The Bishop of Chelmsford has proposed legislation to provide a safe and legal route to the UK for those seeking asylum, as part of attempts to crack down on illegal people smuggling across the Channel in small boats.
Rt Rev Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani introduced a Private Members’ Bill in the House of Lords on Wednesday, which would permit an annual number of humanitarian travel visas to the UK.
The visas would allow people to safely enter the UK where there is a high chance that their asylum claim will be granted. The nationalities currently most likely to travel to the UK on small boats and have their asylum claim granted are Afghan, Syrian, Iranian, Eritrean and Sudanese.
The Bill also proposes that their asylum claim would then be considered in the UK through an accelerated process.
Under the terms of the Asylum Application (Entry to the United Kingdom) Bill, up to 10,000 asylum travel visas would be granted in the first year of its operation with subsequent limits set by the Home Secretary. Nationalities eligible to apply would be named by the Home Secretary.
Bishop Guli said:
“I am pleased to bring forward this Private Members' Bill on the introduction of a Humanitarian Visa Scheme, which will provide a much-needed opportunity to discuss safe routes into the UK for refugees fleeing conflict, persecution and disasters.
“Such a scheme can help to undercut the business model of people smugglers encouraging refugees to take dangerous journeys across the Channel and the Mediterranean, by providing a safe, accessible and controlled route.
“A humanitarian visa scheme is just one of many workable proposals to offer safety, welcome and community to those fleeing danger here in the UK.”
The Bill has had its First Reading today in the House of Lords. It will be timetabled for a Second Reading at a later date to be confirmed.
Earlier this month, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he remained "completely committed to stopping the boats", and was determined to "end the merry-go-round" of legal challenges.
He told MPs that the government was negotiating a new treaty to ensure that anyone entering the UK illegally would be sent to Rwanda. After that policy was ruled unlawful, he said he was prepared to change the law to ensure the policy went ahead.