LONDON: The UK government is to launch a 12-month pilot scheme that will involve some illegal migrants seeking asylum in the country being electronically tagged to keep track of their movements, it emerged on Saturday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the plans as he said it was essential that people who arrived through dangerous routes on small boats and hidden in lorries could not simply “vanish”.
Documents linked to the UK Home Office proposals suggest that the government wants to obtain data on how frequently asylum seekers abscond.
“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,” Johnson told reporters on his return from Ukraine.
“That is what we are doing with our Rwanda policy. That is what we are doing to make sure that asylum seekers can’t just vanish into the rest of the country,” he said.
The Rwanda policy of flying out some migrants to the east African nation has proved contentious, with the first flight grounded by last-minute injunctions from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) earlier this week.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel labelled the ruling as “absolutely scandalous” and opaque.
“We don’t know who the judges are, we don’t know who the panel are, we haven’t actually had a judgment just a press release and a letter saying we can’t move this person under rule 39,” Patel told The Daily Telegraph’.
The Migration Partnership with Rwanda, announced by Patel in April, intends to give some migrants who cross the English Channel to the UK a one-way ticket to Kigali to claim asylum there instead.
The government has said the scheme, which has come at an initial cost of GBP 120 million, would discourage people traffickers from facilitating dangerous crossings in unsafe boats.
Meanwhile, the Home Office electronic tagging trial began on Thursday in England and Wales to test whether it helps maintain regular contact with asylum claimants and progresses their claims more effectively. It will also collect data on how many people abscond and disappear.
People who have been tagged may be subject to a curfew, and those who fail to comply with their conditions could be taken back to detention or prosecuted.
According to reports, those tagged with such location-tracking devices will not include children or pregnant women.
While Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer accused the government of “chasing headlines”, campaigners criticised the plans as draconian.
“It’s appalling that this government is intent on treating men, women and children who have fled war, bloodshed and persecution as criminals, said Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council.
“This draconian and punitive approach not only shows no compassion for very vulnerable people; it will also do nothing to deter those who are desperately seeking safety in the UK,” he said.