Theresa May Picks Apart Government's Asylum Plan
Theresa May has torn into the government’s controversial immigration crackdown, warning the new asylum plan will “shut the door” to victims of modern slavery.
The former prime minister, who was also a long-serving home secretary, claimed people trafficked into slavery would be “collateral damage” as she argued anybody who believes the controversial policy will deal with “illegal migration once and for all is wrong”.
The illegal migration bill is designed to stop people claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive through unauthorised means and has been denounced by the UN’s refugee agency as an effective “asylum ban”.
The bill cleared its first Commons hurdle on Monday, voted 312 to 250, majority 62, to give the legislation a second reading. But a number of Tory MPs signalled their unease by not voting, including May.
Earlier, current home secretary Suella Braverman said she will “not be hectored by out-of-touch lefties” as she defended the plan against criticism.
May said she hoped the bill could be altered because “as it currently stands we are shutting the door on victims while being trafficked into slavery here in the UK”.
She summarised the provisions in the legislation as saying: “We know this isn’t ideal but we’ve got lots of people coming here illegally, we’ve got to do something so the victims of modern slavery, if you like, will be collateral damage.”
“The Home Office knows this bill means genuine victims of modern slavery will be denied support,” she added.
The Conservative MP expressed concerns about the “blanket dismissal” of anyone facing persecution who finds their way to the UK albeit not through legal ways.
She said: “Examples have been given that a young woman fleeing persecution in Iran, for example, would have the door to the UK shut in her face.
“The UK has always welcomed those who are fleeing persecution regardless of whether they come through a safe and legal route. By definition someone fleeing for their life will more often than not be unable to access a legal route.
“I don’t think it’s enough to say we will meet our requirements by sending people to claim asylum in Rwanda. This matters because of the reputation of the UK on the world stage and that matters because the UK’s ability to play a role internationally is based on our reputation – not because we’re British, but because of what we stand for and what we do.”
May opened her speech by noting how she took action to respond to people jumping in the back of lorries and cars in a bid to get into the UK, and welcomed the new deal with France.
She said: “But what should be clear from this is whenever you close a route, the migrants and the people smugglers find another way, and anybody who thinks that this bill will deal with the issue of illegal migration once and for all is wrong.
“Not least because a significant number, if not the majority, of people who are here illegally don’t come on small boats, they come legally and overstay their visas.”
May said the government has yet to provide evidence that modern slavery laws are being “abused” by people crossing the Channel and noted statistics suggest “nearly 90% of modern slavery claims are found to be valid”.