British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says he will introduce legislation to halt people from remaining in the UK ‘illegally’.
(CMR) Cayman authorities have indicated they are prepared to follow the United Kingdom's lead on the expedited removal of illegal migrants. In a recent declaration, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke of several policy and legislative changes that will halt people from remaining in the UK illegally.
The influx of migrants over the past two years has more than doubled and created a backlog of almost 150,000 asylum cases. As of 20 December, more than 45,000 people had crossed the Channel in small vessels since the start of 2022. This is a 60% increase on the 2021 total and is the highest figure since records began.
A number of measures are being proposed to curtail the flow of migrants including a new agreement with Albania to place more UK Border Force staff in its capital Tirana, and to fast-track the return of failed asylum seekers to the country.
“If you enter the UK illegally you should not be able to remain here,” Sunak told parliament. “Instead, you will be detained and swiftly returned either to your home country or to a safe country where your asylum claim will be considered.”
Whilst the UK is mostly dealing with Albanian refugees and migrants who arrive in English across the Channel in small boats, his sentiments have raised some questions about the harsher policy and what that means for Cayman's current influx of Cuban nationals. One high-level Cayman source indicated that “We will follow the UK's lead.”
Cayman's current policy stems from the 1951 UN Convention on refugees., which the UK signed up for and by extension applies to the Cayman Islands' handling of refugees.
Sunak’s remarks drew criticism from the UN refugee agency, which said in a statement the plans would “undermine the global refugee system at large” and violate international refugee law. Sunak’s approach “would close down access to asylum in the UK for all but a few,” the UNHCR’s assistant high commissioner for protection, Gillian Triggs, said. “This would likely result in refugees having no means to establish their status and place them at risk of forced return to unsafe countries, in breach of the Refugee Convention.”
The government will also deport asylum seekers to Rwanda while their claim is being processed. In mid-December, the high court ruled that it was lawful.
In November, the government signed a £63m deal with France to pay for additional French officers patrolling the Channel and more use of drones.
Cuban nationals are facing a new policy stemming from the USA as well. The United States announced Thursday that migrants from Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua who show up illegally at the US-Mexico border will be turned away. Instead, the US will accept 30,000 migrants each month from these countries, along with Venezuela.
People from these countries who want to immigrate legally will need to have an eligible sponsor in the United States willing to provide financial and other support. Both the migrants and their sponsors will need to pass background checks.
The new measures come as hundreds of migrants from these countries have been turning up in the US. Under the new measures, the deportation procedure will also be expedited.
US President Joe Biden said the policy would encourage Haitians, Cubans, and Venezuelans not to take the perilous journey through Mexico.
“Over the past several years, thousands of people have been fleeing from Central and South America and the Caribbean countries ruled by oppressive dictators, including Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and escaping gang violence, which has the same impact in Haiti,” Biden said.
“Currently, these four countries account for most of the people traveling into Mexico to start a new life by getting to the American border, trying to cross. But instead of safe and orderly processing at the border, we’ve got a patchwork system that simply doesn’t work as it should. We don’t have enough asylum officers or personnel to determine whether people qualify.”
The new lawful pathway is based on the success of a program like the one already in place for Venezuelans, which has reduced the number of undocumented migrants from the South American nation by 90%, according to the Miami Herald. However, critics said the new plan will favor asylum seekers with family connections and financial privilege.