TOP STORIES After outrage, Johnson defends UK plan to electronically monitor...

After outrage, Johnson defends UK plan to electronically monitor refugees

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday defended his government’s plans to electronically tag asylum seekers who cross the English Channel, days after launching a new year-long pilot program that drew widespread condemnation from refugee groups and human rights groups.

Under the new rules, those traveling to the UK on what the government calls “unnecessary and dangerous routes” will be equipped with a GPS tag and will be required to report regularly to authorities. The guidelines say that some people may also be subject to curfews and exclusion from certain places.

Those who fail to comply face arrest and prosecution.

Mr Johnson, speaking to reporters at an RAF base on Saturday after returning from an unannounced visit to Ukraine, defended monitoring as a way to keep people arriving in the country out of the migration system, saying the plans ensure that “asylum seekers can rather than simply dissolve into the rest of the country.” He added that he was “proud” of the UK’s record of accepting refugees.

Refugee organizations and human rights lawyers have strongly condemned the new controls, saying they treat asylum seekers like criminals. They also warned that surveillance and regulations could be potentially devastating for people who have already been abused.

“It is appalling that this government is determined to treat men, women and children who have fled war, bloodshed and persecution like criminals,” said Enver Solomon, executive director of the Refugee Council, a British organization that works with refugees and asylum. seekers.

“This draconian and punitive approach not only does not show any compassion for very vulnerable people, but it will not deter those desperately seeking safety in the UK,” he said.

According to the guidelines, social workers must consider many factors when deciding whether to electronically tag a person, including whether a torture allegation has been accepted by the UK Home Office.

But the guide goes on to say that such a factor “does not in itself prohibit the imposition of such a condition,” adding that “it may still be appropriate to support electronic monitoring due to other relevant factors.”

People under surveillance are tagged when they are released on bail and released from custody, officials said.

The potential tracking of survivors of torture or other government abuse has particularly angered some refugee rights advocates.

“The amount of suffering that can be inflicted on someone who has experienced torture or is mentally ill far exceeds the most minimal benefits for the government,” said Sue Willman, a human rights lawyer and chair of the Human Rights Committee at The New York Times. Law Society, British legal group. “A person is effectively monitored 24/7 – while he is in the toilet, while he is in bed.”

She called the measure “grossly disproportionate” in its harm, citing recent government figures that “only 1 percent of people on bail are actually in hiding.”

The prime minister said on Saturday he was confident his government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was legal despite the European Court’s injunction, a decision Mr Johnson called “an odd last-minute hitch.” “. UK Home Secretary Priti Patel accused the court of being politically motivated.

The Ministry of the Interior declined to release the exact number of asylum seekers who have so far been given electronic tags. The spokesman said the 130 people who at one point risked being on a flight to Rwanda “could be covered” by the program.

“The government will not hold back as we plan the next flight to Rwanda,” the spokesman said in a statement. “We will detain as many people as the law allows, but if the court orders the release of a person due to arrive on a flight on Tuesday, we will tag him where appropriate.”

More than 11,000 people cross the English Channel – the world’s busiest sea route – to reach the UK this year, according to an analysis of government data by the Press Association. This is more than double the figure for the same period last year.

On the same day that a scheduled flight to Rwanda was halted, 444 people flew, the most since April.

The United Nations refugee agency, citing British government figures, said this month that a “clear majority” of people arriving in the UK on small boats should be considered refugees fleeing war and persecution. However, the British government has repeatedly referred to them as “migrants”, a claim that the UN agency says is inconsistent with the government’s own figures.

More than 28,000 people crossed the English Channel in small boats last year, according to the British government. At least 44 people died or went missing during the assassination attempt.

In November, a boat en route from France to the UK capsized, killing 27 people on board. It was the deadliest incident in the English Channel since the International Organization for Migration first began collecting data in 2014.

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