Boris Johnson defends the British plan for electronic surveillance of refugees

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday defended his brief plans to electronically mark asylum seekers crossing the English Channel, days into a new, long-running pilot program that has drawn widespread condemnation from refugee and human rights groups.

According to the new guidelines, those traveling to the UK on what the government calls “unnecessary and dangerous routes” will be equipped with a GPS label and will have to report regularly to the authorities. Some people may also be subject to curfew and exclusion from certain places, the guidelines said.

Those who do not meet the requirements will risk being detained and prosecuted.

Mr. Speaking to reporters at a British air base on Saturday after returning from an unannounced visit to Ukraine, Johnson defended the surveillance as a way to detain people arriving in the country’s migration system, saying the plans would ensure “asylum seekers can’t just disappear in the rest of the country. ” He added that he was “proud” of Britain’s achievements in accepting refugees.

Refugee organizations and human rights lawyers have strongly condemned the new surveillance measures, saying they treat asylum seekers criminals. They also warned that surveillance and rules could have potentially devastating effects on people who have already suffered abuse.

“It is appalling that this government intends to treat men, women and children who have fled war, bloodshed and persecution as criminals,” said Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, a UK-based organization working with refugees and asylum. search engines.

“Not only does this draconian and punitive approach show no compassion for many vulnerable people, but it will do nothing to deter those who are desperate for security in the UK,” he said.

According to the guidelines, case officers have to take into account a number of factors when deciding whether a person should be marked electronically, including whether the request for torture has been accepted by the UK Home Office.

However, the guidelines say that such a factor “does not in itself preclude the imposition of such a condition”, adding that “it may still be appropriate to maintain electronic monitoring due to other relevant factors”.

People destined to be monitored are labeled when released on bail and released from custody, officials said.

The potential tracking of people who have survived torture or other government abuses has outraged some refugee advocates.

“The amount of suffering that can be inflicted on someone who has experienced torture or is mentally ill far outweighs the minimum benefits to the government,” said Sue Willman, a human rights lawyer and chair of The Human Rights Committee. . Society, British legal group. “The face is effectively examined 24/7 – while in the toilet, while in bed.”

She called the measure “completely disproportionate” to the damage, citing a recent government figure that “only 1% of people released on bail are actually fleeing”.

The prime minister said on Saturday that he was confident his plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was legal despite a European Court order, the ruling said. Johnson described it as a “strange last-minute hiccup.” Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel has accused the court of being politically motivated.

The interior ministry has refused to provide the exact number of asylum seekers who have so far been given electronic labels. A spokesman said the 130 people who at one point were at risk of being on a flight with Rwanda “could be within range” of the program.

“The government will not be deterred 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 when the court orders the release of a man who is due to fly on Tuesday, we will mark them when appropriate.

The number of people crossing the English Channel – the busiest shipping line in the world – to reach Britain this year has exceeded 11,000, according to an analysis by government data from the Press Association. This is more than twice as much as the same period last year.

The same day that the planned flight to Rwanda was suspended, 444 people crossed, most since April.

The UN refugee agency, citing data from the British government, said this month that a “clear majority” of people arriving in Britain in small boats should be considered refugees fleeing war and persecution. However, the British government has repeatedly called them “migrants”, a statement which, according to the UN agency, does not agree with its own data.

Last year, more than 28,000 people crossed the English Channel in small boats, according to the British government. At least 44 people died or disappeared during the experiment.

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

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