PRITI PATEL’S immigration and asylum plans fail to bring about urgent reforms needed, campaigners warned today as proposals for a new digital visa system were announced.
In a virtual speech today, the Home Secretary vowed to fix Britain’s “broken” immigration system with a series of sweeping changes, including the full digitisation of border controls within four years.
Under the plans, all visitors to this country who do not have a visa or valid immigration status will be required to obtain an electronic permit before travelling, similar to the US Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme.
Ms Patel said this would make the border more secure, with automatic checks allowing the government to “count people in and count people out” of the country.
“We will have a far clearer picture of who is here and whether they should be and we will act if they are not,” she told an online conference organised by right-wing think tank Bright Blue.
However, immigration rights campaigners criticised the plans.
Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigration campaigns director Minnie Rahman said: “The plans announced in Patel’s speech today are an attack on what it means to care for each other and do nothing to bring about the urgent reforms to our immigration system that we so desperately need.
“Instead of announcing affordable routes to residency, which would help migrants live secure and settled lives, Patel has laid out plans for more temporary work visas, leaving more people vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation if they lose their jobs or can’t pay extortionate visa fees.”
Ms Patel refused to specify how much the electronic permit would cost prospective travellers or give any further details.
She also claimed that the changes would reduce ways of entering the country illegally to crack down on people-smugglers.
As part of the shake-up, refugees who use “illegal routes” will be barred from ever acquiring permanent residence in Britain.
The United Nations refugee agency has strongly criticised the proposals, warning that they could breach international law.
“Today’s plans also roll back our commitment to the refugee convention and make the asylum system more dangerous, denying people safe routes and pushing them into the hands of people-smugglers,” Ms Rahman continued.
“It’s time the government stopped trying to turn us against migrants and people seeking safety here and granted people protection, the right to work and the chance to put down roots.”