As his party set out detailed asylum reform plans, Mr Howard said they would help smash people smuggling gangs.
There would be an annual limit on asylum and all claims would be processed overseas.
Some charities say the plans would put refugees’ lives at risk if they were turned away once quotas were filled.
The Conservatives say there is little risk of this happening as demand for asylum will be considered whether quotas are set.
The Tories proposed a four-step asylum plan:
- Withdrawing from the 1951 United Nations Convention on refugees, which obliges countries to accept people being persecuted on the basis of need, not numbers
- Introduce laws to allow the immediate removal of asylum seekers whose claims were clearly unfounded because they came from safe countries or had destroyed documents
- Detain asylum seekers without documents so people whose identity was not known were not able to move freely around the UK – a worry for “national security”
- Stop considering asylum applications inside the UK and instead take people from United Nations refugee agency camps. Anyone applying for asylum would be taken to new centres close to their countries of origin.