Here’s why leaving the ECHR won’t stop the boats before the next election

Some 3,500 migrants are waiting to cross the Channel in small boats, the Daily Express can reveal.

Aid charities in Northern France have declared there are “four times as many” asylum seekers living in makeshift camps near Calais and Dunkirk compared to last year.

This number is expected to increase as the Winter weather prevents migrants from crossing the English Channel.

And the UK used a Europe-wide summit on smuggling today to warn that the gangs operating in Northern France are becoming “increasingly violent”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is still considering how to ensure his Rwanda plan is legally watertight following reports Government lawyers warned that attempting to opt out of international rights treaties could delay flights.

The Government had considered the deportation scheme a central element of their plan to tackle the Channel migrant crisis.

The Daily Express understands Home Secretary James Cleverly is fearful that leaving the ECHR will hit attempts to stop the boats as European partners, like France, would be furious and joint projects already preventing migrants from reaching Britain would be at risk.

And there is rising concern that quitting the ECHR would take six months, with the UK legally-bound to Strasbourg’s rules during that period.

Some fear this would hinder efforts to stop the boats before the next General Election.

But as the rows continue in Westminster, left-wing charity Care4Calais warned donors: “Temperatures are set to plummet in the next few days. With more storms threatening rain, thousands of refugees who have just had their shelters destroyed are battling the elements in thin T-shirts and soaking shoes.

“As the bad weather stops people moving on from Calais, the number of refugees in the region is rising steadily. Right now there are around 3,500 cold and wet refugees in Calais and Dunkirk facing the winter without proper clothing or shelter. That’s four times as many as last winter.”

The Government has said crossings have fallen by a third this year.

Some 28,500 migrants have reached the UK by small boat.

Some claim the Government has been lucky with the weather effectively making crossings impossible.

But this has been strenuously denied – with sources pointing towards renewed efforts across Europe this year to get a grip on illegal migration.

And the European Union on Tuesday agreed to take a tougher stance on people smugglers.

The UK’s representative at the meeting, Julian Braithwaite, is understood to have told the summit: “We will only succeed against the smugglers if we work together along the route, as countries of origin, transit and destination.

“Nearly 50,000 migrants crossed the English Channel last year. But we know this was just the last leg of a journey exploited by smugglers at every stage.”

Declaring the UK is “proud” to join Europe’s “Call for Action”, Mr Braithwaite added that the UK wanted to thank the French Government for their efforts on the beaches of Northern France.

He said the UK wanted to “pay tribute to our partners. In particular France, for the bravery and commitment of their Gendarmerie in tackling the increasingly violent smuggling gangs operating across the English Channel”.

Brussels wants to create a “global alliance to tackle migrant smuggling”.

The UK confirmed it supports the EU’s plans.

The Government still hopes the first flights carrying asylum seekers to Rwanda will take off by the spring.

Home Secretary James Cleverly has described the deportation scheme as “incredibly important”, while Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said it will be a “critical deterrent”.

Mr Sunak has been urged, including by sacked home secretary Suella Braverman, to adopt tough legislation that includes “notwithstanding” clauses that can prevent judges from applying protections in the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to asylum cases.

But the Government has received advice from its lawyers that says instructing the courts to ignore the ECHR risks opening up more avenues for migrants to challenge the legality of deportation flights, on the basis that it would not meet human rights obligations.

A Government source said: “If we take the Supreme Court’s ruling at face value and play a straight bat, that will be the quickest way of getting flights off the ground, instead of starting a big fight that may invite more challenges.”

The legal advice from Government lawyers is said to have been discussed at a meeting on Saturday between the Prime Minister, Home Secretary James Cleverly, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk and Attorney General Victoria Prentis.

Asked if disapplying the ECHR had been ruled out of the Rwanda legislation, Mr Sunak’s spokesman said: “No … there are policy discussions ongoing about how we meet that objective [to stop the boats]”.

The No 10 official said a range of ideas were “still being discussed”.

Senior Tory Sir Robert Buckland has warned against any moves to disapply the ECHR – and said the Rwanda plan was not the “be all and end all”.

“It seems to me that unless the government does more, unless Rwanda does more, to satisfy everybody that it’s a safe country then we will continue to struggle with the problems that we saw up to and including the Supreme Court judgement.”

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