Britain’s Secretary of State for the Home Department Priti Patel speaks during a parliament session at the House of Commons in London, Britain March 15, 2021. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS
Priti Patel will on Monday promise “wholesale reform” of the UK immigration system, which she says is “broken”.
In a keynote speech, the home secretary will confirm plans for a new “digital border” that will require all visitors to Britain to fill out more forms and possibly pay extra fees.
She will claim that the new US-style Electronic Travel Authorisation will make the border more secure by automatically checking for criminals from other countries and allowing more accurate statistics.
The home secretary, who was last week pictured observing immigration enforcement officers at work, will also flesh out plans to deny refugee status to any asylum seekers who have passed through a safe country before reaching the UK.
The idea, included in the Queen’s Speech, was condemned by the United Nations refugee agency and by charities, who say it breaches Britain’s historic obligations.
Labour pointed out that the Conservatives had been in power for 11 years and created the existing system they said did not work.
In her speech to a conference organised by think tanks Bright Blue and British Future, Ms Patel will claim public support for major changes.
“They want a new system that works for the law-abiding majority and against those who hope to abuse our hospitality and generous spirit,” she will say, according to pre-released extracts of her speech briefed out in advance.
“The immigration system is broken, but this country isn’t. We can’t fix the system overnight, but we will fix it.
“We have to make sure the system reflects the values and wishes of the vast majority of Britons of all colours and creeds. They simply want an approach to immigration that is fair but firm.”
Speaking to broadcasters ahead of the speech, on Sunday she defended her plan to make life more difficult for refugees, telling Sky News:
“People that are being smuggled, they should be claiming asylum in the first safe country that they travel through – more often than not these are EU member states – rather than taking the risk of coming to the United Kingdom.”
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the Conservatives have been in power for a decade so were responsible for any broken system.
“Clearly people who have no right to be in this country shouldn’t be here, but what we have seen from the Home Office is utter incompetence on this,” he told Sky News on Sunday.
“What we don’t want to see is the government deflecting blame for their own failure when it’s their incompetence, their management and mismanagement of the Home Office that has been the problem.”