Migrants to be turned away at sea with Priti Patel’s new asylum laws


Priti Patel says the Bill cracks down on people smugglers who traffic migrants into the UK (Pictures: PA)

Border forces could be able to turn away migrant boats at sea as part of Priti Patel’s overhaul of UK asylum seeker law.

The Government introduced the Nationality and Borders Bill to Parliament on Tuesday after claiming it would introduce new ‘firm but fair’ immigration laws after Brexit.

It has already been dubbed the ‘anti-refugee bill’ by activists and critics who claim it has not been created in asylum seekers’ best interests.

The UK would need the agreement of other countries, such as France, to be able to drive boats back into foreign waters. 

The bill would also make it a criminal offence for someone to enter the UK knowingly without permission.

How someone enters the UK – legally or ‘illegally’ – would have an impact on how their asylum claim progresses and on their status in the UK if that claim is successful.

Generally, people who make illegal journeys while fleeing danger or persecution can claim asylum in a safe country – although this is generally supposed to be the first safe country they arrive in. 

Those who make an illegal journey could soon face four years behind bars, instead of the current six-month maximum sentence. 

Under the new laws, the UK would also be allowed to send asylum seekers to a ‘safe third country’ or ‘designated places’. 

This could fuel previous claims that the Government is planning to share a processing centre with Denmark in Rwanda. 


A group of migrants on a Border Force boat. Priti Patel's new, post-Brexit asylum-seeker bill could give Border Force the power to turn migrant boats away while still at sea.

There have already been 6,000 Channel crossings in the past six months (Picture: PA)


Border Force escorting migrants in life jackets into Dover. Priti Patel's new, post-Brexit asylum-seeker bill could give Border Force the power to turn migrant boats away while still at sea.

Border Force officers would also be given the power to use ‘reasonable force if necessary’ (Picture: PA)

Ms Patel did not confirm this but replied ‘I’m not ruling anything out’ when questioned.

The Home Office will not comment while negotiations are ongoing but a spokesperson said options are being discussed with other countries. 

If the policy does go forward, it would mean asylum seekers could be sent to a different country while their applications are considered. 

The home secretary says she wants to deter people from making the trip by giving border officers the right to use ‘reasonable force if necessary’. 

The Government says it also wants to prevent ‘asylum shopping’ by creating tougher punishments for those who do not claim asylum in the first safe country they reach. 

In a bid to clamp down on trafficking, the bill looks to increase the maximum sentence for people smugglers from 14 years to life in jail. 

The number of people crossing the Channel to seek asylum has been increasing annually. 

Last year a record number of people – 8,417 – arrived in Dover while this year has seen 6,000 arrivals in the first six months. 

The Government has just published its #AntiRefugeeBill.

This extreme and nasty Bill tears up the Refugee Convention. It aims to keep refugees out, not keep them safe.

70 years after signing the Refugee Convention, the UK is pulling up the drawbridge.https://t.co/DDDpsuw3Z7

— Refugee Action 🧡 (@RefugeeAction) July 6, 2021

Charity Refugee Action has slammed the bill, saying: ‘This extreme and nasty Bill tears up the Refugee Convention. It aims to keep refugees out, not keep them safe.

‘70 years after signing the Refugee Convention, the UK is pulling up the drawbridge.’

Ms Patel, who has long promised to fix the UK’s ‘broken asylum system’, wrote in a Daily Mail column: ‘The way to stop illegal migration is to stop the trade in people and reform our broken asylum system.

‘Access to the UK’s asylum system should be based on need, not the ability to pay people smugglers.’

She claims ‘not all crossings are families with young children’ and some are ‘economic migrants trying to game our system’. 

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

For more stories like this, check our news page.



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