Boris Johnson defends ‘draconian’ plan to electronically tag refugees

Boris Johnson has defended “draconian” Home Office plans to electronically tag asylum seekers arriving in Britian across the Channel on small boats or lorries.

Despite campaginers warning it will see people who have fled conflict treated as “criminals”, the prime minister said it is essential that people could not simply “vanish” after arriving in the UK.

Mr Johnson also insisted the government would press ahead with its contentious policy of deporting some aslyum seekers to Rwanda after ministers were forced to abandon an inaugural flight on Tuesday evening due to a last minute legal case.

The Home Office says the 12 month tagging pilot – which will apply to adults who have traveled to the UK via “unnecessary and dangerous routes” – will test whether such tagging helps maintain regular contact with asylum claims and if it means their claims are progressed more efficacy.

It will also collect data on how many people abscond and if conditions are beached, those seeking asylum may be considered for detention and removal, subject to administrative arrest, or prosecuted,

Those tagged will have to regularly report in person to authorities, may be subject to a curfew or excluded from certain locations, and failure to comply could see them returned to detention or prosecuted.

Defending the plans on Saturday, Mr Johnson said:”This is a very, very generous welcoming country. Quite right too. I am proud of it, but when people come here illegally, when they break the law, it is important that we make that distinction.

“That is what we are doing with our Rwanda policy. That is what we are doing with making sure that asylum seekers can’t just vanish into the rest of the country.”

He spoke after it was revealed the 12-month pilot – branded “draconian and punitive” by critics – had already started on Thursday.

On a visit to Wakefiled – ahead of a crucial by-election – the labor leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the prime minister of “chasing headlines” over the policy.

“What I want is a serious response because nobody wants these journeys across the Channel to be made, these perilous journeys,” he said.

“Everybody want to clamp down on the gangs. That requires grown-up work with the French authorities and upstream work to actually tackle these gangs.

“You don’t do that if you’re a government that is asking the National Crime Agency to make cuts.”

Speaking to reporters at RAF Brize Norton after returning from an unannounced visit to Kyiv, Mr Johnson also said ministers remained confident that the policy of deporting aslyum seekers is lawful.

Earlier this week, the government was forced to abandon the first £500,000 taxpayer-funded flight to Rwanda – just minutes before a scheduled departure – after a handful of migrants were granted a legal repreive.

Around four asylum seekers were due to board the aircraft, but last minute appeals were granted by an out-of-hours European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judge.

Mr Johnson said: “Every single court in this country said that there was no obstacle that they could see. No court in this country ruled the unlawful policy – which was very, very encouraging.

“There was this weird last-minute hiccup we had with Strasbourg. Let’s see where we get with that. I have read some interesting legal commentary about that. But we are very confident in the lawfulness of what we are doing and we are going to pursue the policy.”

On Wednesday, Priti Patel, the home secretary, said officials at the Home Office were already working on plans for the next flight, but the government had declined give any timeframe.

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