Rishi Sunak plan to stop small boats crossings in the English Channel will “push the boundaries”, home secretary Suella Braverman has claimed.
Mr Sunak and Ms Braverman will unveil their plans to detain, remove and ban asylum seekers from re-entry if they arrive in the UK through unauthorised routes on Tuesday.
The home secretary will be placed under a new legal duty to deport people arriving across the Channel, taking precedence over human rights concerns, according to reports.
The ban on asylum claims for those arriving in small boat will make exceptions only for unaccompanied children and those with “grave” illnesses, The Times reported.
The government also has plans to put an annual cap on refugee numbers. And the Home Office is reportedly ready to buy former RAF bases in Lincolnshire and Essex to detain thousands of migrants.
But critics have warned the proposals are “immoral and unworkable”. There are concerns about legal challenges and lack of detention facilities, and the prospect of leaving thousands in limbo by banning them from ever claiming British citizenship.
Senior Tory MP David Davis was among those telling The Independent that he has “doubts” that the new law will succeed in fulfilling Mr Sunak’s promise to “stop the boats”.
Mr Davis said: “Leaving aside any moral concerns, it’s got a lot of real practical problems. If we’re got to lock these people up, then where do they go? Rwanda might take a few thousand – that’s about one month’s arrivals.”
He added: “It’s going to run into trouble with the courts. I’m pretty sure it will be a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, which we helped draw up. It was explicit that you don’t decide anything on the basis of how people arrive.”
Despite plans such as forcibly removing asylum seekers to Rwanda being mired in legal challenges, ministers were expected to push the limits of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) with the new legislation.
Writing in The Telegraph, Ms Braverman said: “We must stop the boats and that’s what our bill will do. No more sticking plasters or shying away from the difficult decisions.
“Myself and the prime minister have been working tirelessly to ensure we have a bill that works – we’ve pushed the boundaries of international law to solve this crisis. If you come here illegally it must be that you cannot stay.”
A duty will be placed on the home secretary to remove “as soon as reasonably practicable” anyone who arrives on a small boat, either to Rwanda or a “safe third country”.
And arrivals will be prevented from claiming asylum while in the UK, with plans also to ban them from returning once removed.
But government sources told The Times they could not say it was “definitely compliant” with international law. No 10 also conceded legal challenges were likely. “We recognise there will likely be challenges in many forms to this sort of legislation,” said the PM’s spokesman.
Mr Sunak spoke to Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame before unveiling his plans, and pledged to continue working with him to ensure their stalled project works.
The government has paid more than £140m to Rwanda but no flights forcibly carrying migrants to the capital of Kigali have taken off because of legal challenges.
The PM will meet France’s President Emmanuel Macron on Friday to discuss further cooperation that will be required to reduce boat crossings.
Mr Sunak claimed that his new bill – which is key to one of his five promises for his premiership – will “take back control of our borders, once and for all”.
Mr Sunak admitted voters “have heard promises before” without seeing results. Writing in The Sun, he said: “This new law will send a clear signal that if you come to this country illegally, you will be swiftly removed.”
The Immigration Services Union representing border staff said the plans are “quite confusing” and do not seem “possible” without the Rwanda policy functioning.
Lucy Moreton, the union’s professional officer, also suggested on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that smuggling gangs will tell people “quick, cross now before anything changes”, risking an increase in the number of crossings.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer raised doubts about the legality and workability of the plans Asked if the plan was legally feasible, the Labour leader said: “I don’t know that it is and I think we’ve got to be very careful with international law here.”
Refugee Council chief executive Enver Solomon said the plans “shatter the UK’s long-standing commitment under the UN Convention to give people a fair hearing regardless of the path they have taken … It’s unworkable, costly and won’t stop the boats.”