No one can blame the British government for seeking to reduce the flow of migrants crossing the Channel at the risk of their lives. On the other hand, one can worry about the means that it implements. The immigration bill introduced this week in London has been described by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as “tough but necessary”. Hard, obviously: it provides that anyone who arrives illegally on British territory – as long as they are of age and in good health – is sent back to their country of origin or to a third country without being able to defend their right to asylum.
But “necessary” for what? If it were really a question of the safety of the tens of thousands of migrants who reach its territory each year by sea, there would be other solutions: the British authorities could, for example, set up secure routes, air corridors , as they did for Ukrainians and Hong Kong nationals.
This reform clearly contravenes the United Kingdom’s international commitments. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees expressed concern about this on Wednesday March 8. The British Minister for Immigration herself admits that she does not know whether or not her text is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. However, this is not a detail. While any government is obviously free to set its migration policy, this reform constitutes a break with the conception of asylum that has been defended in Europe for several decades. And it is not likely to facilitate Franco-British cooperation, which will be discussed this Friday, March 10, during a summit between the two countries.