Minister Struggles To Explain How Iranian Woman Fleeing Persecution Could Seek Asylum

"I think you’re answering a different question Mr Tugendhat," Mishal Husain told him.
Tom Tudendhat
Tom Tudendhat
Sky News

Tom Tugendhat became the latest minister who has struggled to explain how someone fleeing persecution could seek asylum in the UK.

The security minister was repeatedly asked how an Iranian woman could find a “safe and legal” route to Britain.

It comes after the government’s controversial asylum proposal to stop small boat crossings cleared its first Commons hurdle, despite dozens of Tory MPs refusing to vote for it.

The Illegal Migration Bill aims to stop people claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive through unauthorised means, deporting them and banning them from returning.

Former prime minister Theresa May pulled apart the plan on Monday evening, saying a young woman fleeing persecution in Iran would “have the door to the UK shut in her face”.

However, on Radio 4′s Today programme this morning, Tugendhat initially swerved the question over how they could reach the UK and was accused by presenter Mishal Husain of answering a “different question”.

He follows other ministers who have struggled to answer the question over safe and legal routes - including the home secretary Suella Braverman.

Science secretary Michelle Donelan was similarly skewered when she was asked to highlight any legal routes into the UK.

Tugendhat was asked what safe and legal route an Iranian women’s rights activist could use to get to the UK.

The senior Tory started talking about recent conversations Rishi Sunak had with French president Emmanuel Macron and trafficking.

However, Husain interrupted him saying: “I think you’re answering a different question Mr Tugendhat. Is there a safe and legal route for that women’s activist in fear of her life in Iran who has family members here?”

Tugendhat replied: “The reality is Mishal, there are safe and legal routes for many people in different ways.”

Husain asked again: “What’s her safe and legal route?”

Tugendhat said there are “many different ways” in which there are safe legal routes, adding: “The United Nation’s bodies that are in different countries offer that safe and legal route from different states and UN agencies that are operating in places like Turkey and Lebanon have often supported that safe and legal route in different ways.”

Husain told him: “Not in Iran, have they? That person, that scenario I’ve given to you, I don’t think she has a safe and legal route to access the asylum system in the UK.”

Tugendhat told Husain that the UK’s diplomatic relations with Iran are: “At best difficult, which is a polite way of putting ‘extremely hostile’.”

Husain told him that when Iranians get to the UK they are often granted asylum because of those circumstances.

Pressed again, Tugendhat replied: “If an Iranian woman were able to come to the United Kingdom - and some do - and claim asylum then that would be respected.”

Husain told him: “They would come on a boat now, wouldn’t they? Whereas if that happens in the future, they couldn’t access the asylum system. They’d be detained and deported to Rwanda.”

Tugendhat then suggested some come to the UK to rejoin their families on family visas and then claim asylum when they are here.

“I’m afraid it’s not simply by boats and the reality is that what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to end this appalling suffering that we’re seeing around the world,” he added.

It comes after former PM May warned modern slavery victims will be “collateral damage” and have the door shut on them by the government’s controversial asylum system reforms.

The Conservative MP also insisted anybody who believes the new proposals will deal with “illegal migration once and for all is wrong”.

May expressed concerns about the “blanket dismissal” of anyone facing persecution who finds their way to the UK albeit not through legal ways.

She said: “Examples have been given that a young woman fleeing persecution in Iran, for example, would have the door to the UK shut in her face.

“The UK has always welcomed those who are fleeing persecution regardless of whether they come through a safe and legal route. By definition someone fleeing for their life will more often than not be unable to access a legal route.

“I don’t think it’s enough to say we will meet our requirements by sending people to claim asylum in Rwanda. This matters because of the reputation of the UK on the world stage and that matters because the UK’s ability to play a role internationally is based on our reputation – not because we’re British, but because of what we stand for and what we do.”

Asked about May’s comments, prime minister Sunak said: “You know, I’m confident that our bill represents the best way to grip this problem.

“I’ve also always been clear that there is no overnight easy one simple solution to what is a complicated problem. It will take lots of different interventions.”


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