Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday defended his government’s plans to electronically tag asylum seekers crossing the English Channel in a new year-long pilot program that has received widespread condemnation from refugee and human rights groups.
Under the new guidelines, those traveling to Britain on what the government calls “unnecessary and dangerous routes” would be fitted with a GPS tag and required to report regularly to authorities. Some people may also be subject to curfews and exclusion from certain locations, the guidelines say.
Those who fail to comply with this risk detention and prosecution.
Mr Johnson, who spoke to reporters at a British air base on Saturday after returning from an unannounced visit to Ukraine, defended the monitoring as a way to keep people in the country within the migration system, saying the plans would ensure that “asylum seekers don’t just disappear into the rest of the country.” He added that he was “proud” of Britain’s track record in taking in refugees.
Refugee organizations and human rights lawyers have strongly condemned the new monitoring measures, saying they are treating people seeking safe harbors like criminals. They have also warned that the oversight and regulations could have potentially devastating effects on people who have already endured abuse.
“It is appalling that this government wants to treat as criminals men, women and children who have fled war, bloodshed and persecution,” said Enver Solomon, the director of the Refugee Council, a UK-based organization that works with refugees. and asylum seekers. seekers.
“Not only does this draconian and punitive approach show no compassion for very vulnerable people, it will do nothing to deter those desperate for security in the UK,” he said.
The guidelines require case workers to consider a range of factors when deciding whether an individual should be electronically tagged, including whether a claim of torture has been accepted by the UK Home Office.
But the guidance goes on to say that such a factor “in itself does not prohibit the imposition of such a condition,” adding, “it may still be appropriate to maintain electronic monitoring due to other relevant factors.”
People designated for screening will be tagged when released on bail and released, officials said.
The possible tracing of people who have survived torture or other government abuse has infuriated some refugee lawyers in particular.
“The amount of suffering that can be inflicted on someone who has survived torture or is mentally ill far outweighs the very minimal benefits to the government,” said Sue Willman, a human rights lawyer and the chair of The Guardian’s Human Rights Committee. Law Society, a British legal group. “The person is effectively monitored 24/7 – while they are on the toilet, while they are in bed.”
She called the measure “completely disproportionate” in its damage, citing a recent government figure that “only 1 percent of people released on bail actually go into hiding”.
The prime minister said on Saturday he was confident his government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was legal, despite a European court order, a decision that Johnson described as a “weird last-minute hiccup”. British Home Secretary Priti Patel accused the court of being politically motivated.
The Interior Ministry declined to provide the exact number of asylum seekers who have been assigned electronic tags so far. A spokesman said the 130 people at one point at risk of being on the Rwanda flight could fall “in the scope” of the program.
“The government is not deterred as we make plans for the next flight to Rwanda,” the spokesman said in a statement. “We will keep as many people in custody as the law allows, but if a court orders that a person who will be on the run be released on Tuesday, we will tag them where necessary.”
The number of people crossing the English Channel – the busiest shipping route in the world – to reach Britain this year has passed 11,000 this year, according to an analysis of government data from the Press Association. That is more than double compared to the same period last year.
On the same day that the scheduled flight to Rwanda was grounded, 444 people made the crossing, the most since April.
The United Nations refugee agency, citing data from the British government, said this month that “a clear majority” of people arriving in Britain by small boat should be considered refugees fleeing war and persecution. However, the British government has repeatedly referred to them as ‘migrants’, a claim the UN agency says is inconsistent with the government’s own data.
More than 28,000 people crossed the Channel in small boats last year, according to the British government. At least 44 people died or went missing in the attempt.
In November, a dinghy traveling from France to Britain capsized, killing 27 people on board. It was the deadliest incident in the English Channel since the International Organization for Migration first began collecting data in 2014.