LONDON: British Home Secretary Priti Patel is “misleading” the British public by labeling migrant Channel crossings as “illegal,” an MP has told The Independent newspaper.
In December last year, judges ruled that refugees who attempt to reach a British port or are rescued at sea have not committed a crime.
“As the law presently stands, an asylum seeker who merely attempts to arrive at the frontiers of the UK in order to make a claim is not entering or attempting to enter the country unlawfully,” said Lord Justice Edis.
But following the case, Patel and other government figures have continued to describe the growing number of crossing attempts as illegal.
Scottish National Party MP Stuart McDonald, who sits on the Home Affairs Committee, said that Patel’s choice of words is “a misleading way of talking about the issue and totally mischaracterizes what is happening.”
He added: “It is quite a deliberate attempt to dehumanize these people and make the public think worse of them.”
Patel is among other figures who have incorrectly repeated the claim. Attorney General Suella Braverman and government ministers Victoria Atkins, Baroness Williams, James Heappey and Baroness Goldie have all used the term “illegal” to describe Channel crossings since the December court ruling.
Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, a campaign group working to protect asylum seekers, said: “The home secretary and attorney general demean their office, and mislead parliament and the public, by falsely claiming those crossing the Channel have broken criminal law.
“That they continue to do so, in defiance of a Court of Appeal judgment, shows once again the disrespect this government has both for the law and for the truth.”