OPINION - The Standard View: We need legal, safe routes for refugees coming to Britain

 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

A functioning immigration system is not only critical for public confidence but also for Britain’s economy and the responsibility of being able to offer safe haven to those who need it the most. At present, we are falling short on all three metrics.

Ministers are talking tough on new immigration laws to prevent anyone coming to our shores by small boat from claiming asylum in the UK. The Prime Minister has made the issue one of his five pledges. Yet it is unclear what impact this new legislation will have, not least when the Government already possesses significant powers under last year’s Nationality and Borders Act.

Unless the state can boost its capacity and overcome legal challenges, new laws will do little to improve the situation in the English Channel. Nor do they resolve one currently intractable issue: a genuine refugee, for example, fleeing political persecution in Iran, has access to no legal safe route to come to the UK. The reality is that unless you are from Afghanistan, Ukraine or Hong Kong, such avenues are essentially blocked.

The political imperatives are clear. Many voters, and not just those in the so-called red wall, care about immigration and in particular fear a sense that the UK is not on top of who is coming to the country. But there are risks, too.

Not least, that the Government over-promises and under-delivers. A pledge of action without results threatens instead to stoke frustration.

The UK can better manage its borders while addressing the asylum system. That will require working more closely with the French government to reduce the number of crossings, while at the same time expanding legal safe routes to enable refugees to come to Britain.

More Ulez questions

As the date for the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) accelerates into view, more must be done to support people living in outer London boroughs. Therefore, we welcome consultations to boost bus routes serving areas such as Barnet, Brent, Havering and Wandsworth to give residents greater public transport options.

The Evening Standard supports the Ulez expansion as being key to ridding the capital of toxic air. But we must go further to support Londoners with the transition, from a more generous and government-backed car scrappage scheme to boosting public transport provision.

Great royal dilemma

It’s the biggest ‘will they, won’t they?’ since Ross and Rachel in Friends. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been invited to the King’s coronation in May but are yet to confirm their attendance.

If they do come, whether they stay in Buckingham Palace or Frogmore Cottage, they can at least console themselves with extended drinking hours and BBC licence fee relaxation to make the most of their return to the UK.