Home secretary Priti Patel is vowing wholesale reform of the UK’s “broken” immigration system as she unveils plans for a “fully digital border” within five years.
In a keynote speech on Monday, Patel will promise to deliver a system that works for the “law-abiding majority” and against those who seek to “abuse our hospitality and generous spirit”.
She will also launch the US-style Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) which requires visitors to the UK to obtain an electronic permit before travelling.
The Home Office said it would make the border more secure, with automated checks to prevent foreign criminals travelling to the country while enabling the Government to count who is coming in and going out.
ETAs will be required by anyone without a visa or immigration status – although they will not be needed by Irish citizens – with ministers promising the system will be operational by the end of 2025.
In her speech to a conference organised by the Bright Blue and British Future think tanks, Patel will say anything less than “wholesale reform” of the immigration system would not meet the demands of the public.
“They want a new system that works for the law-abiding majority and against those who hope to abuse our hospitality and generous spirit,” she will say, according to an advance extract of her address.
“The immigration system is broken, but this country isn’t. We can’t fix the system overnight, but we will fix it.
“We have to make sure the system reflects the values and wishes of the vast majority of Britons of all colours and creeds. They simply want an approach to immigration that is fair but firm.”
It comes just a day after Patel accused the SNP of “trying to thwart the safety and security of the British public” over its stance on immigration.
She said the party would “much rather have an immigration policy of open borders”.
Speaking to Sky News, Patel said: “When it comes to the nationalists in Scotland they would much rather have an immigration policy of open borders, no checks when it comes to criminals coming to the UK and no border controls.
“The point about our immigration policy – immigration is a reserved matter for the government here (at Westminster) and quite frankly it is pretty clear that when it comes to the nationalists in Scotland they would much rather have an immigration policy of open borders, no checks when it comes to criminals coming to the UK and no border controls, and I think actually her (Sturgeon’s) comments also reflect upon the nationalist position when it comes to removing people that have no legal basis to be in the UK.”
Her comments come after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she fundamentally disagrees with the immigration policy of the Home Office after two men were detained – and then released – by Border Force officials in Glasgow earlier this month.
Two Indian nationals were detained by immigration officials for eight hours on May 13, sparking a large protest on Kenmure Street in Pollokshields, where many Muslim members of the community were celebrating Eid.
Police Scotland said it made an operational decision to release the men back into the community after a large crowd blockaded the enforcement van and chanted, “these are our neighbours, let them go”.
But Patel said: “This is nothing to do with Eid at all. Immigration enforcement were absolutely doing their job in terms of removing people with no legal basis to be in the UK.
“I think it is absolutely sorry, a sorry state of affairs, that we see the nationalists in Scotland basically trying to thwart the safety and security of the British public but also trying to prevent the British government from removing those with no legal basis to be in the United Kingdom.”