uk illegal migration bill violates even the british human rights act
Last week, UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman made public the nation’s latest Illegal Migration Bill. Conforming to its provisions, those entering the country without obtaining appropriate visa or permission — with exclusions for minors, travelers unfit to take a flight and those threatened by serious and irreversible harm based on an “exceedingly high bar” — will be apprehended and sent back without bail or judicial review within 28 days. These “illegals” – who can also be described as refugees – will be repatriated if their home nation is considered safe. If not, they may be flown to a “third safe country”, like Rwanda which, in April 2022, confirmed a £120 million covenant with the British government allowing it to serve as a place of subsistence for asylum seekers refused by Britain. When transported outside of the country, these interlopers will also be constrained from attempting to come back or apply for citizenship on any future occasion.
The proposed Bill was seconded by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who later rose to a podium to call for its immediate passing, exclaiming “Stop the Boats” and arguing that it is solely down to the British people and their government who should be choosing those entering the country, “and not criminal gangs.” The Opposition’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has since highlighted just how ineffectual this Bill is in combating this issue. It fails to hold smugglers accountable – three-quarters of whom live in the UK – while skirting around the much bigger problem of hundreds of missing children being taken from asylum centers by these same gangs.
The UK’s current prison and detention capacities have been deemed inadequate for the government’s interpretation of the “overwhelming” influx of migrants at its borders. This has led to the Illegal Migration Bill, based on the belief that the UK is taking in more people than its supposed “fair share”, especially following the decline in legal immigration during Covid-19. Yet, with detention and deportation becoming increasingly difficult, costly, and complex processes, this may cause criminal gangs to take advantage of gaps in the system. Statistics suggest so; convictions for human trafficking reduced significantly, asylum requests rose drastically and removal rates dropped greatly since Labour was last in power. Thus, it appears that such an influx of bureaucratic pressure on border forces could generate precisely what those against this Bill refer to as “deeply damaging chaos”.
It doesn’t stop there. The dangers of the Illegal Migration Bill have so far been obscured by the language of “safeguarding”: Braverman stated that the Bill intends to introduce a cap on refugees who can settle in the UK legally and safely. Sunak pronounced it as a means for the British government to retake control of our borders, once and for all, as a “robust” and “compassionate” approach.
Both leaders have attempted to mask their underlying intentions with this Bill by claiming that it is meant to ensure legal access for asylum seekers. However, the reality is more nuanced: many of these legal routes currently exist only for certain refugee populations; Ukraine has a special visa granting work and benefits to 2,20,000 individuals in the previous year alone. Interestingly, 40 percent of those illegally crossing the English Channel come from conflict-ridden countries like Eritrea, Iran, Syria, and Sudan – nations that aren’t entitled to these visas despite also fleeing danger. This imbalance reflects a certain racial logic – refugees accepted by Tory rule are different from those not given the same opportunity. Introducing this law at a time when Indians recently became the third largest group of migrants crossing into the UK via small boats hints at British conservatives’ efforts to avoid accusations of racism while covering up their bigotry.
UK Illegal Migration Bill
The new asylum Bill has been strongly condemned by the United Nations refugee agency UNCHCR, which has declared that it violates the 1951 Refugee Convention and is essentially an exclusion of individuals seeking asylum. Braverman was forced to put in a disclaimer on the first page of the bill which states that it disregards Section 91B of Britain’s Human Rights Act, which includes mandates from both the Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights.
In a letter sent to conservative MPs and peers soon after her speech in the House of Commons, the Home Secretary estimated that there was a “more than 50 percent chance”. Yet, she encouraged these MPs to support it anyway, given their party’s recent decision to disavow the European Union. No matter its outcome, this Bill appears destined to weaken human rights and create another chapter in Britain’s long history of racial exclusivity. Even if it fails, it won’t be due to a lack of effort by the Tory party but because the Prime Minister failed to keep his promise of preventing illegal immigration.
As an immigrant living in the UK after Brexit, I am aware of the conservative nature of this particular Bill. There is a growing indistinction between “legal” and “illegal” migrants, with stricter conditions on international student visas and priority given to those with higher qualifications from overseas. To many Indians, this could seem like a positive step towards a better future, however, it fails to consider that credentials from the “other” are also pushed aside. The implications of this Bill are clear – all immigrants will be increasingly unwelcome here.