On 7th March, the Home Secretary announced her plan to stop illegal migration to the UK by preventing those who enter the United Kingdom from claiming asylum. The Illegal Migration Bill proposes that all that enter the UK ‘illegally’ (often by crossing the Channel in a small boat) will be detained and then removed to their home country or another safe third country, namely Rwanda.
The Home Secretary has stated that the rationale behind the bill is as follows:
“The British people rightly expect us to solve this crisis and that’s what myself and the Prime Minister fully intend to do. We must stop the boats. It is completely unfair that people who travel through a string of safe countries then come to the UK illegally and abuse our asylum laws to avoid removal.”
“It has to stop. By bringing in new laws, I am making it absolutely clear that the only route to the UK is a safe and legal route. If you come here illegally, you won’t be able to claim asylum or build a life here. You will not be allowed to stay. You will be returned home if safe, or to a safe third country like Rwanda. It’s the only way to prevent people risking their lives and paying criminals thousands of pounds to get here.”
The arrival of this legislation follows the five key priorities outlined by the Prime Minister earlier this year. Pledge number five was to stop the small boats from crossing the channel and enter the UK. Notably, the PM’s lectern was emblazoned with the simple slogan of “Stop the Boats” at his press conference following the announcement of the new policy.
But what will the details of the plan involve?
Illegal migrants will be detained for 28 days during which they will not be able to lodge bail applications, or application for Judicial Review. Those who have exceptional circumstances and face risk will have a maximum of 45 days to remain in the UK until their appeal rights are exhausted.
Some of the other measures proposed in the Bill are:
- Duty to make arrangements for removal – the Home Secretary will have a legal duty to remove people who have entered the UK illegally.
- Entry, citizenship and settlement – people who come to the UK illegally will be prevented from settling in the country and will face a permanent ban from returning.
- Asylum – people who come here illegally will have their asylum claims deemed inadmissible and considered in a safe third country.
- Modern slavery – modern slavery referrals for those who come to the UK illegally will be disqualified under public order grounds under the terms of the international anti-trafficking treaty, ECAT.
- Legal proceedings – limiting the circumstances in which legal challenges will prevent someone from being removed from the UK. Most legal challenges will be considered when someone has been successfully removed from the UK.
- Expanding the list of countries that are considered safe in law – this will make it unquestionably clear when someone doesn’t need our protection because they are obviously not at risk of persecution in their home country.
The Home Office believe that the above measures will prevent people from risking their lives in their dangerous routes to the UK, as well as stop criminal gangs from profiting from the asylum system. Of course, it is worth remembering that the decision by the government to introduce these measures are politically motivated. Conservative voters on the whole are much more likely to be in favour of reducing immigration, a hugely important factor in deciding policy for a party ahead of the upcoming May local elections and likely general election next year.
These proposals thus far appear to be impractical. A claim for asylum and those who are a victim of trafficking often involve complex issues that cannot be practically investigated within 28 days. We do not see how the Home Office will be able to practically conduct this plan. To date, not a single migrant is yet to be sent to Rwanda under their previous proposal which shows that such plans can be very difficult, if at all possible to be implemented.
There is also the question of whether the bill is compatible with the European Court of Human Rights. Indeed, the government looks set for a collision course with the legal body over the proposals, with the Home Secretary herself writing to Conservative MPs to say that there is “more than a 50% chance” that the legislation is not compatible with the ECHR. Time will tell whether this is the case.
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