Braverman demands reform of ‘absurd’ asylum rules for migrants arriving from EU

Nigel Farage predicts migrant crisis will 'destroy' EU

Migrants picking where to claim asylum is “absurd and unsustainable”, Suella Braverman will declare today.

The Home Secretary will say that the “global asylum framework” – underpinned by the 1951 Refugee Convention – “creates huge incentives for illegal migration” and must be reformed.

She will also argue Channel migrants should not be treated as refugees because they have travelled through safe countries, such as France, to reach the UK.

Mrs Braverman will say during a keynote speech in Washington DC: “The status quo, where people are able to travel through multiple safe countries, and even reside in safe countries for years, while they pick their preferred destination to claim asylum, is absurd and unsustainable.

“Nobody entering the UK by boat from France is fleeing imminent peril. None of them have “good cause” for illegal entry.

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“The vast majority have passed through multiple safe countries, and in some instances have resided in safe countries for several years. In this sense, there is an argument that they should cease to be treated as refugees when considering the legitimacy of their onward movement.”

The Home Secretary will again question whether international refugee rules are “fit for our modern age” and demand reform, saying “we now live in a completely different time”.

She has blasted the European Court of Human Rights, which oversees the European Convention on Human Rights as  “interventionist” and a ­“politicised court”, accusing it of “thwarting” the first deportation flight to Rwanda. And Mrs Braverman will now urge countries to come together to reform the 1951 Refugee Convention.

She will warn the line between those fleeing war and those seeking a better economic future has been blurred by judges’ interpretation of the treaty.

Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC, she will argue: “More than 70 years on, we now live in a completely different time.

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“According to analysis by Nick Timothy and Karl Williams for the Centre for Policy Studies, it now confers the notional right to move to another country upon at least 780 million people.

“It is therefore incumbent upon politicians and thought leaders to ask whether the Refugee Convention, and the way it has come to be interpreted through our courts, is fit for our modern age.

“Or whether it is in need of reform.”

The threshold for being granted refugee status has become too low, as judges are often ruling in favour of asylum seekers in cases of “discrimination” rather than “persecution”.

And national systems will be overwhelmed if “being gay, or a woman and fearful of discrimination” is “sufficient to qualify for protection”, Mrs Braverman will say.

Mrs Braverman will tell delegates at the American Enterprise Institute: “I think most members of the public would recognise those fleeing a real risk of death, torture, oppression or violence, as in need of protection.

“However, as case law has developed, what we have seen in practice is an interpretive shift away from ‘persecution’, in favour of something more akin to a definition of ‘discrimination’.

“And a similar shift away from a “well-founded fear” toward a “credible” or “plausible fear”. 

“The practical consequence of which has been to expand the number of those who may qualify for asylum, and to lower the threshold for doing so.” 

The Home Secretary – who has made stopping the boats her department’s top priority – said the UK will always protect those who are being persecuted.

“But we will not be able to sustain an asylum system if in effect, simply being gay, or a woman, and fearful of discrimination in your country of origin, is sufficient to qualify for protection”, she will say.

“Article 31 of the Refugee Convention makes clear that it is intended to apply to individuals “coming directly from a territory where their life was threatened”. 

“It also states that where people are crossing borders without permission, they should “present themselves without delay to the authorities” and must show “good cause” for any illegal entry. 

“The UK along with many others, including America, interpret this to mean that people should seek refuge and claim asylum in the first safe country that they reach. But NGOs and others, including the UN Refugee Agency, contest this.”

Government ministers have vowed to do “whatever it takes” to end the Channel migrant crisis and hinted they are willing to quit the ECHR if European judges continue to thwart deportation flights to Rwanda. 

Almost 24,000 asylum seekers have crossed the Channel so far this year, after 45,755 arrived last year.

It has overwhelmed Britain’s broken asylum system, costing taxpayers £8 million-per-day on migrant hotel bills.

The asylum system as a whole cost almost £4bn last year as the Home Office battles record backlogs of asylum applications and end the use of hotel rooms.

The Government’s plans to tackle illegal migration were thrown into chaos after the Court of Appeal ruled the Rwanda deportation plan was illegal.

Ministers will challenge that decision in the Supreme Court next month. The proposal to send Channel migrants to Kigali is a key plank of the Government’s plan to tackle the Channel crisis.

Officials believe it will create a vital deterrent to those considering the crossing. But the first flight last June was grounded by an 11th hour pyjama injunction issued by a judge from the European Court of Human Rights.

And the Home Office is also facing legal battles to house migrants at two former RAF bases – RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire and MDP Wethersfield in Essex.

The Home Secretary is expected to use her visit to seek closer ties with US authorities on tackling illegal migration and people trafficking.

She will meet US homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and attorney general Merrick Garland for talks on migration and national security.

Conservative MP Tom Hunt told the Daily Express last night: “If the European Convention of Human Rights or the Refugee Convention are stifling our ability to control our borders and tackle illegal immigration, then clearly, we need to be open to leaving them. 

I’m confident the majority of British people would support this approach.  Both conventions were established decades ago when the world was a very different place. 

In many senses, both have failed to keep pace with the times and the unique challenges of the here and now, particularly when it comes to border control.”

Alp Mehmet, chair of Migration Watch, declared last night: “We have long been saying that both the Refugee Convention and ECHR are outdated and ill-suited to modern challenges.

“The Home Secretary is right to call out the conventions but internationalising this in the way she proposes will simply kick the problem of illegal migration into the long grass.

“Our politicians should have the courage to put the interests of Britain and the British people first and give the necessary notice to withdraw from both the ECHR and 1951 Convention if substantial reform is not agreed. The Government could begin by calling for a referendum on the issue.”

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