Tories call for changes to modern slavery rules to send ‘bogus asylum seekers’ home

Politics

A group of more than 50 MPs has written to PM Rishi Sunak, urging him to introduce emergency legislation which will cut small boat crossings of the Channel.

The group, which includes former cabinet ministers, called for the rapid implementation of a “simple” change in the modern slavery laws to make it easier for people they believe are “bogus asylum seekers”, who say they are victims of trafficking, to be returned.

The demand comes as Mr Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman face pressure to prevent the crossings and improve the conditions which asylum seekers experience in the UK.

In a letter formulated by former Brexit secretary David Davis, the Tory backbenchers say the Channel crossings are a “Gordian Knot [seemingly unsolvable problem] that needs cutting with a simple policy”.

Signatories, including Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, demand “economic migrants” travelling from “safe countries” such as Albania are returned more quickly.

They argue that “people claiming they have been unwilling victims of human trafficking or modern slavery” should be returned “to their homes in the villages from which they came from”.

It also proposes the UK follows other countries in allowing summary rejection of asylum claims by applicants from safe countries.

More on Migrant Crossings

The Tories wrote: “If they have really been taken against their will, then they could not reasonably object to being returned to their own homes.

“The quirks in our modern slavery laws that prevent this are clearly in defiance of the aims of that law and should be removed”.

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Albania: Poverty fuels migrant crisis

‘Intolerable stress’

They argue the “straightforward and legally workable way of addressing the crisis” would be a “very strong deterrent” for those planning to risk the perilous crossing.

And they say Britain’s systems, which were “designed to provide altruistic support to people who legitimately ask for our help”, have been put under “intolerable stress” by people who are abusing the process.

Former cabinet ministers Dr Liam Fox and Esther McVey, and longest-serving MP Sir Peter Bottomley, also signed the letter, which demonstrates nerves among the Conservatives that failing to tackle the issue will hurt them at the ballot box.

People board a bus inside the migrant processing centre, during the visit of British Home Secretary Suella Braverman, in Manston Britain, November 3, 2022. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls /Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY
Image:
People board a bus outside the Manston migrant processing centre

Concerns have also been raised that some migrants who have been moved from the Manston processing centre in Kent to other parts of the country had been suffering from suspected diphtheria.

Sky News exclusively revealed one man under detention died of the disease.

According to The Sunday Times, there have been dozens of suspected cases among those who have left Manston in recent weeks.

The UK Health Security Agency is expected to release exact figures later on Monday.

Read more: What is diphtheria and how does it spread?

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Home Sec admits migration failure

Ms Braverman has come under fire over the dire conditions in Manston, as well as for failing to slow the perilous crossings of the English Channel by people in small boats.

This week, she admitted the government has “failed to control our borders” but blamed desperate migrants and people smugglers for the overcrowding in Manston.

“I tell you who’s at fault. It’s very clear who’s at fault. It’s the people who are breaking our rules, coming here illegally, exploiting vulnerable people and trying to reduce the generosity of the British people. That’s who’s at fault,” she told MPs.

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New plan on migrants ‘a small step forward’

‘No single solution’

A Home Office source said Ms Braverman is “working flat out alongside the prime minister to bring in reforms to help stem the flow of migrants across the Channel”.

A government spokeswoman added there was “no one single solution to stop the increase in dangerous crossings”.

She said they planned to use “every tool at our disposal to deter illegal migration” and added: “We are expediting the removal of individuals by agreeing tailored bilateral returns agreements with partners like Albania, elevating it to a key priority for our foreign policy.”

The Home Office said last week there were no longer any people at the Manston centre after it experienced severe overcrowding earlier this month.

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