Plans to impose tougher jail terms on foreign nationals who breach deportation orders risk punishing trafficking victims and those whose valid asylum claims have been improperly rejected, an immigration lawyer fears.
While a leading immigration detention charity believes a policy to “significantly increase” the six-month maximum sentence for foreign offenders who return to the UK after being ordered to leave will have not the intended deterrent effect.
The government unveiled 26 new and returning bills on Monday (14 October), in a Queen’s speech that was heavily dominated by post-Brexit planning and law and order reforms.
Human rights barrister Raggi Kotak, who specialises in immigration, told EachOther: “My concern is about the impact on those that may be re-entering the UK in breach of a deportation order because they have a valid asylum claim that has not been properly considered.
“Or those that are trafficked into the UK in breach of an order.”
Raggi Kotak. Image Credit: One Pump Court.
“It’s not a simple as: ‘they are criminals and they are desperate to come back to the UK,'” she said, describing situations in which children are trafficked to the UK, convicted of minor offences and deported to their home countries only to be rediscovered by their traffickers and brought back to the UK against their will.”
She added: “Due to legal aid cuts, there is a real shortage of legal advice at a reasonable quality. Vulnerable people may not have received the help they need to pursue their claims.”
‘People Will Not Be Deterred’
Image Credit: Pixabay.
Ahead of the Queen’s speech, Home Secretary Priti Patel claimed the UK has been “a soft touch on foreign criminal for too long”.
She said: “The sentence for breaching a deportation order is far too low at the moment and many criminals conclude that it’s worth trying to get back in the country when all you get is a slap on the wrist.”
The maximum sentence for those who flout such orders does not yet appear to have been specified, but a minimum term of at least two years could be imposed, according to the Daily Express.
Pierre Mahklouf, assistant director of charity Bail for Immigration Detainees, told EachOther: “There is little doubt people served with deportation orders or others intending to enter the UK unlawfully will not be deterred by policies such as this given their willingness to sacrifice so much more, even risking their lives to come to the UK.”
“We normally do not see people breaching deportation orders by attempting to re-enter the UK except for a few who do so out of desperation so as to be reunited with their families who live in the UK.”
He said those breaching order are often “willing to endure a long period in prison if it gives them the chance of seeing members of their family.”
“The impact may in fact be to increase the numbers of people who will avoid making any contact at all with the immigration authorities,” he added.