We’re set to be the illegal immigrant capital of Europe

Two inflatable dinghies carrying migrants across the English Channel
Two inflatable dinghies carrying migrants across the English Channel - Chris J Ratcliffe/Reuters

Of all the booby prizes contained in the Labour Party manifesto (aside from crippling tax rises, larger class sizes, and net-zero mania), there is one big lie. It is the biggest fib in British politics right now. If Conservative supporters feel disappointed today, they will very swiftly be left betrayed when the new Labour government plays this trick. Sir Keir Starmer has promised to stop the boats by “smashing” criminal gangs. Do not believe the con.

Having served as attorney general and home secretary, I’ve seen up close how complex this is. As a barrister, before I was an MP, I used to defend the then home secretary in court on asylum and immigration cases. This experience has brought me to the view that the only way to stop the boats is to leave the European Convention on Human Rights.

That is how we lawfully restrict the rights of illegal migrants to claim asylum (many are economic migrants and “fleeing” a safe country, France) and relocate them to Rwanda where they can be resettled in a safe and humane way. Deterring people from coming to the UK is how we break the model of the people-smuggling gangs. That’s why the concept of the Rwanda scheme is the right one.

But back to Labour. Of course, Sir Keir goes nowhere near the solution I’ve set out above. Instead, he offers smoke and mirrors.

His proposed method of stopping illegal arrivals consists of scrapping the Rwanda scheme (so removing the only deterrent), setting up a new “cross-border police unit” to get real-time intelligence with partners in Europe (replicating the very thing I set up but with a different name), clearing the asylum backlog (for which, read “amnesty”), and helping poorer countries to prevent people leaving them in the first place (because billions of pounds in international aid over the years has been so successful in solving the global migration crisis).

To zero in on just one of those issues – the effective amnesty – Labour could start considering Rwanda migrants for asylum within weeks of taking power as it attempts to achieve its superficial “ambition” of ending the use of hotels in a year. As The Telegraph reported this week, the party is investigating using discretionary powers to switch up to 90,000 migrants earmarked for Rwanda flights into the asylum system. It would be a gift to the people-smugglers, who may then promise asylum to more victims.

This is a dangerous game. Those who want to stop the boats should know that Labour will not fix this problem. The party’s proposed solutions are ineffective, superficial and demonstrate a profound unwillingness to grapple with the problem.

Sir Keir offers little to nothing when it comes to tackling the merry-go-round of legal claims and appeals that illegal migrants use to prolong their stay in the UK. He has almost nothing to say about how too many activist lawyers aid and abet illegal migrants to game the system. Nowhere is there robust thinking about the complexities of our asylum system or how to deal with hundreds of millions of people on the move from the developing South to the West. This is tinkering, tweaking and fantasy, at best.

Or rather, it is paying lip service to the millions of Britons who are infuriated by the sight of thousands of people crossing illegally into our country.

The Labour leader must be thinking, “Quick, let’s find some stuff that looks tough on this, and then we can forget about it.” After all, it was Sir Keir who said that a racist undercurrent permeates all immigration law, and signed a letter to stop the removal of foreign criminals.

So don’t delude yourself. If you’re angry with the Conservatives, I understand. But don’t vote Labour expecting the boats to stop.

Very quickly after July 4, the summer will enter full swing and it will be open season for illegal migrants on the Channel.

The gangs will explode, the adverts encouraging migrants to get on a dinghy to the UK will go crazy, and we will again become the number one destination for millions of illegal arrivals. The numbers we saw last year will look minuscule compared to what awaits us under Labour.

I appreciate the choice is not easy for many people. But you have been warned: Labour will not stop the boats.


Rt Hon Suella Braverman is a former home secretary

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