Rishi Sunak vows to stop small boat crossings: 'If you come here illegally, you will not be able to stay'

The prime minister is set to announce new laws to clamp down on migrant crossings - telling those who arrive on small boats: "If you come here illegally, you will not be able to stay."

Rishi Sunak said he and senior aides at the Home Office have drawn up new laws to stop lawyers from using the right to family life and legislation created to combat modern slavery to stop their clients from being deported.

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"I have made the issue of illegal migration one of my top five priorities - pledging to stop the boats once and for all," he told the Sunday Express.

"Illegal migration is not fair on British taxpayers, it is not fair on those who come here legally and it is not right that criminal gangs should be allowed to continue their immoral trade.

"I'm determined to deliver on my promise to stop the boats.

"So make no mistake, if you come here illegally, you will not be able to stay."

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Government minister Chris Heaton-Harris said the legislation will ensure people who come to the UK illegally "are returned very quickly" or to another country such as Rwanda, and he believes it will include banning people who come to the UK illegally from claiming asylum.

He added the cooperation of France will be key to ensuring the law works and said Mr Sunak has been building a good relationship with French President Emmanuel Macron.

"It's black and white legislation," he told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.

"I know it has to be extremely clear because if you're not clear people will pick it up."

Home Secretary Suella Braverman wrote in The Sun on Sunday: "It has to be that if you come here illegally you will be detained and swiftly removed. Our laws will be simple in their intention and practice - the only route to the UK will be a safe and legal route.

"So far, Labour has opposed every effort to bring a stop to illegal migration. They are not serious about tackling the issue that is only becoming ever more serious and allows criminal gangs to exploit vulnerable people.

"The prime minister and I will do whatever it takes. You can judge us by our actions."

What is expected to be in the new legislation?

The new law aiming to reduce the number of small boats crossing the Channel is expected to be announced on Tuesday.

The legislation is expected to ban asylum claims from migrants who travelled to the UK on small boats.

The law would give powers to the home secretary to remove anyone who arrives on a small boat "as soon as reasonably practicable" to Rwanda or a "safe third country".

Arrivals would be prevented from claiming asylum while in the UK and stopped from returning once removed.

Mr Sunak and Mrs Braverman are due to travel to Paris on Friday for talks with Mr Macron.

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Tory 'promises came to nothing'

Labour's Jonathan Ashworth said asylum seekers who have their applications turned down "obviously have to be returned" but he remains to be convinced any changes will happen as the government has made unfulfilled promises before.

He told Sophy Ridge: "We've been told in the past that they've got plans in legislation that are going to deal with this problem and their promises came to nothing.

"And actually we've seen more boat crossings and the criminal gangs getting away with more and more. So we'll study it carefully.

"We'll also look to see whether this will actually deal with the backlog in processing asylum cases."

'Government has shut down legal routes'

Sonia Sceats, chief executive of Freedom from Torture, accused the government of "trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the British public" as she said people making the perilous Channel crossing are genuine refugees fleeing torture - and that is backed up by the government's statistics.

She told Sky News: "This law would be affecting men, women and children fleeing problems like torture in Afghanistan and Iran where they've been tortured and persecuted for standing up for rights we hold dear here in Britain.

"We should be responding to these people with compassion, not these proposals which would see mass incarceration and the exchange of these vulnerable people for cash with countries like Rwanda.

"This is not who we are as a country and we will be fighting these laws every step of the way."

She added that the government has "comprehensively shut down" legal routes for refugees to come to the UK and the proposed legislation "would place a bomb" under the cardinal principle of refugee law - that those genuinely fearing for their lives should be able to reach a country by any means possible.

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Christina Marriott, executive director of strategy at the Red Cross, called the legislation "extremely concerning".

"The Home Office knows from its own research that this will also do little to prevent people risking their lives to seek safety," she said.

"Again and again, we hear from people that they have no prior knowledge of the UK's asylum system, so making it harsher is not an effective strategy."

Home Office figures show 2,950 migrants have crossed the Channel in 2023 so far.

The government has insisted its Rwanda scheme will go ahead despite several legal challenges against it, which have meant no flights taking migrants to the country have yet departed.