Boris Johnson and Priti Patel are reportedly backing a forthcoming bill attempting to force Rishi Sunak to ignore rulings from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda.
The Asylum Seekers (Removal to Safe Countries) Bill is to be introduced by Tory MP Jonathan Gullis on Wednesday. Mr Gullis wrote in The Daily Telegraph that the legislation “will ensure that Parliament, not unaccountable foreign judges in Europe, have the final say”.
According to the paper, former prime minister Mr Johnson and former home secretary Ms Patel will back the legislation.
The report adds that the bill’s other “co-sponsors” include Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nadine Dorries, Tim Loughton and “six other MPs”.
In practice, there is little prospect of the bill becoming law but it once again throws a spotlight on the issue.
It comes after the Prime Minister on Tuesday pledged to “abolish” the backlog of asylum claims by the end of 2023.
The pledge was called into question after officials admitted only a portion of applications would be cleared.
Labour claimed Rishi Sunak’s vow was “already falling apart” amid confusion over the scale of his ambition.
Among a raft of new measures unveiled to curb Channel crossings, he told MPs “we expect to abolish the backlog of initial asylum decisions by the end of next year” after hiring more caseworkers and overhauling the system for processing applications.
But within hours Downing Street appeared to downgrade the target, insisting the Prime Minister had only committed to clearing the backlog of claims made before June.
The latest published Home Office figures show in the year to September there were more than 143,000 asylum seekers waiting for a decision on their claims, with nearly 100,000 waiting more than six months.
Facing questions from MPs, Mr Sunak told the Commons: “Our plan is to clear the initial asylum backlog by the end of next year. It’s about 117,000 currently on published statistics.”
Later, his official spokesman told reporters the Prime Minister was committing only to getting rid of clearing a backlog of 92,601 initial asylum claims made before June, when the Nationality and Borders Act came into force.
More than 44,000 people have crossed the Channel to the UK this year, Government figures show.
Parliament will set an “annual quota” of the number of asylum seekers and refugees allowed to come to the UK and new laws will be introduced next year to make it “unambiguously clear that if you enter the UK illegally, you should not be able to remain here”, Mr Sunak said, adding that he will also restart flights to send migrants to Rwanda.
He insisted this was the “fair way to address this global challenge”, warning: “Tackling this problem will not be quick. It will not be easy. But it is the right thing to do.”
Human rights campaigners branded the plans “deeply disturbing” and accused the Government of treating asylum seekers like criminals.