The British government has presented its plan for a drastically tightened asylum law. “If you come here illegally, you cannot apply for asylum. You cannot make flimsy human rights claims and not stay,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in London on Tuesday.

Before the plans were presented, he wrote in an article in the Sun: “I’m taking control of the British borders once and for all”. His reasoning: “However, those arriving in small boats are not directly fleeing a war-torn country or face imminent death. Instead, they have traveled through safe European countries before crossing the English Channel.”

The British government is under pressure from a record number of migrants arriving via the English Channel. Last year alone, almost 45,000 people crossed the English Channel from France to England illegally – compared to almost 30,000 in 2021.

Now the draft law prohibits migrants who have entered the country illegally from applying for asylum. “We will arrest those who come here illegally and then deport them within weeks,” Sunak said. These people should then either be deported to their home country – provided it is safe – or “to a safe third country like Rwanda”. At the same time, they should be prohibited from re-entering Great Britain in the future.

In addition, according to the plan, the possibility of appealing against a deportation should be restricted. There should also be an upper limit for refugees entering the country legally.

The UN criticized that the project was tantamount to an “asylum ban”. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) called for “more humane solutions” instead of the British plans. “The legislation, if passed, would amount to a ban on asylum – and wipe out the right to refugee protection in the UK for those who arrive irregularly, no matter how sincere and convincing their claims may be,” UNHCR said.

Interior Minister Suella Braverman admitted in an article in the newspaper “Telegraph” that the draft law “stretched the boundaries of international law”. She also told the House of Commons that she could not make a “definitive” statement on whether her bill respected UK human rights law.

Braverman said the UK was in talks with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). “We don’t break the law and no government official has said we break the law,” she told Sky News. “Rather, we have made it very clear that we believe we are complying with all of our international obligations.” Among other things, the minister mentioned the Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Braverman spoke of “compassionate but necessary and fair measures”. “(The migrants) are breaking our laws, they are abusing the generosity of the British people and we must now make sure they are stopped,” said the minister, who belongs to the right-wing Conservative Party.

Human rights groups and the opposition call the project “unfeasible” and accuse the government of making vulnerable refugees into scapegoats. “We are wondering how you can apply for asylum in the UK if you are fleeing persecution or war, if you are fleeing Afghanistan or Syria and fear for your life?” Christina Marriott of the British Red Cross told Sky News.

For years, London has been trying to prevent illegal and often dangerous entry via the English Channel. Under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Britain had signed a controversial deal with East African Rwanda to fly asylum seekers there. This should discourage people from making the English Channel crossing.

The implementation of the agreement with Rwanda had failed so far. A flight with migrants to the East African country planned for June 2022 was canceled at short notice after a ruling by the ECtHR. In December, the London High Court then ruled that the deportations to Rwanda were lawful – but the project is still the subject of appeals.

Additional sources:Rishi Sunak in The Sun, Suella Braverman in The Telegraph, Video of Rishi Sunak’s press conference, UNHCR release.