The interior minister insisted the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda sends a “clear signal” after Channel crossings hit a new record high.
So far this year, almost 8,000 people have arrived in the UK on small boats from France, more than triple the figure seen during the same period in 2021.
The Interior Ministry said it would inform the first group of migrants this week of its intention to ‘relocate them to Rwanda’, including some who crossed the English Channel, but that the flights were not expected to leave for several months .
Several MPs, including former Prime Minister Theresa May, questioned the legality and effectiveness of the proposals.
Speaking during a visit to the Metropolitan Police Specialist Training Center in Kent on Monday, Priti Patel said the Rwanda deal would “take time” amid a wave of legal challenges.
She added: “On the issue of small boats, that’s exactly why we changed our laws, that’s why we have this partnership with Rwanda, because it sends a clear signal that those who come illegally into our country, they will not have the right to stay in our country, and we will use all the tools and all the legislative measures we have to make sure that we can remove them.
Crossing the Channel illegally to seek asylum was not an offense until the government changed the legal meaning of ‘illegal entry’ in the new Nationality and Borders Act.
The law, which received royal assent last month, means refugees can now be criminalized for traveling to British waters, whether their need for protection is legitimate or not.
Following a string of court cases lost by the government over unlawful conduct on asylum and deportation, ministers have launched a series of attacks on lawyers.
In a further assault, the Home Secretary said: ‘We are seeing various obstacles and barriers, mainly from specialist law firms who want to block the removal of individuals who have no right to be in our country. It’s part of the techniques they use.
Ms Patel accused law firms of stopping deportations “day after day”, including foreign offenders.
“The Nationality and Borders Act will give us greater powers and means through changes in the legislation to deport people who have no legal right to be in our country,” she said. added.
It came days after the prime minister claimed ‘liberal lawyers’ would try to sabotage the deal – after Downing Street said flights to Rwanda may not start for months. A legal body has warned of the “real world consequences” of the government’s repeated targeting of the legal profession.
A man is due to stand trial later this year, accused of plotting to kill an immigration lawyer during an attempted terror attack on a London law firm.
The Law Society, which represents lawyers in England and Wales, said they “serve the rule of law and hold the government to account”.
Protesters interrupt Priti Patel’s speech to protest Rwanda plan
President Stephanie Boyce said: “Anyone at risk of receiving such an upsetting order has the right to challenge its legality with the assistance of a lawyer, who has a duty to advise their client of their rights.
“It is misleading and dangerous for the Prime Minister to call in lawyers who are doing their job and upholding the law.”
The Bar Council, which represents lawyers in England and Wales, said the government’s own factsheet on the Rwanda deal said “anyone considered for resettlement will have access to legal advice “.
Chairman Mark Fenhalls QC added: “It is unclear who will make these decisions, or what criteria they will apply. But, as the government recognizes, lawyers who provide legal advice in such cases will fulfill their professional obligations. Attacks on men and women simply for doing their job are irresponsible and undermine the rule of law.
The UN Refugee Agency has vigorously opposed the deal with Rwanda, saying it “evades international obligations and is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention”.
Legal action by groups Care4Calais, Detention Action and the civil service union PCS – which represents Border Force and Home Office staff – began last week.
Pre-action letter disputes Home Office failure to disclose criteria for asylum seekers to be sent to Rwanda, argues plans are illegal and violate Convention on refugees.
Separately, the charity Freedom From Torture has demanded disclosure of the underlying policy documents and said it may launch an application for judicial review.
He was looking for information on policy, risk assessments and documents related to cooperation between the governments of the UK and Rwanda.
Additional reports per AP