[Just a reminder that it is within international law to seek asylum]
12 September 2023: From :Home Office and The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP: New Illegal Migration Act measures and age dispute assessment tests
Next steps set out for delivery of new laws to stop the boats.
A series of measures to strengthen the immigration system and prevent abuse are being introduced to Parliament this week, marking the next step in the delivery of the Illegal Migration Act 2023 and our plan to stop the boats.
Legislation signed on 11 September includes changes to strengthen the asylum decision making process to clamp down on abuse of the system. This will see updated criteria for caseworkers assessing credibility of claims by explicitly setting out that factors such as the destruction of, or failure to produce an identity document, as well as refusal to disclose information required to access an electronic device like a phone passcode when asked, should be considered when assessing claims.
Following the government’s commitment to clamp down on illegal migration in order to help more people through safe and legal routes, the regulations will also confirm the launch of a consultation in October with local authorities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as organisations within the sector to look at the UK’s capacity to accommodate and support those arriving through these routes. In January, a report will be laid before Parliament which will set out what is meant by safe and legal routes, detailing our existing and any proposed additional routes, and how they can be accessed by those most in need.
The measures will also clarify that the Home Secretary, rather than the courts, will determine what constitutes a reasonable time period to detain a person for immigration purposes. This includes when they are being removed from the UK. This will strengthen our response to illegal migration, by ensuring that, when detainees challenge the length of their detention as unreasonable, the courts must take the Home Secretary’s view into account.
Separately, secondary legislation laid by the Ministry of Justice this week will, once approved by Parliament, authorise the use of x-rays in scientific age assessments, paving the way for the Home Office to improve their ability to effectively determine the age of illegal entrants making disputed claims to be children. Age assessment is an important process to help prevent asylum seeking adults posing as children as a way of accessing support they are not entitled to, and allow genuine children to access age-appropriate services.
Legislation will then be laid by the Home Office, taking forward powers under the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, which will specify that x-rays of teeth and bones of the hands and wrists and MRIs of knees and collar bones can be used as part of the age assessment process.
This step will mean that – once approved by Parliament and implemented – decision makers will be able to take into account the refusal of a person claiming to be an unaccompanied child to be tested by these specified methods without good reason as damaging to their credibility when assessing their age. This statutory instrument forms part of the legal framework which will allow for the policy and operational development of this new approach, with rollout expected in 2024. These methods are widely used across Europe in many countries including Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, said:
Implementing the measures within our landmark Illegal Migration Act marks a crucial step forwards in our fight against illegal migration.
Scientific age assessments are also vital to weed out adults who exploit the system and present serious safeguarding risks. It is only right that the credibility of those who pose as unaccompanied children and refuse to be scientifically age assessed is questioned and held against them as part of the decision making process.
The use of MRI and x-rays are in line with the recommendations made by the Age Estimation Scientific Advisory Committee (AESAC) in their report published in January 2023. The committee provides advice to the Home Office on the use of existing and emerging scientific methods of age assessment, and the ethical considerations and best practice associated with them. The changes come as statistics show that between 2016 and June 2023 there were 11,275 asylum cases where age was disputed and subsequently resolved, of which almost half (49% – 5551 individuals) were found to be adults.
Many of those arriving in the UK who claim to be children do not have clear evidence, such as a passport, to back this up, making it difficult to assess their age. An example includes a man who crossed the Channel and claimed to be 16 years old. Immigration officers carried out an initial age assessment and deemed him to be 21 years old. He was dispersed to a hotel and referred to a local authority by his solicitor. Following a full assessment by the local authority, it transpired that he had claimed asylum and lived in another European country for five years and was 26 years old.
These changes will take a robust approach to deter adults from claiming to be children to prevent any delay to their removal when the duty to remove, under the Illegal Migration Act, applies and minimise the safeguarding issues which arise if a child is inadvertently treated as an adult, and equally if an adult is wrongly assessed as a child and placed in accommodation with younger children to whom they could present a risk.
The Illegal Migration Act will stop the boats by changing the law so that people who come to the UK illegally can be detained and then swiftly returned to a safe third country or their home country. Further measures, including the duty to remove, will be rolled out in the coming months.
The government remains determined to stop the boats and deter people from making dangerous journeys to the UK. The act is one important part of our collective effort to break the cycle, end exploitation by gangs and prevent further loss of life. We are tackling this issue on all fronts – including working upstream with international partners, clamping down on the criminal gangs with stepped-up enforcement, and working with the French to prevent more crossings.
5 September 2023: Hansard: Illegal Migration Update: Volume 737: debated on Tuesday 5 September 2023
Robert Jenrick : That is a very important question. We have not done an amnesty—that is what the last Labour Government did when they had a backlog of asylum decisions. We have chosen to do good, old-fashioned management reforms to make this service more productive and deliver for the taxpayer. We have also taken on this issue in respect both of countries with high grant rates, such as Afghanistan, and of those with low grant rates, such as Albania, and we have rapidly got through those cases. There are a number of nationalities—Egypt, Turkey, India—where grant rates should be very low indeed because there are very few circumstances in which somebody should be successfully claiming asylum in this country. We want to ensure that our asylum grant rates are no higher than those of comparable European countries.
Shame on them! 18 July 2023: Guardian: Asylum seeker barge docks as lords vote for ‘shameful’ UK illegal migration bill
A barge that will be used to house 500 asylum seekers has belatedly arrived in a port on England’s southern coast after voting in the House of Lords paved the way for the government’s small boats and migration bill to become law.
The arrival of the Bibby Stockholm, which was pulled by a tug into Portland Port in Dorset on Tuesday morning, coincided with condemnation of the previous night’s drama in which the Conservative frontbench saw off five further changes being sought by peers to the bill, including modern slavery protections and child detention limits.
At least one other vote was ditched in the face of the government victories. The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, a strident critic of the bill, also dropped his demand for a statement on tackling the refugee problem and human trafficking to the UK, after a similar proposal was rejected by MPs.
The end of the standoff between Lords and MPs during so-called ping-pong, where legislation is batted between the Lords and Commons until agreement is reached, paves the way for the bill to receive royal assent.
The reforms are a key part of the prime minister Rishi Sunak’s bid to deter people from making Channel crossings. They will prevent people from claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive through unauthorised means.
The government also hopes the changes will ensure people who are detained are promptly removed, either to their home country or a third country such as Rwanda, which is the subject of a legal challenge.
11 July 2023: Open Democracy: I spent a day watching asylum seekers being jailed. Here’s what I learnt
Asylum seekers are being imprisoned for entering the UK illegally – when there is no legal way of getting in
udge Simon James begins his sentencing remarks at Canterbury Crown Court to a room empty of any defendants. Instead, the young person to whom the remarks are addressed is visible only on a small TV screen hanging in the corner. He’s actually in a prison elsewhere in Kent, slumped in a chair in a small room, connected to the court via a video link.
The young person is from Sudan. He is being prosecuted for a crime that did not exist a year ago: arriving in the UK “without a valid entry clearance”. He has admitted to boarding a small boat in France and crossing the English Channel into UK waters in order to be brought to shore and claim asylum. (He was initially accused of piloting the boat he travelled in, but this charge was dropped due to lack of evidence.)
The Nationality and Borders Act, introduced in 2021 by then-home secretary Priti Patel, passed through Parliament last year. It amended section 24 of the 1971 Immigration Act, closing a loophole in the original law: it no longer matters that this young person intended to claim asylum upon arrival.
In March, a Court of Appeal ruling confirmed that Article 31 of the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention – which requires signatory states not to penalise refugees who enter a country illegally – does not defend against the crime of unlawful arrival. That means people seeking asylum are not exempt from prosecution.
6 July 2023: Guardian: We must revive the spirit of the Stansted 15
As one of the Stansted 15 activists, I was moved to read Koye Adebakin’s letter (21 June), in which he told how his partner had been on the deportation flight that our direct action stopped and was later given leave to remain in the UK after the Home Office was found not to have acted in accordance with the law.
To be reminded that the action had such impact is spiritual sustenance in these dark times. The oppressive terror prosecution of the Stansted 15 affected all our lives profoundly, but the action was the best thing I’ve ever done.
As Paulo Freire said, to stand with the oppressed is to suffer with the oppressed and fight at their side. I still believe the hostile environment can be defeated by the determined long-term organising efforts of a broad-based movement, including those affected by the policy.
26 June 2023: EIN: Council of Europe Express Concern Over Illegal Migration Bill
PACE says the legislation risks breaching the UK’s international legal obligations and thus the rule of law
The Resolution States: “The Assembly is concerned that recent legislation introduced by the UK Government to Parliament, and in particular the Bill of Rights Bill and the Illegal Migration Bill, indicates an increased willingness on the part of the UK Government, and certain legislators, to legislate in a way that could risk breaching the UK’s international legal obligations and thus the rule of law. The Assembly is extremely concerned at such developments, and in particular what signal that may send both domestically and internationally.
“The Assembly, moreover, expresses concern that both the Bill of Rights Bill and the Illegal Migration Bill would increase legal uncertainty and conflicts between UK domestic law and the requirements of the European Convention on Human rights – as well as a number of other international conventions. The Assembly notes that these concerns have been similarly expressed by numerous civil society organisations, the Joint Committee on Human Rights of the UK Parliament, the UK’s National Human Rights Institutions, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.”
Read more: EIN, https://tinyurl.com/2ytanb5m
10 June 2023 Guardian: Key plank of new UK asylum law dropped to cut backlog
Home Office will no longer distinguish between people arriving by irregular means and other asylum seekers
Rishi Sunak has quietly dropped a key plank of last year’s asylum law that introduced a two-tier refugee system and made lives tougher for tens of thousands of people who arrived in the UK via small boats.
In a move to cut the asylum backlog, the Home Office said in a written statement on Thursday that it would no longer differentiate between people who arrived by irregular means, such as those who crossed the Channel, and other asylum seekers, as had been stipulated in last year’s Nationality and Borders Act.
who crossed the Channel, and other asylum seekers, as had been stipulated in last year’s Nationality and Borders Act.
It means the government will be able to speed up the processing of claims for about 55,000 people who have arrived in the UK since last June, according to refugee experts. Of those, nearly 15,000 from countries with high grant rates such as Afghanistan and Sudan can be processed using questionnaires instead of via in-person interviews.
2 June 2023; Migrant Voice: in person meeting: London Network Meeting: “Beyond the Bill” 6 June 2023
Join our next network meeting in London looking at the impact of the current hostile rhetoric towards migrants.
The meeting will take place in person on Tuesday 6 June, 6-8pm, at Migrant Voice, 200A Pentonville Road, London N1 9JP.
The political rhetoric surrounding the Refugee Ban Bill (Illegal Migration Bill) is reaching new heights of hostility in tone as well as policy. This meeting will look at the implications of this increasingly toxic, misleading rhetoric on migrants and how it is impacting our communities. We know the mainstreaming of such language is emboldening the far-right and inflaming tensions. We need to speak out for a different, more compassionate society that treats all human beings with dignity.
Migrant Voice was set up to change who speaks and how we speak about migration; we know well the damage of divisive rhetoric, especially when migrants’ voices are absent.
The human impact is devastating, as shown in our recent report on the appalling conditions in hotel accommodation for asylum seekers, “No rest, no security”.
At the meeting we will discuss how we are impacted by this escalating rhetoric and discuss our views and how best we can challenge it together with our communities and beyond.
Speakers will include:
- Jonathan Portes, professor of Economics and Public Policy at Kings College London and a senior fellow at UK in a Changing Europe
- Rosie Carter, director of policy and engagement, Hope not Hate
- Lara Parizotto, co-director, Migrant Democracy Project and councillor for Hounslow
- Flora Mutuku, migrant, immigration and human rights lawyer and Migrant Voice member
- Rogelio Braga, co-chairperson, Status Now Network
- plus other migrant speakers, both individuals and from different organisations.
If you’d like to get in touch about this meeting, please email email@example.com.
17 May 2023: Guardian: Asylum seekers in England and Wales to lose basic protections in move to cut hotel use
Exclusive: ministers plan to exempt asylum seekers’ landlords from rules including minimum room sizes
Ministers are removing basic housing protections from asylum seekers under new rules designed to move tens of thousands out of hotels and into the private rented sector.
The changes would exempt landlords from regulations governing everything from electrical safety to minimum room sizes, leading campaigners to warn that the government is preparing to cram people into small spaces in an effort to alleviate the crisis in asylum seeker accommodation.
MPs are set to vote as soon as Wednesday on the plans, which have been put forward by Suella Braverman, the home secretary, and Michael Gove, the housing secretary.
Under the changes, landlords of asylum seekers in England and Wales would no longer have to register with local authorities. The rules would allow landlords to house asylum seekers for two years without obtaining a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence, a standard requirement for any landlord renting to more than one household in a single property.
Mary Atkinson, a campaigns and network manager at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: “HMO licences exist to make sure that accommodation meets basic levels of safety and sanitation. However, much asylum accommodation already falls below these standards, with people seeking sanctuary housed in cramped, windowless rooms smaller than prison cells.
“Without HMO licences, already traumatised people will be at risk of living in places that are unfit for human habitation.”
10 May 2023: Quakers in Britain and the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network have signed a joint solidarity statement with 174 other organisations on the ‘Illegal Migration Bill’.
The statement calls on the government to withdraw the bill immediately on the basis that it is effectively a ban on asylum, extinguishing the right to seek refugee protection in the UK. Liberty sent the statement to all members of the House of Lords ahead of a key debate on the bill on 10 May.
That this House believes the proposals in the Illegal Migration Bill contravene international law, including the Refugee Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Convention on Action Against Trafficking and the Convention on the Rights of the Child;
considers that the Bill will effectively close the UK’s asylum system and undermine the ability of trafficking victims to access protection;
regrets the rushed timetable for the Bill’s passage through the House, including the lack of a bill committee, and the short committee stage;
regrets the failure of the Government to allow proper scrutiny of its policies, including by failing to publish its impact assessment;
notes that there was no mention of any proposals resembling those found in the Bill in the general election manifesto of any party represented in the House;
and in light of the grave consequences of the Bill and the failure of scrutiny by this House, calls on Members of the House of Lords to vote against the Bill.
EDM 1147: Tabled by Stuart C McDonald, 09 May 2023
Put Your MP to Work – Ask Them to Sign EDM 1147
To find your MP go here: https://www.writetothem.com/
Archbishop of Canterbury attacks plan in Lords, saying it will harm UK’s standing and fails to address causes of movement of refugees
27 April 2023: UNHCR: Statement on Asylum Processing and Resettlement via UNHCR
UNHCR is aware of recent public statements suggesting that refugees wishing to apply for asylum in the United Kingdom should do so via the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ respective offices in their home region. UNHCR wishes to clarify that there is no mechanism through which refugees can approach UNHCR with the intention of seeking asylum in the U.K. There is no asylum visa or ‘queue’ for the United Kingdom
UNHCR works in partnership with a number of governments on its global resettlement scheme. Resettlement is made available only for a very limited number of refugees who have left their own countries and been identified as particularly at risk in the countries where they initially sought refuge, and cannot integrate there or return home. It is the rare exception – available to fewer than 1% of refugees worldwide. There is no application process for resettlement – refugees at heightened risk are identified by UNHCR through our ongoing protection programmes in countries of asylum. Currently, new resettlement opportunities to the UK are minimal, and there is no quota for any nationality currently in place. Resettlement arrivals in the UK – mostly of cases referred pre-pandemic – currently stand at a rate of around 100 individuals arriving in the UK per month.
The overwhelming majority of refugees have no access to such pathways to the UK. The vast majority of refugees remain in countries neighbouring their own or apply for asylum elsewhere, with only a very small number seeking protection in the UK.
For further information, see UNHCR’s Fact Sheet on Safe and Regular Routes to the UK for Refugees and Asylum-Seekers here. For more detail on asylum in the UK and the Illegal Migration Bill, please see the explainer document here.
[Is Suella Braverman ignorant of the facts of the system, or is she deliberately lying?]
Independent: Braverman rebuked for falsely claiming Sudanese asylum seekers have ‘various’ ways of coming to UK
The UNHCR said an ‘overwhelming majority’ of refugees have no access to safe and legal routes to the UK, noting that only a ‘very small’ number seek asylum in the UK.
Suella Braverman has been rebuked by the UN’s refugee agency for falsely claiming Sudanese asylum seekers have “various” legal ways to reach the UK.
The Home Secretary said there was “no good reason” for those fleeing Sudan to cross the English Channel in small boats and instead urged asylum seekers to contact the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
“If you are fleeing Sudan for humanitarian reasons, there are various mechanisms you can use, the UNHCR is present in the region and they are the right mechanism by which people should apply if they do want to seek asylum in the UK,” Ms Braverman said.
26 April 2023: Illegal Migration Bill Debated on Wednesday 26 April 2023
See also the transcript of the discussion in the House of Commons in Hansard: Illegal Migration Bill Debated on Wednesday 26 April 2023, passed by 289 to 230 votes.
Passage of the Bill
You can follow here how the Bill goes from the third reading before passing to the House of Lords: https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3429
Updated 23 April 2023: Independent: Home Office faces ‘exodus’ of asylum caseworkers who fear being forced to break law
Exclusive: With attrition rate already at 46 per cent, official says more will quit if Illegal Migration Bill passes
The Home Office is facing an “exodus” of asylum caseworkers who fear being forced to act illegally under the Illegal Migration Bill, it has been claimed.
An official who decides claims told The Independent staff were already angry at the home secretary for accusing them of working too slowly when they are hampered by lost documents, rapidly changing policies and “inefficient” processes.
The annual attrition rate for asylum decision-makers hit 46 per cent last year, forcing the government to introduce a “recruitment and retention allowance” to maintain staff while scrambling to recruit more.
Updated 22 April 2023: Gov.uk Home Office: New measures to stop the boats in Illegal Immigration Bill
Reforms will speed up the removal of people with no right to be here and enhance safeguards to protect unaccompanied children.
Today, Friday 21 April, the government has tabled a number of amendments to the Illegal Migration Bill to strengthen it further, ahead of it returning to Parliament next week – helping to deliver our priority of stopping the boats.
The amendments tabled this week will help to speed up the removal of people with no right to be here and enhance safeguards for unaccompanied children who cross the Channel in small boats.
Amendments also include a commitment to consult local authorities within three months of the bill becoming law to understand their capacity to support people coming to the UK through safe and legal routes, and to publish a report on existing, and any proposed additional safe and legal routes, within six months of the bill becoming law.
Together these will provide greater clarity and ensure progress on delivering our plans for safe and legal routes with an annual cap, agreed by Parliament, to ensure we are properly supporting people to rebuild their lives in the way communities would expect.
The UK will continue to play a world-leading role in protecting those in need who come to the country illegally. However, to tackle the abuse of the system which detracts from our ability to help those in need, further amendments are being made to ensure the UK can better protect its borders.
To speed up removals, amendments will make clear that the UK’s domestic courts cannot apply any interim measure to stop someone being removed if they bring forward a legal challenge, aside from in the narrow route available under the bill where they are at risk of serious and irreversible harm.
Instead, challenges would be heard remotely after the person concerned had been removed. This will ensure that someone would only be able to apply for a domestic injunction to prevent their removal if they were to face “serious and irreversible harm” in the country they were due to be removed to.
Amendments will also make clear that ministers may exercise discretion in relation to interim measures issued by the European Court of Human Rights, and set certain principles under which they would make a decision whether to comply or not. Alongside the amendment, the government is having constructive discussions regarding reform to the Rule 39 process in Strasbourg, to support greater timeliness, accountability and representation in such cases.
Further amendments include:
- giving immigration officers new powers to search for and seize electronic devices like mobile phones from people who come to the UK illegally – to help them assess whether someone has the right to be in the UK
- increasing protections around the safeguarding risk caused by adults pretending to be children, by bringing in new regulations that will see age-disputed people treated as an adult if they refuse to undergo a scientific age assessment.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said:
The British public are rightly fed up with people coming to the UK through dangerous small boat crossings, and myself and the Prime Minister are absolutely committed to stopping the boats once and for all.
The changes I am announcing today will help secure our borders and make it easier for us to remove people by preventing them from making last minute, bogus claims, while ensuring we strengthen our safe and legal routes.
My focus remains on ensuring this landmark piece of legislation does what it is intended to do, and we now must work to pass it through Parliament as soon as possible so we can stop the boats.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said:
It is not fair that people can pay criminal gangs thousands of pounds and pass through multiple safe countries to come to the UK illegally.
The only way to break the business model of the evil people smugglers and secure our borders is to make sure that if people come to the UK illegally, they won’t be able to stay.
These amendments will make it easier to swiftly remove individuals who come here illegally from safe countries, whilst re-affirming our commitment to help those directly from regions of conflict and instability.
These new powers are part of further amendments tabled by the government today to strengthen the landmark Illegal Migration Bill, which will see people who come to the UK illegally in scope for detention and swift removal.
The amendments relating to safe and legal routes were laid by Tim Loughton MP, and measures to prevent UK courts from interfering to stop a removal were laid by Danny Kruger MP – the government will support these measures when the bill goes back to the House of Commons for report stage next week. The remaining measures have been tabled by the government.
The amendments will be published later today on the Parliamentary website: Illegal Migration Bill publications – Parliamentary Bills – UK Parliament
20 April 2023: Guardian: UK to ignore ECHR rulings on small boats ‘after Sunak caves in to Tory right’
Backbench rebels push prime minister to harden illegal migration bill to ignore court’s interim rulings
Rishi Sunak has caved in to demands from hard-right MPs to allow the UK to ignore rulings from the European court of human rights on small boat crossings, government sources have said.
Backbench rebels have been pushing the prime minister to harden the illegal migration bill so ministers can ignore interim rulings. One of the Strasbourg court’s rule 39 injunctions blocked the government’s first attempt to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda last year.
These so-called interim measures are typically used to suspend an expulsion or extradition, often by asylum seekers who fear persecution if they are returned to their home country.
ILPA: Illegal Migration Bill
House of Commons, Committee of the whole House (Day 2) 28 March 2023
- The Illegal Migration Bill represents an assault on the rights of migrants and on the rule of
law. ILPA opposes the Bill in its entirety.
- The result of the Bill will be to create a large class of people, present in the UK, but without
any hope of securing lawful status. In reality, it will create a permanent population of people
present in the UK, whose asylum and human rights claims will be inadmissible and
undecided, who will be indefinitely detained and supported, who will be unremovable
indefinitely, and who will have no access to procedures for regularising their status. This
denizen sub-class, and their UK-born children, will be condemned to being deprived of the
ability to live meaningful lives from the fruits of their own work and effort: unable to work,
unable to rent, and with no route to integration and acceptance. It will be a life so arid as to
be without basic dignity; it will be a life of degradation. The narrow exceptions or saving
provisions come nowhere near rescuing those affected from breaches of their fundamental
- The Bill seeks to undermine the Refugee Convention, the UN Convention on the Rights of
the Child, the European Convention on Action against Trafficking, the European Convention
on Human Rights, the Human Rights Act 1998, and the Children Act 1989.
- This briefing focuses on amendments to Clauses 1 to 36 of the Bill.
6 April: Guardian: Plans for new sites in UK for asylum seekers ‘risk humanitarian catastrophe’
About 170 organisations warn ministers not to put people in military bases, barges and ferries around the country
Ministers have been warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” if asylum seekers arriving in the UK are accommodated in camps on military bases and on barges.
Approximately 171 organisations – including the Refugee Council, Choose Love, faith groups, city of sanctuary representatives and law centres – have written to Rishi Sunak urging him to “listen to common sense” and scrap plans for asylum camps at former RAF bases at Scampton in Lincolnshire, Wethersfield in Essex and Catterick in North Yorkshire and the site of a former prison in Bexhill in East Sussex, along with proposals to use ferries and barges.
The letter says the sites are “deeply unsuitable” and the government risks creating an “entirely preventable humanitarian catastrophe” if it presses ahead with plans to house people seeking asylum on these sites.
4 April, 2023: JPTI: 1450+ church leaders oppose the Illegal Migration Bill
A statement signed by over 1450 church leaders opposing the government’s Illegal Migration has been handed to 10 Downing Street, saying that the government’s proposals are “incompatible with our Christian conviction that all human beings are made in the image of God”.
In the statement, church leaders say they are “appalled” by the proposals in the government’s Illegal Migration Bill to “detain, punish and reject thousands of people seeking safety”, and that they will “foster discrimination and distrust” and cause “immeasurable harm”.
Church leaders are calling on the government to withdraw the legislation, and to honour the UK’s “moral and international obligations” by establishing “safe and accessible routes to enable the UK to play its part in welcoming people in need of safety”. The leaders argue that when two out of three people crossing the channel in small boats have their claim for asylum accepted, rendering them unable to have their claim heard or access a safe route essentially puts a ban on claiming asylum in the UK for many people.
The Illegal Migration Bill represents an assault on the rights of migrants and on the rule of law.
The Bill starts with a statement under section 19(1)(b) of the Human Rights Act 1998 that the Home Secretary Suella Braverman is unable to say that its provisions are compatible with the rights to be found in the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’). The Home Secretary’s admission on the face of the bill of potential incompatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’) is an express acknowledgment that the Bill is likely to lead the UK to be in breach of its international obligations under the ECHR.
Updated 15 March 2023: Migrant Help: Statement on the Government’s announcement of the “Illegal Migration Bill”
Under new legislation proposed by the government this week, anyone who crosses the Channel or otherwise “enters the UK illegally” would automatically be made inadmissible for any claims of asylum or humanitarian protection. Rather, they would be put in a detention centre and slated for swift removal from the country. This would be a considerable change in the functioning of the UK asylum system.
However, the majority of people who arrive in the UK in this way have valid claims for asylum, and we strongly believe that everyone deserves a fair hearing and the welcome and protection that our country can and should provide. The Refugee Convention states that displaced people – most of whom will have undergone unimaginable trauma by the time they reach our shores – have the right to claim asylum. This is not dependent on the route that these desperate people have been forced to take to arrive in the UK. The most recent data published by the Home Office also show that the top five nationalities represented by those arriving across the Channel by small boat (Afghan, Iranian, Syrian, Eritrean and Sudanese) all have high asylum grant rates at over 80%.
Even if these claims were deemed inadmissible under this new proposed legislation, non-refoulement would still apply. This is a core and guiding principle in the Refugee Convention that prohibits States from returning individuals to a country where there is a real risk of being subjected to persecution, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or any other human rights violation. These are exactly the kinds of conditions from which many of our clients have fled in search of safety. And as we have seen with the Rwanda plan which was unveiled last year, deportation can be a slow and difficult process – so far, no one has been sent to Rwanda under this scheme. We are concerned that this additional legislation would leave those who arrive across the Channel in a distressing and interminable limbo, unsure of where they are going and how long it might take to get there.
Updated 13 March 2023: Justice Gap: Disregarding International Law is One Thing Ditching Democratic Rights Quite Another
All of this has been said before. Everyone knows that the asylum-seekers and migrants crowding on the shores of Calais have bigger worries than whether Suella Braverman has made a statement denying the applicability of the ECHR, and that people-smugglers are more motivated by profit than deterred by fear. From here, it is easy, and perhaps correct, to assume that the legislation is not really intended to go anywhere. It is nothing more than bait for the red-tops and an easy way of dividing the Conservatives from Labour ahead of the next general election.
But if we take the government at its word, and accept that this is a piece of legislation genuinely intended to solve the crisis, it may be that the outcome the government expects in the courts is not the one that it will get. Judging from Suella Braverman’s comments before the House of Commons yesterday, she is fully aware that the legislation is incompatible with the UK’s international obligations. Despite the ‘brightest legal minds’ in the country (one must pity James Eadie KC, the advocate the government often turns to, if he is trying to construct a legal defence for this) considering the question, no positive answer has been forthcoming. Braverman has been left denying the legislation’s compatibility with rights in Parliament while doing the media rounds claiming its compatibility .
Read more: Nicholas Reed Langen, Justice Gap: https://www.thejusticegap.com/disregarding-international-law-is-one-thing-but-disregarding-foundational-democratic-rights-is-quite-another/
Rishi Sunak’s plans to bar migrants who enter the UK by small boats from claiming asylum could trigger a “race to the bottom” on refugee rights among other countries, MEPs have told openDemocracy. The Illegal Migration Bill, announced by the prime minister on Tuesday, would give the home secretary, Suella Braverman, powers to deport migrants who cross the Channel before their claims are heard. The United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees has said the proposal would be a “clear breach” of the Refugee Convention. The bill has alarmed politicians and human rights groups in Europe, who fear that it could embolden populist political parties seeking to dismantle the right to asylum.
“This proposed law is despicable and I do fear a snowball effect. As soon as one state tramples on the right to asylum, other states are quick to follow suit,” Damien Carême, a French Green MEP, told openDemocracy.
Read more: Adam Bychawski, Open Democracy, https://rb.gy/nanblz
The country’s grueling detention programs have ensnared thousands — and appear to flout international law.
[…] Those same policies appear to be the playbook for proposed legislation in Britain that would give the Home Office a “duty” to remove nearly all migrants who cross the English Channel on small boats, as my colleague Megan Specia reports.
The proposed legislation would allow the government to swiftly detain and deport anyone who arrives “in breach of immigration control,” the bill reads. “The main thing they have in common is in seeking to criminalize, almost, asylum, or at least to undermine the right to an institution of asylum,” said Ms. Foster, the legal scholar, of Britain’s and Australia’s policies.
“The Australian policy has been premised for a long time on the notion that if one arrives without prior authorization — and regardless of whether or not that individual is a refugee — that they’re somehow doing the wrong thing,” she said. “They’re illegal, they’re unlawful, they’re ‘unauthorized maritime arrival.’”
Even the three-word slogan is the same: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain appeared on Tuesday behind a pulpit emblazoned with the rallying cry “Stop the boats.” Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister, used precisely the same language to promote his own policy a decade ago.
As in Australia, the policy is of questionable legality. On the first page of the proposed legislation, Suella Braverman, the British home secretary, writes that she is “unable to make a statement” that the bill is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. (The proposed legislation follows a plan by the government to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda that is currently being challenged in court.)
Some in Australia who have seen the effects of the policy and the tremendous suffering it has provoked find it unconscionable that it should be used as inspiration elsewhere.
Katie Robertson is a lawyer and the director of the Stateless Legal Clinic at the Melbourne Law School who has spent the last 10 years advocating for men, women, children and newborn babies who have been subjected to the policy. She has worked with people who were held in dangerous conditions with inadequate medical care or forcibly separated from their families, or who have experienced unspeakable trauma.
“The devastating human impact these policies had on the lives of many can’t be overestimated,” she said. Years after being held offshore, she said, children she had worked with were still displaying very disturbing and concerning behaviors.
“Australia, as a nation — we will never be able to address the wrong that’s been caused to these people,” she said, of the policy. She added: “It should serve as a warning, rather than a blueprint.”
Updated 9 March 2023: electronic immigration network: Illegal Migration Bill – A Five Minute Explainer
Written by Gary McIndoe, Latitude Law
I’ve seen a lot of legislation in my more than 25 years practising in the immigration and asylum field, but this Bill really does leave me speechless. It is reactive legislating at its worst – and I remember the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc.) Act 2004. It is a ham-fisted attempt to tackle an admittedly concerning problem through a series of pronouncements, threats, assumptions and rules which are blatantly unworkable.
According to the Home Secretary the proposed Act’s ‘novel approach’ to the UK’s human rights and refugee commitments is not something she currently wants to go into in detail. I’m not surprised. She continues, some of the nation’s ‘finest legal minds’ are at work addressing how to shoe-horn these laws into the rights-based architecture of public international law developed – not least by the British – since the end of the Second World War. The prospect of yet further conflict – with the courts, the lawyers representing individuals, with the ECtHR – is plain to see.
The trade-off is the availability of ‘safe and legal routes’ to seeking asylum. How are these going so far? The various Afghan schemes have proved unworkable. Even the Ukrainian family and sponsorship routes – designed with a particularly light touch, so hardly likely to be replicated for other war-torn nations – has faced maladministration and delays in processing. Asking an already-stretched UNHCR to take responsibility for determining eligibility is just pointless – viz the many thousands of Afghan citizens stuck in Pakistan, unable to engage with exhausted UNHCR teams in the country in order to leave for the UK under the Afghan Pathway 2 scheme.
And as well as being substantively bound to fail, we are told safe and legal routes for other nationalities are simply a proposal for the future; how then can they be used as a sop to the introduction of such inequitable rules on admissibility – and I mean admissibility for life?
Freemovement: What is in the Illegal Migration Bill?
- Purpose of the Illegal Migration Bill
- Duty to remove asylum seekers and others
- Duty to ignore asylum and human rights claims
- Removal destinations
- Challenging removal to your own country
- Challenging removal to a safe country
- Serious irreversible harm challenges
- Serious irreversible harm appeals
- Power to detain
- Access to a lawyer
- What happens to people whose cases are inadmissible but who cannot be removed?
- Suspension of modern slavery protection
- Will it work?
The Illegal Migration Bill was published yesterday. You can access the Bill here and the Explanatory Notes here. While it remains a Bill, the individual provisions are referred to as clauses and once it becomes an Act — as it surely will — they are referred to as sections.
The problem the government faces with this legislation is that an Act of Parliament cannot by itself prevent unlawful migration. Deterrence may or may not be possible. But the decision-making of refugees remains a mystery. Whether the legislation will really deter people from coming to the UK is unclear. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is staking a lot on the decision-making of tens of thousands of individuals of whom he knows basically nothing.
There are two main ways in which the Bill seeks to deter people from coming to the UK unlawfully.
Updated 8 March 2023: Gov.uk: Illegal Migration Bill
These documents relate to the Illegal Migration Bill introduced in the House of Commons on 7 March 2023.
Updated 7 March 2023: UNHCR: Statement on UK Asylum Bill
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is profoundly concerned by the asylum bill introduced by the UK Government to the House of Commons today. In its current form, the Bill compels the Home Secretary to deny access to the UK asylum system to those who arrive irregularly. Rather than being provided with protection, these asylum-seekers would instead be subject to detention in the UK, while arrangements are pursued to remove them to another country.
The legislation, if passed, would amount to an asylum ban – extinguishing the right to seek refugee protection in the United Kingdom for those who arrive irregularly, no matter how genuine and compelling their claim may be, and with no consideration of their individual circumstances.
The effect of the bill (in this form) would be to deny protection to many asylum-seekers in need of safety and protection, and even deny them the opportunity to put forward their case. This would be a clear breach of the Refugee Convention and would undermine a longstanding, humanitarian tradition of which the British people are rightly proud.
Most people fleeing war and persecution are simply unable to access the required passports and visas. There are no safe and “legal” routes available to them. Denying them access to asylum on this basis undermines the very purpose for which the Refugee Convention was established. The Convention explicitly recognises that refugees may be compelled to enter a country of asylum irregularly.
Based on the Home Office’s most recently published data, the vast majority of those arriving to the UK in small boats over the Channel would be accepted as refugees were their claims to be determined. Branding refugees as undeserving based on mode of arrival distorts these fundamental facts.
International law does not require that refugees claim asylum in the first country they reach. Returns or transfers to safe third countries may nonetheless be appropriate if certain thresholds are met – in particular, if Refugee Convention rights will be respected there, and the arrangement helps share the responsibility for refugees equitably among nations. The framework in place between EU member states is an example of such an arrangement. Currently, the UK is not part of any such agreement, and its bilateral arrangement with Rwanda fails to meet the necessary international standards. As such, asylum-seekers arriving in the UK irregularly would find themselves in limbo, unable to claim protection in line with the Convention.
UNHCR shares the UK Government’s concern regarding the number of asylum-seekers resorting to dangerous journeys, not only across the Channel but also elsewhere, as in the Mediterranean. Making the asylum system work is key to tackling this challenge. Fast, fair and efficient case processing, as well as enhanced reception conditions, would accelerate the integration of those found to be refugees and facilitate the swift return of those who have no legal basis to stay. UNHCR has presented the UK Government with concrete and actionable proposals in this regard and welcomes constructive, ongoing efforts to clear the current asylum backlog. UNHCR continues to support the UK Government in strengthening its asylum system and addressing such challenges directly.
UNHCR will also continue to work with the UK Government to expand safe, regular pathways for refugees to reach the UK, including through resettlement. While critical, these remain very limited, and can never substitute for access to asylum.
UNHCR also welcomes the UK’s enhanced dialogue with France and encourages efforts to enhance regional cooperation with its European neighbours to address current challenges.
We urge the Government, and all MPs and Peers, to reconsider the Bill and instead pursue more humane and practical policy solutions.
The Home Secretary updated the House of Commons on new legislation to stop the boats.
[…] Mr. Speaker, this bill enables detention of illegal arrivals, without bail or judicial review within the first 28 days of detention, until they can be removed.
It puts a duty on the Home Secretary to remove illegal entrants and will radically narrow the number of challenges and appeals that can suspend removal.
Only those under 18, medically unfit to fly, or at real risk of serious and irreversible harm – an exceedingly high bar – in the country we are removing them to, will be able to delay their removal. Any other claims will be heard remotely, after removal. […]