Priti Patel: Britain must replace ‘broken’ immigration system with ‘firm but fair’ approach

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Priti Patel will say that anything will say anything less than ‘wholesale reform’ of the immigration system would not meet the demands of the public - Jeff Overs/BBC/Reuters
Priti Patel will say that anything will say anything less than ‘wholesale reform’ of the immigration system would not meet the demands of the public - Jeff Overs/BBC/Reuters

Britain's immigration system is too confusing and needs to be replaced with one that is fair but firm, the Home Secretary will say on Monday.

It comes after Priti Patel revealed on Sunday that the immigration legislation and rules were 500 pages long and that the Home Office was in the process of simplifying them.

She said Monday's announcement was based on the "digitalisation of our borders, but also the simplification of our immigration laws".

Ms Patel told Trevor Phillips on Sunday that the digitalisation of borders would enable the department to "upstream checks", which she said was "important in terms of criminality".

She will use her keynote speech at a conference to pledge a wholesale reform of the UK's "broken" immigration system by implementing a "fully digital border" within five years.

She will also launch a US-style Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) which requires visitors to the UK to obtain an electronic permit before travelling.

The Home Office said it would make the border more secure, with automated checks to prevent foreign criminals travelling to the country while enabling the Government to count who is coming in and going out.

ETAs will be required by anyone without a visa or immigration status, although they will not be needed by Irish citizens, with ministers promising that the system will be operational by the end of 2025.

During her speech, Ms Patel will say anything less than "wholesale reform" of the immigration system would not meet the demands of the public.

She will say: "They want a new system that works for the law-abiding majority and against those who hope to abuse our hospitality and generous spirit. The immigration system is broken, but this country isn't. We can't fix the system overnight, but we will fix it."

The Home Secretary will stress that the system will need to reflect "the values and wishes of the vast majority of Britons of all colours and creeds" and will add: "They simply want an approach to immigration that is fair but firm."

It comes after the Government set out plans in the Queen's Speech earlier this month to toughen laws to deny refugee status to any asylum-seekers who have passed through a safe country before reaching the UK.

The proposal was condemned by the United Nations refugee agency and charities who said it would be a betrayal of Britain's historic tradition of providing protection to people fleeing persecution.

On Sunday, Ms Patel defended the plan, saying many asylum-seekers arriving in the UK had been smuggled by people traffickers.

She said: "People that are being smuggled, they should be claiming asylum in the first safe country that they travel through – more often than not these are EU member states – rather than taking the risk of coming to the United Kingdom."

However, Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, said the Conservatives had had 11 years to fix a system that they "broke".

"Clearly people who have no right to be in this country shouldn't be here, but what we have seen from the Home Office is utter incompetence on this," he said.

"What we don't want to see is the Government deflecting blame for their own failure when it's their incompetence, their management and mismanagement of the Home Office that has been the problem."

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