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Refugee Rights: International Law

Volume 700: debated on Thursday 16 September 2021

8. What recent assessment she has made of the compatibility of the Government’s proposals on asylum with (a) the UN’s convention on the status of refugees and (b) the rule of law. (903466)

Any request for my advice is subject to the Law Officers’ convention, but I must make it clear that the UK prides itself on its leadership within the international system and discharges its international obligations in good faith. We have a proud history of providing protection to those who need it, in accordance with our international obligations. The Home Office’s new plan for immigration is based on fairness, and the Government stand by our moral and legal obligations to help innocent civilians fleeing cruelty from all over the world.

Speaking in the House on Tuesday of the Home Secretary’s plan literally to push back migrant children and their parents arriving by boats in the channel, the now former Justice Secretary, the right hon. and learned Member for South Swindon (Robert Buckland), said that these actions would not even

“come close to breaking international law”—[Official Report, 14 September 2021; Vol. 700, c. 799.]

Given the number of leading UK legal experts with no axe to grind who say the absolute opposite, can the Attorney General at least reassure the House that she has not advised the Home Secretary that pushback plans would be either legal or moral?

The Government are committed to addressing the unacceptable rise in dangerous and unnecessary small boat crossings, and are continuing to explore all options available to bring the numbers down. Our primary focus is on preventing people from entering the channel, tackling the criminal gangs responsible and protecting lives. As part of the Home Office’s ongoing operational response, it will continue to evaluate and test a range of safe and legal options for stopping small boats.