Under the Nationality and Borders Bill as introduced into the House of Commons this week, helping an asylum seeker enter the UK will no longer need to be “for gain” to attract criminal liability.

The core of the offence will read as follows: A person commits an offence if— (a) he knowingly facilitates the arrival or attempted arrival in, or the entry or attempted entry into, the United Kingdom of an individual, and (b) he knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the individual is an asylum-seeker.

The maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

This poses a dilemma to RNLI, fishermen, yachtsmen etc. If they see a person in the water, he or she may or may not be an asylum seeker. Only if that person is taken aboard will it be obvious. The Home Office say this does not apply to the RNLI but the wording of the Bill does not specify.

Does the boat (a) pass by on the other side thus breaking International Law and the custom of the sea, (b) chuck the person back in the sea (murder surely), (c) wait for nightfall and hope to land the person without being spotted, or (d) land the person openly and face a heavy prison sentence?

David Smith