Theresa May has delivered a devastating verdict on Rishi Sunak’s proposed Channel migrant laws, insisting they are unlikely to work and will “shut the door” on victims of modern slavery being trafficked to the UK.

The former prime minister raised a string of concerns about the Illegal Migrants Bill during its first debate in the Commons, adding her voice to a number of backbench Tories who have deep misgivings about the legislation.

Mrs May criticised the proposals, warning they would lead to a “blanket dismissal” of anyone facing persecution who finds their way to the UK through illegal means.

“Examples have been given that a young woman fleeing persecution in Iran, for example, would have the door to the UK shut in her face,” she said, before adding: “The UK has always welcomed those who are fleeing persecution, regardless of whether they come from a safe and legal route.”

She also attacked Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s claims that the Government would meet its requirements to asylum seekers by sending them to Rwanda, warning it would harm “the reputation of the UK on the world stage”.

Mrs May said that the legislation was “shutting the door on victims who are being trafficked into slavery here in the UK”.

She added: “The Home Office knows this Bill means genuine victims of modern slavery will be denied support.”

Under the bill, anyone who comes into Britain via illegal means will not have access to the country’s anti-modern slavery laws, which were introduced by Mrs May during her premiership. She warned that the bill would treat victims of modern slavery as “collateral damage”.

The former PM also raised serious doubts that the legislation would succeed in the Prime Minister’s aim to “stop the boats”, insisting that for it to work “a number of things have to fall into place”, including the Government avoiding a successful legal challenge against the new laws.

Under the bill, children and families who arrive on small boats will be detained in immigration centres, reversing a ban introduced by the coalition Government nearly a decade ago.

Her comments came as several senior Tories spoke out against the legislation, with former minister Chris Skidmore stating he would not vote for the ahead of its second reading.

The backbencher, who is standing down at the next general election, tweeted: “I am not prepared to break international law or the human rights conventions that the UK has had a proud history of playing a leading role in establishing.”

It came after former immigration minister Caroline Nokes said she had “absolute horror at the prospect” of the legislation and would not vote for the plans.

Several Conservatives said they intended to seek to amend the bill as it makes its way through the Commons, including Northern Ireland Committee chair Simon Hoare, who said he wanted to ensure safe and legal routes were established alongside the plans to stop the Channel crossings.

As MPs debated the proposals, hundreds of protesters demonstrated against the bill outside the Houses of Parliament.

Making the case for the new legislation, Ms Braverman claimed people crossing the Channel on small boats have “overwhelmed our asylum system”.

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She told the Commons: “The British public know that border security is national security, that illegal migration makes us all less safe. They know that the financial and social costs of uncontrolled and illegal migration are unsustainable. They know if our borders are to mean anything we must control who comes into this country and the terms under which they remain here.”

Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper branded the bill a “traffickers’ charter”, insisting the bill is a “con that makes the chaos worse” and “will lock up children”.

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