Under new legislation proposed by the government this week, anyone who crosses the Channel or otherwise “enters the UK illegally” would automatically be made inadmissible for any claims of asylum or humanitarian protection. Rather, they would be put in a detention centre and slated for swift removal from the country. This would be a considerable change in the functioning of the UK asylum system.

However, the majority of people who arrive in the UK in this way have valid claims for asylum, and we strongly believe that everyone deserves a fair hearing and the welcome and protection that our country can and should provide. The Refugee Convention states that displaced people – most of whom will have undergone unimaginable trauma by the time they reach our shores – have the right to claim asylum. This is not dependent on the route that these desperate people have been forced to take to arrive in the UK. The most recent data published by the Home Office also show that the top five nationalities represented by those arriving across the Channel by small boat (Afghan, Iranian, Syrian, Eritrean and Sudanese) all have high asylum grant rates at over 80%.

Even if these claims were deemed inadmissible under this new proposed legislation, non-refoulement would still apply. This is a core and guiding principle in the Refugee Convention that prohibits States from returning individuals to a country where there is a real risk of being subjected to persecution, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or any other human rights violation. These are exactly the kinds of conditions from which many of our clients have fled in search of safety. And as we have seen with the Rwanda plan which was unveiled last year, deportation can be a slow and difficult process – so far, no one has been sent to Rwanda under this scheme. We are concerned that this additional legislation would leave those who arrive across the Channel in a distressing and interminable limbo, unsure of where they are going and how long it might take to get there.

At Migrant Help we believe that everyone has the right to live a life free of fear, harm, violence and discrimination. We believe the Government should focus on creating safe options for claiming asylum, rather than proposing bills that create further hardship for those escaping wars and persecution.

A recent study has shown that the UK public has among the most positive attitudes to immigration and is one of the most accepting of new arrivals. We therefore urge Rishi Sunak to withdraw this bill and put forward a humane proposal that is more in tune with the expectations of the general public and the proud history of our country in supporting and providing refuge to those who need it most.