THE HOME Secretary has announced plans for a wholesale reform of the immigration system, including tougher action on illegal immigrants and a fully digital border. 

Priti Patel said the new digital system, to be brought in in the next five years, would allow officials to "count people in and count people out” of the country, providing a “far clearer picture of who is here, and whether they should be”.

She warned it would allow the government to "act when they are not". 

In a keynote speech at a think tank conference this morning, Ms Patel said: "Those who play by the rules and seek to come to our country legally will encounter a system that is straightforward and fair."

She said the system would work for the “law-abiding majority” and against those who seek to “abuse our hospitality and generous spirit”.

The Home Secretary also launched an American-style Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), which requires visitors to the UK to obtain an electronic permit before travelling. It will be required by anyone without a visa or immigration status, except from Irish citizens, and the UK Government has vowed to have it implemented by the end of 2025. 

Ms Patel said: “So to the question ‘what’s next for immigration?’, the answer is wholescale reform of the system.

“Anything short of that would not be fair, would not keep our country safe, and would not meet the demands of the British people I serve.

“They want a new system that works for the law-abiding majority and against those who hope to abuse our hospitality and generosity.

“One that welcomes those most in need of sanctuary and slams the door on dangerous criminals.

“One that attracts top talent from around the world.

“Our immigration system is broken and we will fix it.”

She vowed to remove the “layers of sticking plaster” she claimed had been placed on the system since the 1970s as she described the “broken system” as “unwieldy”, with its costs having “rocketed to £1 billion this year”.

The plans would cut ways of entering the country illegally to crack down on people smugglers, Ms Patel said, adding: “We are coming after these gangs”, reiterating plans for them to “face the full force of the law” with tougher sentences.

It comes after demonstrations in Glasgow over immigration raids earlier this month, as well as concerns about the conditions some vulnerable asylum seekers were being housed in throughout the pandemic in hotels across the city. 

The Scottish Greens said Ms Patel's plans would not see an end to the practice of dawn raids, and branded them "brutal and inhumane".

HeraldScotland: Patrick Harvie

Patrick Harvie, the party's co-leader, said Scots should be encouraged to "actively resist" the Home Office's measures.

He said: "The people of Glasgow have had enough of the institutionally racist Home Office operating its brutal and inhumane immigration regime in our city.

"As has been shown in recent days they will no longer stand by and watch their vulnerable neighbours cruelly snatched from their homes. 

“The Home Secretary claims this is what the British public voted for. Well it’s certainly not what the Scottish or Glaswegian public voted for.

“Scotland can do so much better. We can build a migration and asylum system that has compassion and respect for human rights at its heart. We must acknowledge the massive privilege it is to be in the position to offer people asylum.

“Until Scotland has the powers to build our own system, we can continue to resist the brutality of the Home Office.

"We must resource our communities, so they are able to actively resist, and support those organisations who are operating on the front line to support asylum seekers, refugees and all migrants in our community."