Illegal Migration Bill (2023)
Enver Solomon, Refugee Council CEO and #Together With Refugees spokesperson,
“We know from our work that refugee children are often scared and deeply traumatised. They need our protection, not punishment. A Conservative-led government rightly ended the appalling practice of locking up refugee children in 2014 by introducing strict time limits. This government must not go back on this.”
Hot on the heels of the passing of the Nationality and Borders Act, the ‘Illegal Migration Bill’ was introduced to Parliament in March ’23. It’s stated aim is to stop people from crossing the Channel in small boats. Dubbed the #RefugeesBanBill, the Bill sets out a plan that will mean that anyone, including children, who arrives irregularly into the UK will have their asylum claim deemed “inadmissible”. The Home Office will not even consider someone’s claim. They could be detained indefinitely or deported to Rwanda or a ‘third country’.
There has been huge opposition to the Bill. In an open letter (11th July ’23) to the prime minster, City of Sanctuary joined refugee agencies, faith leaders, leading children’s charities, medical and civil society groups to call on the government to scrap it’s plans to detain children and toddlers and retain existing time-limits. The negative impact of detention on people’s mental and physical health is widely understood . The full letter coordinated by #TogetherWithRefugees, can be viewed here:
UNHCR expressed profound concern in an initial public statement on 7 March 2023, noting that the Bill, if passed, would breach the UK’s obligations under international law. (Click Here)
In May ’23 Exeter City of sanctuary also joined with 181 civil society groups to issue a joint solidarity statement on the Bill and urge the Government to immediately withdraw the ‘Illegal Migration Bill’.
Refugee Council: Impact assessment of the consequences of the new bill over the first 3 years :
- Over 190,000 people could be locked up or forced into destitution under the Government’s new crackdown on desperate people seeking safety and sanctuary.
As many as 45,000 children could be locked up in the UK, after having their asylum claims deemed “inadmissible. This includes 15,000 lone children.
Around £9 billion will be spent over three years on locking up refugees in detention centres and accommodating people who can’t be removed to other countries.
Refugee Council: ref. https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/information/what-is-the-illegal-migration-bill/
In January ’22, ExCoS, Refugee Support Devon, STAR and Exeter Amnesty spoke out publicly against the Bill at a rally held in Exeter on 15/1/22 (see News section ). City of Sanctuary has been working with #TogetherWithRefugees to oppose the bill which ignores the realities of why people have to flee and seek sanctuary and does not address any of the problems it purports to resolve. There have been protests throughout England, a week of action in October ’21 culminating in a mass rally outside Parliament and further protests in December .
Sadly the Bill was voted through and became law in April ’22
City of Sanctuary has made the following statement on it’s website (see below) and the UN took the unusual step of strongly and publicly opposing these plans and judge the Act contravenes international law / Refugee Convention. City of Sanctuary is in solidarity with our partners in calling the Nationality and Borders Bill the Anti-Refugee Bill given its content.
Key Proposals: Nationality and Borders Bill.
- only refugees arriving through extraordinarily restricted “official” routes, such as refugee resettlement, will be allowed to claim protection.
- will punish and criminalise people forced to take “irregular” routes to claim asylum in the UK, deeming them “inadmissible” to the asylum system and liable to prosecution. The Home office will attempt to remove them from the UK.
If they cannot be deported, they may be allowed to claim asylum in the UK but if they receive refugee status as a result they will not be given the right to settle. Instead, they will be regularly reassessed for removal, with limited rights to family reunion and benefits.
The proposals also include plans to accommodate most asylum seekers in institutional centres and offshore processing, thereby amending the National Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 to make it possible to move people whilst an asylum claim is pending.
Clause 9 allows for British citizens to be stripped of their citizenship right without notice.
#Together With Refugees. On 10th May ’21 a new Coalition Campaign group, #Together With Refugees, has launched. City of Sanctuary and Exeter City of Sanctuary has joined.
#TogetherWithRefugees brings together a coalition of more than 200 national, local, refugee-led and grassroots groups, who believe in a fairer asylum system and showing compassion to people fleeing war & persecution. The campaign opposes recent government plans and is calling for upholding the ‘right to asylum’. (See Resources section)
April 1. 2021 New Immigration Plan:
Last week the UK Government announced new plans for changes to the asylum system. Taken in their entirety the proposals represent an attack on the right to seek sanctuary.