The British government vowed on Sunday to stop people entering the country illegally and fix its “fundamentally broken” asylum system.
Addressing the Conservative Party annual conference, Home Secretary Priti Patel said a new British points-based immigration system will stop the abuse of the rules, and hasten the removal of those who have “no legitimate claim for protection.”
Patel said that a “firm” and “fair” asylum system should protect the vulnerable and “provide safe haven to those fleeing persecution, oppression or tyranny.”
“But, ours doesn’t,” she said.
Patel said those in genuine need are “stuck” awaiting asylum decisions in a “broken system” that costs the taxpayer over a billion pounds ($1.3 billion) a year.
Taking the Country ‘For a Ride’
While “elbowing the most vulnerable to the side,” she said, the current asylum system allows those who have entered the country via an international criminal trade to “take the country for a ride” and make “endless legal claims … at the expense of the British public.”
The time is long overdue, she said, for the government to be able to control who enters Britain.
“For the first time in decades, the British government will determine who comes in and out of our country,” she said.
“We will welcome people based on the skills they have to offer and the contribution they can make.”
The government’s stance on immigration has met with criticism from the left.
Opposition Labour Party immigration spokesman Nick Thomas-Symonds said the Conservatives were “devoid of compassion and competence” on immigration.
Patel, however, spoke out strongly against critics from the left and also against lawyers who defend illegal immigrants.
‘Grand Theories about Human Rights’
“No doubt those who are well-rehearsed in how to play and profit from the broken system will lecture us on their grand theories about human rights. And yet, they seem to care little about the rights of the most vulnerable who are fleeing persecution, oppression, and tyranny,” she said.
“Do not let them [the Labour Party] peddle a false narrative that Conservatives do not have a proud history of providing a safe haven to those most in need. …
“As for those defending the broken system—the traffickers, the do-gooders, the leftie lawyers, the Labour Party—they are defending the indefensible,” she added.
Patel said the British asylum system would take time to overhaul but in the meantime, “operational” measures to combat illegal immigration would continue apace.
“We will continue to hunt down the criminal gangs who traffic people into our country,” she said. “I will continue to use the full force of our outstanding National Crime Agency and intelligence agencies to go after them.”
“We will make more immediate returns of those who come here illegally and break our rules, every single week,” Patel added.
Migrants have long used northern France as a launching point to reach Britain by stowing away in trucks or on ferries. Many appear to have turned to small boats organized by smugglers during the CCP virus pandemic because virus restrictions have reduced vehicle traffic between France and Britain.
Patel’s speech follows reports in recent weeks that the government considered ideas including building a wave machine in the Channel to deter boats and processing asylum-seekers on Ascension Island, a remote volcanic island more than 4,000 miles from Britain.
The government dismissed some of the more far-fetched claims, but Patel said she would “explore all practical measures and options to deter illegal migration.”
The new British points-based immigration system, which aims to “attract the brightest and best talent” to the country and benefit the British economy, is due to start in January next year following the end of freedom of movement with the European Union due to Brexit.
Irish citizens can currently freely enter and live in Britain and will be able to continue to do so.
The Conservative Party annual conference, which ends on Oct. 6, is a virtual rather than an in-person conference due to restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.
The Associated Press contributed to this report