Yorkshire MPs Yvette Cooper and Paul Blomfield demand more details from Priti Patel of 'safe, legal' routes for asylum seekers
The Home Office announced today that "for the first time" whether "people enter the UK legally or illegally will have an impact on how their asylum claim progresses, and on their status in the UK if that claim is successful".
Ms Patel’s New Plan for Immigration, detailing how the Government intends to deal with people entering the UK “illegally”, will mean people who enter the UK via another ‘safe’ country such as France will no longer have automatic access to the asylum system.
People who arrive in the UK illegally will no longer have the same entitlements as those who arrive legally under the Home Office plans, leading charities to criticise the changes for judging claimants on how they arrived and not just on merit.
Earlier Ms Patel defended the proposals from accusations that they were "inhumane" as she confirmed the UK will look at sending migrants overseas for processing.
Telling MP that she was tackling "the challenge of illegal immigration, head on", she described her plan as "fair but firm".
She said: "Because while people are dying, we have a responsibility to act. People are dying - at sea, in lorries and in shipping containers - having put their lives in the hands of criminal gangs that facilitate illegal journeys to the UK. To stop the deaths, we must stop the trade in people that cause them."
In the Commons West Yorkshire MP Yvette Cooper who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, asked the Conservative Minister what the replacement would be for previous "safe, legal" routes which no longer exist.
The Dublin III Regulation, which provided a legal route for reuniting separated asylum-seeking family members in the UK, ended after the UK left the European Union.
And the Dubs scheme, another Home Office initiative offering sanctuary to lone minors in Europe, also ended last year.
Ms Cooper, Labour MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, told the Commons that the charity Safe Passage has reported "increasingly long waits for child and teen refugees in camps in Greece and elsewhere to be able to reunite with family in the UK who could care for them" since the two schemes ended.
She said: "Ministers promised us they would put in place safe and legal routes in replacement, but they haven't done so and things are not working. So talking about safe, legal routes isn't good enough if they don't materialise in practice.
"Does the Home Secretary not accept that, especially when it comes to vulnerable children and teenagers, lack of safe legal routes to rejoin family will drive more of them into the arms of dangerous people traffickers and to make the situation much worse."
Ms Patel said that it was predominantly single men being trafficked into the UK but said she agreed about the importance of "safe and legal routes" for children.
She added: "The Government is absolutely committed, as the record shows, to resettle children and committed to family reunion rights. And we are doing that, we are committed to that, but through safe and legal routes, we need to create new routes, not just from the camps in Greece.
"She will know as well and I've been to many myself within regions, regions where there are wars taking place and conflict. We need to create safe and legal rules, not just from the Mediterranean because too many people being smuggled into that Mediterranean route, we need to do much more in-country and in some of those terrible zones, and I hope that she would actually support this work on that exit."
Later Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield, said the Government's announcement was "cynical" and "built on the availability of safe and legal routes". He said: "This morning, the Home Secretary claimed, and I quote, 'we have safe and legal routes and we have a program called the Syrian refugee resettlement scheme'.
"But she will know that the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme actually finished at the end of February, as its quota was filled. And there are no details of how the new UK resettlement scheme will work.
"Could the Home Secretary, tell us how many people it will take, explain how it will operates and outline, for example, the process available to a refugee, for what is currently the world's worst conflict in Yemen?"
The Minister said she was in discussion with agencies about safe and legal routes.
Conservative former minister Tim Loughton said: "On safe and legal routes, will (Ms Patel) give me the assurance that the successor to Dublin will be at least as generous as Dublin and the relative that it covers, that it will be much more speedy in the processes to get people here who are deemed to have a place in the UK as soon as possible and will she consider a Dubs 2 scheme which was so successful in rescuing genuine endangered children from danger spots around the world because it worked so well?"
Ms Patel responded: "I'd be more than happy to meet with (Mr Loughton) to discuss this further. We need to get this right in terms of safeguarding children and there is no one-size-fits-all here at all and not only that, we need to learn the lessons of previous schemes as well and learn how we can strengthen some of the aspects around resettlement for example."