Life sentences for people smugglers won't work, refugee action group warns

Reports that Home Secretary Priti Patel is considering life sentences for traffickers have been criticised, saying they will not do anything to curb the numbers of people trying to reach the UK.

04/03/21

Life sentences for people smugglers won't work, refugee action group warns

Refugee groups have condemned reports that the Government is considering introducing life sentences for those smuggling people, saying stricter sentences will not work.

The Home Office said ministers would set out further details in the coming weeks about plans to extend the maximum sentence for people smuggling offences from the current 14 years to a life sentence.

However, the Kent Refugee Action Network said that the new measures would not act as a deterrent, and could actually have detrimental effects.

“I think this is another one of Patel's ideas that sounds tough but never amounts to anything. But what I would say to her is: 'okay, what then?’” Bridget Chapman from Kent Refugee Action Network told KentOnline.

"We could have stricter sentences for trafficking but people will still come and we'll end up with a greater prison population. We need to find a different way of looking at this as people aren't going to stop coming.”

“Contrary to popular belief, they're not huge numbers and they are numbers that we can deal with, we need to work out a way of doing it fairly so that people can apply for asylum from outside of the UK.

“I think something that people don't understand is there is no way to apply for asylum in the UK from outside of the UK, you have to physically be present in the country to apply for asylum.

"So people end up taking journeys across the channel in boats or hiding away in lorries, and that clearly is not ideal for us or for them.

"And if there was a way of people making that application from outside the UK, that would stop the people smugglers business overnight and would essentially solve the problem of people trafficking and I think that's something that we all want to do.”

Chapman’s comments come after Nigel Farage was criticized by the Home Office Twitter account for an “incorrect” Tweet posted by the Reform UK leader.

Farage was censured after he claimed “One migrant boat with 12 on board and they all tested positive for the virus.”

Within hours the Home Office refuted the claim, saying none of the people referred to by Farage had tested positive.

“This is incorrect. None of these 12 people tested positive for Covid-19. All adults who arrived today have been tested for Covid-19,” the Government department’s Twitter account responded, in an unusual move.

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