The home secretary has pledged to do “whatever it takes” to deal with the “small boats problem” in the Channel.
Writing a foreword to a report by the centre-right Centre for Policy Studies think tank – which has called for new laws stopping migrants who enter illegally from ever settling in the UK – Suella Braverman said the numbers making the perilous crossing were “wholly unacceptable and unsustainable”.
She added that ministers would “comprehensively tackle the small boats problem”.
Ms Braverman insisted that calling for action on illegal migration was not “xenophobic or anti-immigration” and that she and Rishi Sunak were committed to dealing with the issue.
“The British public are fair-minded, tolerant and generous in spirit. But we are fed up with the continued flouting of our laws and immigration rules to game our asylum system,” she wrote.
“And we’ve had enough of the persistent abuse of human rights laws to thwart the removal of those with no right to be in the UK. This must end.
“Saying so is not xenophobic or anti-immigration. It is the reality acknowledged and felt by the vast majority of the British public. To pretend otherwise is to insult them.”
She added: “The prime minister and I are committed to doing whatever it takes. We are finalising our plan, and we will deliver the operational and legislative changes necessary to comprehensively tackle this problem.”
The Centre for Policy Studies’ report – co-authored by Theresa May’s former adviser Nick Timothy – calls for the overhaul of human rights laws, with the UK “if necessary” withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights, to allow detentions and offshoring the processing of asylum claims.
And it states that ministers should be looking for deals with other countries to supplement the currently stalled plan to deport migrants to Rwanda for processing.
The Home Office declined to comment on a report in The Sunday Times, claiming ministers are working on legislation which could ban asylum seekers who enter by illegal routes from ever settling in the UK.
Mr Timothy said tackling the issue would require a “completely different approach” from government, addressing a series of interconnected public problems.
“If we are to stop the crossings, we will need to take immediate and bold action,” he said. “It is not something that can be fixed through gradual, incremental change.”
The government is under intense pressure from Conservative MPs to get to grips with the issue of people traffickers using small boats to ferry migrants across the Channel.
Downing Street said the Ms Braverman has “made clear” she does not agree with all of the proposals in the Centre For Policy Studies migration report.
Asked if Ms Braverman’s foreword to the report reflected the government’s “direction of travel”, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “I think the home secretary herself made clear she didn’t agree with all the proposals in the report.
“Certainly, it’s true that we recognise the need to go further on this important issue. It’s an issue at the forefront of the public’s mind.
“There is no single overnight solution to what is a global problem. You’ll know we’re taking action in a number of areas, whether that’s the Rwanda partnership, the latest deal with France… but as I’ve said before, there is more work ongoing.”