LONDON: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is ready to withdraw his country from the European Convention on Human Rights as he finalizes plans for the UK’s strictest immigration legislation yet, The Times reported on Sunday.
Official estimates warned that 65,000 illegal migrants are expected to arrive in the UK this year, representing a nearly 50 percent increase over last year.
Sunak’s legislation, which will be unveiled in the coming weeks, will prohibit claiming asylum in the UK for those who enter illegally, The Times reported. It will outline plans for deportation within “days or weeks” rather than “months or years” to their country of origin or to Rwanda, with which the UK has an agreement.
Furthermore, the new laws will also revise some of the UK’s modern slavery rules, which are used by eight out of 10 asylum-seekers entering the country. They also include provisions to establish new detention centers.
Government officials say they are seeking to push the “boundaries” of what is possible within international law.
“The PM is as frustrated as the public that the number of people arriving here illegally in small boats has risen fourfold in the last two years,” a senior figure told The Times.
The senior figure continued: “He wants to go as far as legally possible to fix the issue — and he is not afraid to push the limits of the refugee convention or ECHR to prevent our country from being exploited by organized crime gangs and those that would skip the queue.
“If people crossing the Channel know that when they arrive in the UK they will be put in detention, their claims will be processed in a matter of days or at most weeks, and then they will be flown to a safe country like Rwanda, they will stop coming.”
Another senior official familiar with Sunak’s thinking told The Times that the government is confident that the new legislation will be upheld in court.
However, they noted that if the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg finds that the new plans are unlawful, Sunak will consider withdrawing from the convention.
“If this legislation gets onto the statute book and is found to be lawful by our domestic courts, but it is still being held up in Strasbourg, then we know the problem is not our legislation or our courts,” they said.
“If that’s the case, then of course he will be willing to reconsider whether being part of the ECHR is in the UK’s long-term interests,” they added.
Senior figures said if the European court rules against his plans, Sunak is prepared to withdraw from the convention before the general election, The Times reported. However, this would have to pass both Houses of Parliament before the election in 2024.
Polling and conservative focus groups reveal that immigration is one of the top three issues for voters, with strong concerns even in areas of the country where it has little impact, The Times reported.