Rishi Sunak’s latest plan to stop small boat crossings has been slammed as “immoral, ineffective and costly”.
Asylum seekers who make the perilous Channel crossing will be removed from Britain and banned from returning or claiming citizenship under new laws.
The plans, set to be unveiled on Tuesday, have already been berated as “another half baked plan” and likened to the failed Rwanda scheme.
“Just like their botched Rwanda asylum scheme, this is immoral, ineffective and incredibly costly for taxpayers while doing nothing to stop small boat crossings,” Lib Dem home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said.
“This is another half baked plan that will punish the victims of human trafficking instead of the evil gangs who profit from these crossings.”
Carmichael stressed that there are currently no “safe and legal” routes for asylum seekers which must be the priority.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer suggested the move was a political tactic ahead of May’s local elections and questioned its legality.
“We had a plan last year which was put up in lights, ‘it’s going to be an election winner’. These bits of legislation always seem to come when we’ve got a local election coming up,” he told LBC Radio.
“It was going to break the gangs – it didn’t. Now we’ve got the next bit of legislation with almost the same billing, I don’t think that putting forward unworkable proposals is going to get us very far.”
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.”
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, 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 to reach our shores”.
He added: “They will simply add more cost and chaos to the system.
“The majority of the men, women and children who cross the Channel do so because they are desperate to escape war, conflict and persecution.”
The charity said figures show that of all those who crossed the Channel last year, two-thirds would be granted asylum.
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, accused the government of presenting “the very same disastrous plan to simply avoid the asylum responsibilities it expects others to take”.
Calling it “disgraceful posturing and scaremongering”, he said the bill “promises nothing but more demonisation and punishment of people fleeing conflict and persecution”.
Labour has set out six questions for the government on the new bill, as it pressed ministers to show how the latest plan is different to the last piece of legislation to tackle illegal migration.
The party said it wants know if the plan will end the backlog in asylum claims while also including “proper return agreements” with France and other countries.
Under the plans, a duty will be placed on the home secretary Suella Braverman to remove “as soon as reasonably practicable” anyone who arrives on a small boat, either to Rwanda or a “safe third country”.
Arrivals will be prevented from claiming asylum while in the UK, with plans also to ban them from returning once removed.
The controversial Rwanda policy was unveiled in April last year, with former prime minister Boris Johnson saying action was needed to stop “vile people smugglers”.
However, no-one has been sent to the African country and thousands have continued to cross the world’s busiest shipping lane in precarious dinghies.
However, even Tory ministers have admitted the policy would only have “marginal benefit” in stopping asylum seekers crossing the Channel.
The latest home office figures show 2,950 migrants have crossed the Channel already this year.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The home secretary has been clear that if you arrive in the UK illegally, you should not be allowed to stay.
“We will shortly introduce legislation which will ensure that people arriving in the UK illegally are detained and promptly returned to their home country or a safe third country.
“Our work with France is also vital to tackling the unacceptable rise in dangerous Channel crossings. We share a determination to tackle this issue together, head-on, to stop the boats.”