Photograph: Stuart Brock/EPA
Locking up people who enter the country illegally and preventing them from settling in the UK are “options” being considered by Suella Braverman and No 10 as the government puts a crackdown on small boats at the center of its agenda.
The ideas are contained in a report by the right-wing think tank Center for Policy Studies, for which Braverman wrote a foreword.
Although the Home Secretary said he disagreed with all of the report, the Home Office did not deny that some of the ideas were being scrutinized as potential policies.
When asked about the idea of detaining asylum seekers and preventing them from settling in, a government source said: ‘The Prime Minister and Home Secretary are absolutely focused on cracking down on illegal immigration first and foremost and are working together on options to ensure that we have control of our borders”.
Labor said the government’s position was “just chaos and it’s clear nobody is in control”.
Sunak has made stopping small boat crossings one of his policy priorities despite difficulties addressing the issue, with focus groups suggesting it is a major concern for conservative voters.
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The Center for Policy Studies report was co-authored by Nick Timothy, a former Home Office adviser and Downing Street chief of staff; requires a series of new policies to stop Channel crossings.
Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister under Braverman, appeared to signal a much tougher approach in an interview with GB News on Saturday, saying he wanted to create a system “where deterrence is rife across the whole thing”.
He added: ‘To me that means you shouldn’t have to find a path to life in the UK if you come here illegally. There will be policies like [deportations to] Rwanda is the hub of this and I hope we will be able to implement it as soon as it goes through the British courts. It will also mean looking at how we treat people on arrival so that nobody thinks coming to the UK is a soft touch, and isn’t the UK a better site for ‘asylum takers’ than our EU neighbour’ .
The PSC report proposes indefinite detention for all asylum-seekers who enter the country illegally, as well as rapid “relocation” to Rwanda for those who enter the country illegally, a policy currently blocked by lawsuits.
It also recommends new laws that make it impossible to claim asylum in the UK after traveling from a safe country and prevent migrants who enter the country illegally from settling in Britain.
The authors also endorse changes to human rights laws to allow for detention and relocation, including, if necessary, Britain’s withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights.
In his foreword, Braverman wrote: “The Prime Minister and I pledge to do whatever is necessary. We are finalizing our plan and will make the necessary operational and legislative changes to comprehensively address this issue.
“While I disagree with everything in this report, I welcome it as a vital and necessary contribution to the policy debate on what can be done to address the crossings… there are a number of policy options.
“And with clear thinking, political will and determination, we can prevail against the smuggling gangs, against those who abuse our system, and we will tackle the small boat problem comprehensively.”
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said Braverman “was chasing a series of headlines putting his name on a report that contradicts government policy while the immigration minister is reporting on something entirely different, and in the meantime no one he’s doing the serious work to sort things out”.
“This shows Rishi Sunak’s appalling judgment in reappointing Suella Braverman and his weakness in allowing this mess to continue.”
Cooper added: ‘The Conservatives have had six Home Secretaries and eight Immigration Ministers in seven years, and all they’ve done is make the problems worse.
Instead of rhetoric and headline chasing, they should adopt the Labor plan, including a specialist unit in the National Crime Agency to go after the criminal gangs who are spearheading this, and immediate action to clear the backlog and chaos from the asylum system. “