Britain will deploy the Royal Navy to patrol the canal and intercept vessels en route from the French coast, Johnson said. Smugglers convicted of piloting the craft risk life in prison.
Under the plan, which requires parliamentary approval, most migrants crossing the canal illegally would be considered unacceptable to seek asylum in the UK because their travels would have taken them through safe countries where they could have lodged a asylum application.
Johnson suggested that “tens of thousands” of such migrants could be sent to Rwanda, where they would either apply for asylum or refugee status – or be returned to their home countries.
He called the African nation “one of the safest countries in the world, globally recognized for its record in receiving and integrating migrants.”
Migration strife intensifies between Britain and France following deaths in the English Channel
British officials said the policy would be to send all unacceptable adults – men and women – to Rwanda. They said they would not send children or unaccompanied minors, nor would they break up families with children. Those considered to have viable asylum applications can stay in the UK to pursue their cases.
“It’s a striking fact that about 7 out of 10 of those who arrived in small boats last year were men under 40 who paid human traffickers to jump in line and took up our capacity to help real women and child refugees,” he said. said Johnson.
“This is particularly perverse, as those who try to cross do not directly flee from imminent danger, as the intended purpose of our asylum system is,” he said. “They have passed through obviously safe countries, including many in Europe, where they could – and should – have sought asylum.”
British Home Secretary Priti Patel traveled to Rwanda on Thursday to sign a $ 160 million deal in aid to the country.
The plan, which is part of a new bill on nationality and borders, must first pass parliament, where Johnson’s Conservative party has a large majority.
The opposition Labor Party called the proposal “impractical, unethical and blackmailing.” Advocacy groups warned that the measures could violate human rights.
Johnson admitted that there would likely be legal challenges trying to block the implementation of the plan. He denied that the measures were “draconian or lacking in compassion.”
Johnson said it was far worse to let people drown in the canal. He condemned human traffickers for their role.
“These disgusting human traffickers are abusing the vulnerable and turning the canal into a watery cemetery where men, women and children drown in unsustainable boats and suffocate in refrigerated trucks,” he said.
Johnson predicted the plan would soon be adopted as “an international model.”
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He said it was intended to “break the business model” for the smugglers, who could earn $ 400,000 for each launch of an unseaworthy dinghy.
He said he was sending a message that people crossing illegally “risk not ending up in Britain but in Rwanda.” He described this as “a significant deterrent.”
Some migrants are smuggled into the UK in shipping containers, trucks and trains. In 2019, the bodies of 39 Vietnamese – including two boys and eight women – were found in a refrigerated tractor abandoned by the driver in south-east England.
The canal, surrounded by fast tides and frequent storms, is also one of the busiest sailing routes in the world. In a single incident in November, at least 27 migrants died while trying to cross.
More than 28,500 people were arrested last year as they tried to enter the UK via the canal, up from 8,400 in 2020.
About 600 people crossed Wednesday. Johnson warned that thousands a day could do the experiment in the coming weeks as the weather gets warmer and the ocean calms down.
“I accept that these people – whether they are 600 or 1,000 – are in search of a better life,” he said. “But it is these hopes – these dreams – that have been exploited.”
Johnson stressed that the British people were welcoming and generous, but that illegal immigration placed an unsustainable burden on the country’s schools, health system and welfare state.
“We can not maintain a parallel illegal system,” the prime minister said. “Our compassion may be infinite, but our ability to help people is not.”