Theresa May says small boat bill ‘closes the door’ on trafficking victims as Tory backlash builds

Former Prime Minister Theresa May has slammed Rishi Sunak’s crackdown on small boats – and warned that the new asylum law “locks the door on” genuine victims of modern slavery.

The former Tory leader cast doubt on the Prime Minister’s promise to “stop the boats” and said anyone who believed the legislation would “stop illegal migration once and for all is wrong”.

Ms May condemned the “blanket dismissal” of people who are being pursued and who arrive through authorized routes, telling the Commons: “By definition, someone fleeing for their life will most of the time not have access to a legal route.”

Ms May also expressed her concern about real victims of human trafficking, telling MPs that Suella Braverman’s Illegal Migration Bill would “deprive victims of human trafficking and modern slavery of support”.

She added: “As it currently stands we are closing the door on victims being brought into slavery in the UK. The Home Office knows this bill means that real victims of modern slavery will be denied assistance.”

Conservative MPs were due to vote on the illegal migration bill at a second reading on Monday night – but a growing number of backbenchers have made clear their opposition to the current plans.

Caroline Nokes was the first Tory MP to say she could not vote for the plan to detain and deport arrivals from small boats – and said the bill gave her “absolute terror”.

The Chair of the Women and Equality Committee was “deeply concerned” at the prospect of policies “criminalizing children and pregnant women” after it was revealed that children crossing the Channel were being held in immigration centres.

Tory MP Chris Skidmore also said he could not vote for the bill, which violates international law “or the human rights conventions that Britain has a proud history of playing a leading role in establishing”.

Senior Tory MP Simon Hoare said many colleagues would vote for the bill on Monday only on “good faith tonight with the expectation that the bill can be amended”.

The leader of the Northern Ireland Select Committee – from the party’s moderate “One Nation” wing – said changes were needed to provide better protection for children and women who are victims of trafficking.

Former Attorney General Robert Buckland – who said it? The Independent it is “not right” to lock up children – told the House of Commons the law is “not yet in the state it needs to be” and said he hoped it would not be used as a “battering ram” against the European Convention on Human Rights .

Labour’s shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper acknowledged that some Tory MPs were “deeply concerned” by aspects of the bill. “I think it pretty much reflects how far the Conservative Party has fallen.”

Ms Cooper said the bill is a “scam that will make the mess worse” and “will lock up kids”. She added: “It won’t bring everyone back, it actually makes repatriation agreements harder to get. It will not eliminate the asylum backlog, it will mean tens of thousands more people in asylum shelters and hotels.”

Ms Braverman defended the law to prevent people coming across the Channel from “overwhelming our asylum system” – before adding that Britain has generally seen “too much” immigration in recent years.

The Home Secretary said it was “perfectly respectable for a child of immigrants like me” to say “we’ve had too much of this in recent years and to say that uncontrolled and illegal migration is just bad”.

Suella Braverman lashed out at ‘abandoned leftists’ (UK Parliemant/AFP/Getty)

She accused some of her critics of “grotesque insults,” adding, “The worst of them, poisoned by the extreme ideology of identity politics, suggest that a person’s skin color should dictate their political views.”

Ms Braverman claimed her plans had “the support of a majority of the British people”, adding: “I will not be bullied by the Left…

A former Tory minister told The Independent The plan to allow children to be detained was “disgusting” – fearing it would give immigration officers the power to detain minors and open up the possibility of their deportation on deportation flights.

The Refugee Council said the legislation allows unaccompanied children to be deported if their return to their country of origin is deemed safe – an idea downplayed by the Home Secretary.

Ms Braverman said: “Only in certain circumstances, such as for family reunification purposes, will we be expelling unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from the UK”.

She said the focus will be on deporting adult males under 40. “But we must not incentivize smugglers to focus on people with special characteristics by making exceptions for deportation,” she added.

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