Advertisement

UK interior minister attacks 'naive do-gooders' amid criticism of small boats strategy

FILE PHOTO: Illegal Migration Bill Statement at the House of Commons in London

By Andrew MacAskill

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's interior minister Suella Braverman defended her policy to remove almost all migrants who arrive without permission, saying her political opponents were "naive do-gooders" and there had has been "too much" immigration in recent years.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that stopping asylum seekers arriving on the south coast of England in small vessels - often unseaworthy inflatable boats and dinghies - is one of his top priorities.

The legislation introduced to parliament on Monday aims to reduce the number of people entering Britain in that way, which last year reached a record 45,000, up 500% in the last two years. Many came from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran and Iraq.

Under the government's plans, asylum seekers will be detained without bail before they are deported to their home country or, if this is not deemed safe, another safe third country.

Braverman, whose parents migrated to Britain in the 1960s from Kenya and Mauritius, said she had been the subject of "grotesque slurs" and would not be patronised on what appropriate views someone of her background could hold.

"I will not be hectored by out-of-touch lefties," she told parliament. "It's perfectly respectable for a child of immigrants like me to say that I'm deeply grateful to live here, to say that immigration has been overwhelmingly good for the United Kingdom, but we've had too much of it in recent years."

The Illegal Migration Bill is expected to be heavily contested in parliament and in the courts, setting up a clash over how to deal with the arrivals of small boats ahead of the next election expected next year.

As members of parliament debated the new law in the House of Parliament on Monday, hundreds of people gathered outside to protest against the legislation.

Only in limited circumstances, such as people who were considered too ill to fly or those at a "real risk of serious and irreversible harm", would people be allowed to claim asylum under the proposals.

Some lawmakers said in the debate they were concerned that the legislation that could allow the deportation of families, pregnant women, and torture victims.

Asked if she was satisfied if there was enough provision to protect vulnerable children, Braverman said she was comfortable with the levels of safeguarding.

"Let's be honest, the vast majority of arrivals - 74% in 2021 - were adult males under the age of 40," she said.

"The vast majority were not pregnant women, the vast majority were not young women. All travelled through safe countries like France, in which they could and should have first claimed asylum."

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Alex Richardson)