Sunak’s small boats plan faces wave of opposition

Rishi Sunak's new plan to tackle migrants crossing the Channel are “unworkable” and could leave thousands of asylum seekers in limbo.

The Government is expected to make asylum claims from arrivals on small boats inadmissible, with applicants removed to a third country and banned from returning or claiming citizenship.

But critics questioned how the proposals could be put into practice with no safe third country available.

Lucy Moreton, of the Immigration Services Union, said: “The plans as they’ve been announced really are quite confusing. We can’t move anyone to Rwanda right now – it’s subject to legal challenge.

“We can’t remove anyone back into Europe because there are no returns agreements and we lost access to the database that allows us to prove that individuals have claimed asylum in Europe – Eurodac – when we left with Brexit."

She also warned that the threat of a crackdown could lead to an increase in the number of people risking the crossing.

Talking to TalkTV's Julia Hartley-Brewer, Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said: "People will rightly conclude it's another headline grabbing gimmick that won't work.

"I don't think it will (work). We've got to speed up the process of approving or declining applications."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer suggested the move was a political tactic ahead of May’s local elections and questioned its legality.

“We had a plan last year which was put up in lights, ‘it’s going to be an election winner’. These bits of legislation always seem to come when we’ve got a local election coming up,” he said.

Asked if the plan was legally feasible, the Labour leader said: “I don’t know that it is and I think we’ve got to be very careful with international law here.”

Campaigners have also issued firm warnings to the Government about the new policy.

Enver Solomon from the Refugee Council said: “The Government’s flawed legislation will not stop the boats but result in tens of thousands locked up in detention at huge cost, permanently in limbo and being treated as criminals simply for seeking refuge.

“It’s unworkable, costly and won’t stop the boats.”

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, accused the Government of presenting “the very same disastrous plan to simply avoid the asylum responsibilities it expects others to take”.

Calling it “disgraceful posturing and scaremongering”, he said the plan “promises nothing but more demonisation and punishment of people fleeing conflict and persecution.

Details about how the policy will be implemented are scarce, with previous efforts to tighten procedures – such as the Rwanda policy – mired in legal challenges.