Priti Patel is under pressure to apologize after being accused of misleading parliament over a central claim regarding her deeply controversial proposals to change immigration laws.

The Home Secretary told MPs the widely criticized citizenship and borders bill would create new safe and legal routes to the UK for asylum seekers, suggesting that the routes The new road will ensure that people no longer need to risk their lives trying to get to the UK.

Transparent a parliamentary debate Last November – held the day after 27 people drowned in the Canal as they tried to cross the sea from France – Patel assured MPs that the bill “really creates safe and legal routes”. France”.

However, the Home Office has now admitted that the proposed law, which is due to be returned to the House of Commons this week, does not in fact have a provision providing government-backed safe routes. for asylum seekers.

A letter dated 5 April from Home Secretary Tom Pursglove to the humanitarian charity MSF UK In direct contradiction to Patel’s claim that safe and legal routes “are not part of the bill”.

Priti Patel signed a migration deal with Rwanda this week.
Priti Patel signed a migration deal with Rwanda this week. Photo: Eugene Uwimana / EPA

Sophie McCann, advocacy officer at MSF UK, said the contradiction shows how the government and home secretary have tried to sell deeply divisive proposals to reform the asylum system: “This is just the latest example of this government being either deeply or secretly misleading about the bill’s terms and effects. ”

She added: “Once again we see the government’s slippery relationship with the truth when it comes to acknowledging the harm it will do to vulnerable people looking for the safety of the UK. ”

The failure to provide safe and legal routes to the UK has resulted in large numbers of asylum seekers risking their lives to cross the Channel in small boats, a scenario that led to the tragedy last November, in which a pregnant woman and three children were among the dead. .

So far this year, more than 5,000 people have made the perilous journey across the Channel in small boats, three times more than this time last year.

Even so, the Interior Department has tried to give the impression that the proposed law provides for safe routes: a “data sheet“It was released last December under the title: ‘The Nationality and Borders Bill: Safe and Legal Routes’.

Although the government has provided some legal avenues to asylum, such as a resettlement program for Afghan citizens, experts say they are not enough. They point out, for example, that this will not protect an Afghan seeking asylum coming to the UK by boat.

There is virtually no safe way for someone fleeing war, persecution or poverty to come to the UK, says McCann. Instead of helping those most in need, the citizenship and border bill would increase the risk of death for those trying to get here.”

However, the bill itself is in trouble after being torn down a second time by the House of Commons, which recently failed the government 10 times over its immigration proposals.

A man holding his little baby
A man and his child disembark in Dover. MSF says there is no safe way for refugees to arrive in the UK. Photo: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Until both the Commons and Lords can agree on the final wording of the bill, it cannot be turned into law; The bill will return to the Commons this week.

But with the current parliamentary session expected to end within weeks, ministers may be forced to make concessions if they want to relax the bill amid an increasingly tight legislative logjam.

“Even at this late stage, we are urging the Department of Home Affairs to reconsider: they must remove the inhumane policies of the border bill and commit to providing safe and secure routes,” McCann said. legal for all those fleeing war and oppression.

Make no mistake, this government knows quite well what the impact of this policy will be – they knowingly and willingly put the refugees through terrible suffering.” The Home Office has admitted that Ukrainians who fled the war in their country to the UK illegally would risk being jailed under the terms of the bill.

When asked to explain Patel’s assertion that safe and legal routes were included in the bill, the Home Office said its “new immigration plan” would strengthen existing routes for refugees, “so that they do not have to put their lives in the hands of smugglers”.

A spokesman added: “The Home Secretary has mentioned this, and to suggest that she misled parliament is false. We will continue to provide refuge to those in need fleeing persecution through our global resettlement program in the UK.

“Additionally, we will be enabling more refugees to enter the UK through community funding.”

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