A REFUGEE and former adviser to then-foreign secretary William Hague has branded Government plans to tackle the small boats crisis “a race to the bottom”.

Baroness Helic, who fled to the UK from war-torn Bosnia at the age of 23, argued the Illegal Migration Bill represented “an outright ban on asylum” and questioned its morality.

Coordinated global action was needed to end the perilous channel crossings by dealing with the causes that forced people to flee their homes, said the Tory peer, such as conflict.

She was among a large number of peers to criticise the flagship reforms in the House of Lords, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, who branded them “morally unacceptable and politically impractical”.

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The proposed law change, which cleared the Commons last month, aims to ensure those who arrive in the UK without permission will be detained and promptly removed, either to their home country or a third country such as Rwanda.

It also includes provisions that would limit the ability of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to prevent the deportation of asylum seekers.

Critics argue the draft legislation breaks international law and threatens modern slavery protections.

Introducing the Bill at second reading, Home Office minister Lord Murray of Blidworth argued it was a “compassionate response” to the small boats problem.

However, raising her concerns in the upper chamber, Lady Helic, a Conservative peer, said: “I share the minister’s desire to see a fair, safe and controlled immigration and asylum system.

“But I am afraid I do not believe it is likely to be successful in its stated goals or moral at its core.”

She added: “In practice it closes down the UK asylum system.”

Helic said: “Undermining jurisdiction of international courts and ignoring our international legal commitments does not serve our interests.

“The only way to tackle global transnational challenges like immigration is through international law, cooperation and shared responsibility.

“Leading a race to the bottom where we all try to offload our obligations onto the others will not help, bearing in mind 74% of all refugees worldwide are hosted by low and middle income countries with far fewer resources than our nation.

“When the alternative is torture, or death or starvation, then refugees do seek to cross whatever obstacles are placed in front of them.

“If we want to reduce the pressure on our borders then we need to put more energy into diplomacy, international partnership and cooperation to address the conflicts and other root causes forcing people to flee.”

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The peer went on: “I hoped we could take the lessons learned from our compassionate response to Ukraine.

“Instead we face an outright ban on asylum – safe and legal pathways to the United Kingdom for most refugees do not exist.

“We should seek to build an asylum and immigration system based on the rule of law and on dignity. Systems which could be replicated globally.

“The Government should always defend international law which makes us all safer, this includes the right to asylum.

“We should create the long-promised safe routes to refugees, address the asylum backlog so that the decisions are made quickly, firmly but fairly, not arbitrarily, and strengthen international cooperation to reduce the push factors from climate change to insecurity which drive people to make perilous journeys in search of safety.

“That is how we will end the dangerous channel crossings.”