PM Rishi Sunak fails to give Nadhim Zahawi his full backing
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Senior officials claim the Prime Minister wants to tear up the rule book in a bid to end the tide of people crossing the Channel in small boats. He is driving ahead with new laws that would completely remove the right to asylum here for all illegal entrants.
But furious Whitehall insiders have vowed to torpedo the plan, claiming it “drives a coach and horses” through the 1951 Refugee Convention. And last night the Home Office was understood to be urgently considering legal advice.
The clash between Downing Street and Home Office mandarins comes after Mr Sunak staked his reputation on tackling the Channel crisis which saw 45,756 landing illegally last year.
The PM and Home Secretary Suella Braverman are expected to announce new legislation in the next few weeks to ensure migrants are “detained and swiftly removed” – and also unable to exploit the asylum system.
But a highly placed source has made it clear they will face intense internal opposition from Home Office staff.
The insider said: “The Prime Minister’s plan will drive a coach and horses through asylum law.
“In the past, such schemes have been mooted by home secretaries and we’ve managed to stall them by dragging our feet or pointing out the problems.
“Now it seems it’s all being driven by No 10. He’s going to have some serious battles on his hands.”
Mr Sunak is adamant “enough is enough” and claims that Britain’s courts are being exploited by people who have no right to stay in the UK.
He has pledged that people will be “swiftly returned” to either their homeland or a “safe country” where their claim for asylum will then be considered.
In the past few months Mr Sunak has buried himself in the detail of the immigration and asylum crisis, reading the small print of 400 separate case studies.
Seizing personal control of the crisis, he will demonstrate his determination to deliver – but risks serious clashes with the Whitehall “blob”.
Last month, he said people who entered the UK illegally and have been removed will have “no right to re-entry, settlement, or citizenship”.
Seizing personal control of the crisis, the PM will demonstrate his determination to deliver – but risks serious clashes with Whitehall.
But there is concern within its corridors that the changes may even contravene the 1951 Refugee Convention.
It is a United Nations treaty that defines who a refugee is and sets out the rights of individuals who are granted asylum.
The Convention also lays out the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum – and states which people do not qualify as refugees.
Refugee Council chief Enver Solomon is among those who warn the Government is “flying in the face of international law”.
He said: “What we need is a fair process for people seeking safety from war and persecution.
“Without safe routes such as a refugee visa scheme, they have no choice but to take these dangerous journeys.
“The Prime Minister should set out concrete plans to expand these routes through a resettlement programme or an expansion in family reunion visas.
“Instead, this government wants to treat people who come to the UK in search of safety as criminals.
“This flies in the face of international law and the UK’s commitment as a signatory of the UN Convention on Refugees to give a fair hearing to people who come here in search of safety and protection.”
But last night, a source close to Ms Braverman said the Home Secretary is “100 per cent clear that we must stop the boats”.
The source added: “The British people won’t tolerate sticking plasters or forgive failed plans.
And that’s why the she is determined to drive through reforms which will have a real impact on
illegal migration and bring a stop to this patently unfair asylum system.”
Part of the Government’s response to bringing the Channel crisis “under a single integrated structure” is the new small boats operational command at Border Force.
It will be led by former Sandhurst commandant Duncan Capps while a permanent director is recruited.
New technology will be used to identify the pilots of small boats and “bring those responsible to justice”.
A Government spokesman said: “Last year we saw an unsustainable and unacceptable number of people risking their lives to reach the UK illegally.
“This simply cannot continue and that is why we are taking immediate steps to tackle the evil people-smuggling gangs behind these deadly crossings and get our immigration system under control.
“The return of Channel primacy to the Home Office, bolstered by 700 extra staff and led by director Duncan Capps, is a significant landmark in our long-term plan to ensure the safety and sovereignty of our borders and our communities.
“We are building on the progress already made through the deal with France. Our determination will not waiver until we stop the abuse of the asylum system and bring the
smugglers responsible to justice.”
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