Boris Johnson defends Home Office plans to electronically tag some asylum seekers

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Boris Johnson has defended government plans to electronically tag some asylum seekers who arrive in the UK in small boats or lorries.

The Home Office is launching a 12-month pilot scheme that aims to determine whether this is an effective way of "improving and maintaining contact" with claimants.

Documents also suggest that the government wants to obtain data on how frequently asylum seekers abscond.

Campaigners have described the measures, which could affect refugees crossing the Channel, as "draconian".

But the Prime Minister said it was essential that people could not simply "vanish" into the rest of the country.

"This is a very, very generous welcoming country. Quite right too. I am proud of it, but when people come here illegally, when they break the law, it is important that we make that distinction," he said, speaking at RAF Brize Norton after returning from a trip to Kyiv.

"That is what we are doing with our Rwanda policy. That is what we are doing with making sure that asylum seekers can't just vanish into the rest of the country."

It comes days after the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg granted an injunction that stopped the deportation of asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda.

The flight had been scheduled to depart last Tuesday.

Rwanda policy to go ahead

The PM also said the government would press ahead with its policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, saying it is lawful.

"Every single court in this country said that there was no obstacle that they could see. No court in this country ruled the policy unlawful - which was very, very encouraging," he said.

"There was this weird last-minute hiccup we had with Strasbourg. Let's see where we get with that."

He added: "We are very confident in the lawfulness of what we are doing and we are going to pursue the policy."

Read more: What is the European Court of Human Rights?

'Absolutely scandalous'

Priti Patel has described the grounding of this first flight as an "absolutely scandalous" move.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the home secretary has vowed to "find ways to overturn" the decision.

She said: "One could argue that we have been a soft touch - and I think we have been quite frankly, partly down to our EU membership.

"You've got to look at the motivation. How and why did they make that decision? Was it politically motivated? I'm of the view that it is, absolutely.

"The opaque way this court has operated is absolutely scandalous. That needs to be questioned.

"We don't know who the judges are, we don't know who the panel are, we haven't actually had a judgment - just a press release and a letter saying we can't move this person under Rule 39.

"They've not used this ruling previously, which does make you question the motivation and the lack of transparency."

Will the UK leave the ECHR?

The Daily Telegraph claimed Ms Patel's accusations about the ECHR being "opaque" signalled her desire to leave its jurisdiction.

English judges in the Court of Appeal had ruled on Monday that the flight could go ahead after a legal challenge by campaigners saying the plan was inhumane.

Ministers have defended the policy, saying it is needed to stop illegal people smuggling in small boats across the Channel.

The ECHR ruling sparked calls by some Tory MPs to pull Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights, which the court rules on.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has suggested the UK will stay within the convention but new laws could ensure that interim measures from the Strasbourg court could effectively be ignored by the government.

The UK has remained a signatory of the ECHR, which underpins human rights obligations in international treaties including the Good Friday Agreement and the Brexit deal.

What does Labour say?

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said "the Government is chasing headlines".

"What I want is a serious response because nobody wants these journeys across the Channel to be made, these perilous journeys," he said.

"Everybody want to clamp down on the gangs. That requires grown-up work with the French authorities and upstream work to actually tackle these gangs.

"You don't do that if you're a Government that is asking the National Crime Agency to make cuts."

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