UK plan for tougher asylum-seeker rules draws criticism

FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021 file photo Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel speaks during a media briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic in Downing Street, London. The British government has announced plans to toughen immigration rules to make it harder for people who arrive by unauthorized routes such as small boats and truck stowaways to be given asylum. Home Secretary Priti Patel said Wednesday, March 24, 2021 that asylum seekers who come to Britain through organized, sponsored routes, will have their refugee claims considered promptly. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021 file photo Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel speaks during a media briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic in Downing Street, London. The British government has announced plans to toughen immigration rules to make it harder for people who arrive by unauthorized routes such as small boats and truck stowaways to be given asylum. Home Secretary Priti Patel said Wednesday, March 24, 2021 that asylum seekers who come to Britain through organized, sponsored routes, will have their refugee claims considered promptly. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

LONDON – The British government said Wednesday it will toughen immigration rules to make it harder for people who arrive by unauthorized routes such as small boats and truck stowaways to be given asylum.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said asylum-seekers who come to Britain through organized, sponsored routes, will have their refugee claims considered promptly and will be given support to settle. Those who sneak into the country will only be given temporary permission to stay, will receive limited benefits and will be “regularly reassessed for removal from the U.K.”

Patel said the system would be “fair but firm.”

“People are dying at sea, in lorries and in shipping containers,” she said. “To stop the deaths we must stop the trade in people that cause them.”

Refugee groups and immigration lawyers say the plan unfairly discriminates against refugees based on the way they got to the U.K.

“The proposals effectively create an unfair two-tiered system, whereby someone’s case and the support they receive is judged on how they entered the country and not on their need for protection,” said Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross. “This is inhumane.”

But Patel said the changes are needed to stop illegal people-smuggling rings, and will make the system fairer because it won’t give an advantage to those who can pay for their passage.

“What is inhumane is allowing people to be smuggled through illegal migration, and that is what we want to stop,” she told the BBC. “We will create safe and legal routes to enable people to come to the United Kingdom in a safe way."