Cabinet Minister Seems Unable To Explain Any Legal Asylum Routes Into The UK

"Forgive me but I’m struggling to hear the answer to this question," BBC Breakfast's Sally Nugent pushed.
Sally Nugent and Michelle Donelan on BBC Breakfast
Sally Nugent and Michelle Donelan on BBC Breakfast
BBC Breakfast

Cabinet minister Michelle Donelan was skewered over the government’s plans to cut down on “illegal” asylum routes on Monday when she was asked to highlight any legal routes into the UK instead.

The government will unveil new measures to reduce the number of small boats arriving “illegally” on British shores this week, in an effort to meet one of Rishi Sunak’s priorities as prime minister – “stopping the boats”.

The plans, which are already being heavily criticised by refugee charities, are yet to explain how asylum seekers can arrive in the UK “legally”.

So, BBC Breakfast’s Sally Nugent put this to the technology, science and innovation secretary live on air.

She said: “If you are, for example, Iranian, fearing persecution, what is the legal route to come to this country?”

Donelan replied: “Look, as I’ve said, we will be opening up more safe routes.”

“Where are they?” Nugent responded.

The minister said: “We’ve taken 480,000 people since 2018. We have a record on this in protecting people in cases of need.

“We can’t take everybody, that is a basic principle here.”

She said this week the government was planning to tackle the people who are coming here illegally, and the people smugglers who help them make that journey.

But, Nugent pushed: “Forgive me but I’m struggling to hear the answer to this question: what is the legal route, if you are Iranian, fearing persecution, and want to come to this country?”

The minister just replied: “I’m not going to get into the specifics of country X to country here, what I’ve said is there are safe routes available.”

“If you can’t answer it, how does someone who desperately needs help answer it?” Nugent pointed out.

“Well, look, look, I think that is grossly unfair,” the secretary of state said.

“As you know, I’m not the immigration minister, I’m the science and technology innovation secretary of state, and that isn’t the point here, we are tackling illegal immigration.

“We are going to open up other safe routes, as I’ve said various times on this show today. But we do need to tackle illegal immigration, those boats are not filled with people who desperately need help.

“Many times they’re filled with people who are actually economic migrants and who have also been exploited by criminal gangs who take their money on a very perilous journey.”

Nugent interjected: “So, you don’t know.”

Donelan replied: “I didn’t say I don’t know, I said there are a variety of different routes. I’m not here as an immigration lawyer to go through case by case processes that an individual can follow.”

It’s also not yet clear how the government plans to stop people seeking asylum here, because asylum seekers who come to the UK are entitled to seek protection through the UN’s Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights.


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