Insiders have told the paper Rishi Sunak prioritizes cracking down on illegal immigration over remaining in the ECHR
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is willing to pull the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights if the continental court that interprets the agreement tries to interfere with his legislative crackdown on illegal immigration, official sources told The Times on Saturday.
The PM's new legislation will prohibit anyone arriving in the UK illegally from claiming asylum there. Set to be unveiled "within weeks," according to The Times' sources, it establishes a process to deport new arrivals in "days or weeks" to their origin country, if considered "safe," or to Rwanda, with whom the UK signed a controversial hosting agreement last year. Previously, the deportation process took "months or years," Sunak told TalkTV last week after unveiling the proposal.
"This bill will go as far as possible within international law," an insider source told The Times, claiming "we are pushing the boundaries of what is legally possible, while staying within the ECHR. And we are confident that when it is tested in the courts, we will win."
However, if the new law passes muster domestically but "is still being held up in Strasbourg," Sunak "will be willing to reconsider whether being part of the ECHR is in the UK's long-term interests," the source explained.
The British High Court upheld the agreement to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda in December after a challenge from the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights grounded a flight full of migrants bound for the African country. Sunak, then vying with other Conservative politicians to replace outgoing PM Boris Johnson, hinted even then that he was willing to pull the UK out of the convention for the sake of keeping migrants out.
The European Court of Human Rights is an international court which adjudicates possible violations of the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. The UK adopted the Convention as law in 1998 with the Human Rights Act.
The forthcoming legislation will also reportedly set up new immigrant detention centers and repeal some of the anti-trafficking protections that are used by 80% of illegal immigrants to claim asylum by falsely presenting themselves as victims, according to The Times, particularly the Modern Slavery Act of 2015, which made it difficult for the UK to deport individuals who claimed to be trafficked.
With 65,000 illegal immigrants expected to enter the UK this year, the issue polls among the top three concerns for voters. The number of migrants illegally crossing the English Channel in small boats has quadrupled over the last two years. However, some NGOs have argued the treatment of asylum-seekers under the new legislation would violate their human rights, while others suggest turning away all illegal immigrants would be "massively impractical."