On March 24, 2021, the United Kingdom’s (UK) Secretary of State, Priti Patel, proposed to the UK’s Parliament a new plan for handling asylum seekers.

Among other things, she said that asylum seekers who are making an illegal journey to the UK in the hands of smugglers are dying at sea, in lorries, and in shipping containers. She wants to stop giving asylum to migrants who come to the UK illegally.

Patel’s plan produced criticism from human rights organizations; British Red Cross called it “inhumane.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson supports her efforts to combat the smugglers, calling her policy a “humanitarian one.”

Highlights from Patel’s proposal:

Protect those with a genuine need for asylum

She would grant indefinite permission to remain in the UK to people coming through legal resettlement routes to escape persecution and provide them with the support they need to learn English, to find work, and to integrate into UK society.

Deter illegal entry

She would reduce the pull factors in the asylum system and disincentivize illegal entry.

Asylum seekers who arrive illegally instead of going through the government's official resettlement program will not be granted asylum — even if their claims are successful. They will be removed if possible. If not, they will receive temporary protection only and will be removed when it is possible to do so.

She doesn’t say why it might not be possible to deport them. It probably is because the UK is a signatory to the Refugee Convention, and Article 33 of that Convention prohibits signatories from returning aliens to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened by persecution. Nevertheless, they can deport them to other countries where they won’t face persecution, but the other countries have to agree to accept them.

From Patel’s perspective, when a migrant enters the UK illegally from a safe country where he could have claimed asylum, he is not seeking refuge from persecution, which is the intended purpose of the asylum system. He instead is choosing the UK as his preferred destination, and he is doing it at the expense of people who have nowhere else to go.

She would increase punishment for smugglers and facilitators to a maximum of a life sentence.


Published originally on The Hill.