The Nationality and Borders Bill, to be tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, will create new offenses for arriving in the UK “without a valid entry permit”, and will target human traffickers with penalties for help with illegal immigration.
The change is intended to help authorities prosecute migrants who attempt to get to Britain on small boats across the Channel and are intercepted by border force officers.
Ministers fear that the current offense of “entering” the country without authorization technically covers migrants intercepted in UK territorial waters and brought ashore by border forces.
The new offense will carry a maximum prison sentence of four years, while the maximum penalty for facilitating illegal entry will be increased from 14 years to life imprisonment.
Priti Patel said the bill contained “vital steps to fix the UK’s broken asylum system”, adding: “Our new immigration plan is fair but firm. We will welcome people through safe and legal channels while preventing abuse of the system, cracking down on illegal entry and associated crime. “
Asylum seekers will need more proof they face persecution
The legislation should also increase the “standard of proof” required for asylum seekers to show that they face persecution in their country of origin and to avoid deportation.
Currently, immigration officials must believe that there is a “reasonable degree of probability” that a claimant has “a well-founded fear of persecution”.
The Telegraph understands that Ms Patel will raise the threshold so that officials are instead required to make a “balance of probabilities” decision.
The wording change actually means that it should be more likely than not that a claimant will be persecuted if he returns to his country of origin.
The guidelines issued in 2015 to the authorities stated that “the standard of proof necessary to establish the material facts is relatively low – a reasonable degree of probability … because of what is potentially at stake – the life or liberty of the individual – and because asylum seekers are unlikely to be able to compile and take evidence files out of the country of persecution.
He adds: “The ‘reasonable degree of probability’ is much lower than the criminal standard ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’, and it is lower than the civil standard ‘the balance of probabilities’ (that is, “More likely than not”). “
A Home Office source said the clause targeting migrants arriving on small boats “expands” the current offense of entering the UK without valid authorization, “to include arrival, as well as entry into the UK. This will allow the prosecution of individuals intercepted in UK territorial seas and brought to the UK who arrive but do not technically enter the UK.
Last week it also emerged that the bill would also include a provision to create an offshore immigration processing center for asylum seekers.
Separately, The Telegraph revealed that the Home Office had ordered a major overhaul of the Border Force amid growing frustration over the failure to stem the flow of illegal migrants from the Channel.
The two directors general of Border Force and Immigration Enforcement are leaving their posts and will be replaced by a single supremo responsible for slowing down crossings and overhauling the “broken” British asylum system.
Consultants have also reportedly been hired to investigate a merger of the two Interior Ministry directorates as the government seeks to regain the initiative after a doubling of illegal migrant crossings this year and failure to deport them to “safe” third countries.