India to be added to U.K. safe states list, ruling out asylum rights for illegal migrants from the country

Other countries deemed safe by the UK include Albania and Switzerland, as well as the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) states.

November 09, 2023 04:03 pm | Updated 05:56 pm IST - London

Britain’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman. File

Britain’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman. File | Photo Credit: Reuters

The UK government has tabled plans to add India to an expanded list of safe states, which would speed up the process of returning Indians who travel from the country illegally and rule out their chance of seeking asylum in Britain.

Draft legislation laid in the House of Commons on November 8 includes India and Georgia as the countries to be added to the list. The UK Home Office said the move is aimed at strengthening the country's immigration system and help prevent abuse by people making unfounded protection claims.

“We must stop people making dangerous and illegal journeys to the UK from fundamentally safe countries,” said U.K. Home Secretary Suella Braverman.

“Expanding this list will allow us to more swiftly remove people with no right to be here and sends a clear message that if you come here illegally, you cannot stay. We remain committed to delivering the measures in our Illegal Migration Act, which will play a part in the fight against illegal migration,” she said.

The move is in line with measures to meet British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats” of migrants landing on the country's shores illegally after making precarious journeys across the English Channel. The Home Office said that Indian and Georgian small boat arrivals have increased over the last year, despite individuals from these countries not being at obvious risk of persecution.

"Deeming these countries safe will mean that if an individual arrives illegally from either one, we will not admit their claim to the UK asylum system,” the Home Office said.

Other countries deemed safe by the UK include Albania and Switzerland, as well as the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) states. A country can only be added to the UK's safe states list – known legislatively as Section 80AA – if the Home Secretary is satisfied that there is, in general, no serious risk of persecution of its nationals, and; removal of nationals to that country cannot go against the UK’s obligations under the Human Rights Convention.

"The Home Office has rigorously assessed India and Georgia and determined that both meet these criteria,” the Home Office noted.

The proposal will now undergo parliamentary scrutiny in the usual way via debates in both Houses of Parliament before it comes into force. The latest measures fall within the Illegal Migration Act 2023, which aims to "stop the boats" by changing the law so that people who come to the UK illegally can be detained and then swiftly returned to a safe third country or their home country. Further measures, including the legal duty to remove, will be rolled out in the coming months.

The Home Office said the government remains determined to stop the boats and deter people from making dangerous journeys to the UK. The Illegal Migration Act is described as an important part of the government’s effort to break the cycle, end exploitation by gangs and prevent further loss of life.

"This issue is being tackled on all fronts, including working upstream with international partners, clamping down on the criminal gangs with stepped-up enforcement, and working with the French to prevent more crossings,” the Home Office said.

The draft legislation adding India and Georgia to the Section 80AA list will be made pursuant to the UK’s Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, after the ability to do so was put in place through the Illegal Migration Act 2023.

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