Small boat pilots crossing Channel with migrants to face life in prison, says Home Office

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People caught piloting small boats that carry migrants across the Channel could face life in prison under new laws.

The Nationality and Borders Act came into force today, introducing tougher penalties for those who smuggle migrants into the UK.

The legislation also increases the maximum penalty for illegally entering the UK or overstaying a visa, rising from six months in prison to four years.

And it will enable the government to deport foreign national offenders up to 12 months before the end of their prison sentences.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was “one of the most crucial milestones in delivering on our promise to the British public to take back control of our borders”.

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It comes as the number of migrants crossing the Channel so far this year reached 12,312 – compared to 5,654 by this time in 2021 and 2,449 in 2020.

The government continues to defend its scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda in an attempt to deter people from making the crossing, despite the first flight being cancelled after a last minute order from the European Court of Human Rights.

Ms Patel has said the government would “not be deterred from doing the right thing [and] we will not be put off by the inevitable last-minute legal challenges”.

But opposition parties and charities – reportedly even Prince Charles – have claimed the policy is inhumane.

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Migrants are continuing to arrive in the UK despite the government’s Rwanda policy.

The Nationality and Borders Act passed in April, despite rebellions from the Conservative’s own benches and harsh criticism from opposition MPs.

Other measures included in the law coming into force today include cutting the permission to stay of migrants from five years to 30 months if they don’t adhere to specific Home Office rules, and new powers for immigration officers to search containers taken off ships and aircrafts.

But further new rules will be implemented over the coming months and into next year, the Home Office said.

Ms Patel added: “While there is no single solution to the global migration crisis, these reforms which come into effect today play a vital role in overhauling the broken asylum system.”

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