Migrant boats to be turned away at sea and asylum seekers sent abroad

Ascension Island: Expert on plans for asylum seekers reception

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Priti Patel’s Nationality and Borders Bill, introduced yesterday, proposes offshore processing centres with asylum seekers sent to a “safe third country” while claims are dealt with. The stricter rules are part of the Home Secretary’s pledge to “fix” the UK’s “broken asylum system”.

The maximum term for unlawful arrival will rise from six months for a similar offence to four years. And for the first time, how someone enters the UK will have an impact on their asylum claim.

People-smugglers could also face life behind bars, up from 14 years.

Immigration officials would have the power to turn migrant boats away at sea but would need the agreement of states, like France, to drive them into foreign waters. Offshore processing centres could be akin to those used by Australia, with the possibility of sharing one with Denmark in Rwanda or using Ascension Island.

The Home Office insisted the changes will “prioritise those most in need” and prevent migrants “asylum shopping” after passing through safe European countries.

But campaigners fear the plans will penalise those who need help most.

Nearly 6,000 reached the UK in small boats across the Channel in the first six months of 2021. The total figure for 2020 – 8,417 – is likely to be eclipsed by the end of August.

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