A BBC journalist has accused Suella Braverman of keeping the media “in the dark” about her controversial new plans to try and deport asylum seekers who reach the UK through unauthorised means.
The home secretary told MPs on Tuesday legislation will be introduced which means migrants will be detained and “swiftly removed”.
People crossing the Channel will not be able to claim asylum in the UK, will face a lifetime ban on returning and will never be allowed to settle in the country or gain citizenship.
Campaigners have already described the plan as “unworkable” and Braverman has also conceded it may be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
BBC News home and legal correspondent Dominic Casciani said that despite weeks of “robust dialogue” with the Home Office about assisting reporters better, there had been no briefings to explain the new bill and they were “still in the dark".
For weeks Home Affairs specialists from the national media have had a robust dialogue (ahem) with the Home Office about how we believe it is not assisting professional reporters to properly inform audiences of its policies. As of now, we're still in the dark about this bill https://t.co/ovAnrlFw1T
— Dominic Casciani (@BBCDomC) March 7, 2023
He tweeted: “Briefings allow a Whitehall department to get facts out to all reporters equally, in time for clear and accurate reporting of a new plan. It gives the reporters time to absorb the full context and consider how best to report it and what any opposition amounts to.
Casciani added: “Today there is no official briefing (as of yet) from the Home Office on a plan that they know is controversial. Parts of it have been briefed out to selected newspapers – including complex legal points that reporters would want to ask about.”
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper branded the bill a “con” and described the plans as “Groundhog Day” less than a year after reforms were brought into force under the Nationality and Borders Act.
The opposition party pressed ministers to show how the latest plan was different to the last piece of legislation to tackle illegal migration.
The UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, said it is “profoundly concerned” by the bill and that, if passed, it will amount to an “asylum ban”, making it a “clear breach of the Refugee Convention”.
“We urge the government, and all MPs and peers, to reconsider the bill and instead pursue more humane and practical policy solutions,” the agency said.
In a letter to MPs and peers, Braverman conceded it was more than likely the bill does not meet ECHR obligations.
She wrote: “This does not mean that the provisions in the bill are incompatible with the convention rights, only that there is a more (than) 50% chance that they may not be.”
During a a press conference following the launch of new legislation, prime minister Sunak said “we don’t believe it is necessary to leave the ECHR” but did not rule out the move.