merry-go-round in which multiple and often last-minute asylum claims and appeals to the immigration court are made.
Those legal processes have often frustrated the removal of foreign-national offenders, but at every turn our actions were challenged by the Labour opposition, lawyers and campaigners.
During my time as Home Secretary I was bombarded with letters from publicity-seeking Labour MPs posted on social media trying to stop flights removing dangerous criminals from our country.
Showing no regard for public safety or the victims of crime, they sought to defend the rights of criminals.
In the case of rapist Yaqub Ahmed, whose victim I had supported, this newspaper reported last year how, after five years, 24 court appearances, 20 judges and £85,000 in legal aid, we then learned that the BBC’s Africa Editor was hired by his lawyers to give evidence in his appeal to block deportation to Somalia.
Today, the MoS has exposed lawyers who hire ‘expert witnesses’ to help convicted criminals appeal against deportation. Enough is enough.
Our Nationality and Borders Act legislated so that the way in which asylum seekers enter our country should be taken into account.
I put into legislation a ‘one-stop’ process to require all rights-based claims to be considered in a single court assessment. The Government has announced it will set this up.
This must ensure that how people enter the country will affect how their asylum claim progresses, and on their status if that claim is legitimate.
For people who have their claims refused, the Government must seek rapid removal to their country of origin or to another safe country.
I also established a way to stop asylum-seeking men posing as children, by introducing tougher age assessments.
The country wants a robust approach to asylum claims that delivers on our commitment to taking back control of our borders, which offers protection for genuine humanitarian needs and which addresses abuses of our system.