Home Office tables amendments to the Illegal Migration Bill
Several amendments have been tabled by the government
The Home Office announced on 21 April that several amendments to the government’s Illegal Migration Bill have been tabled to ‘help 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.’
With the explicit aim of speeding up removals, amendments have been introduced that 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 route available under the bill where they are at risk of serious and irreversible harm. As such, any challenges would be heard remotely after the person has been removed from the country. The new amendments also include a commitment by the government to consult with local authorities within three months of the bill becoming law on 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.
The new amendments would also provide immigration officers with new powers to search for and seize electronic devices from people who come to the UK illegally and introduce new regulations that would see age-disputed people treated as an adult if they refuse to undergo a scientific age assessment.
In addition to this, an amendment has been introduced to make it clear that ministers may exercise discretion in relation to interim measures issued by the European Court of Human Rights, and set principles under which they would be able to make a decision whether to comply or not. The government is also said to be involved in discussions regarding reform to the Rule 39 process in Strasbourg.
Meanwhile, the Law Society of England and Wales published new statistics on 26 April ahead of the parliamentary debate on the Illegal Migration Bill, which finds that around 86 per cent of British citizens (based on an online survey of 2,086 adults by YouGov plc undertaken in early April 2023) say that it is important to them that their local member of parliament votes to uphold the rule of law. The President of the Law Society, Lubna Shuja, has expressed serious concern over the bill and the latest amendments, commenting: “The rule of law and justice are at the heart of Britain’s identity and underpins our reputation in the international community. The Law Society believes the Illegal Migration Bill is likely to be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, the UN Refugee Convention and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. If the UK were to refuse to comply with a European Court of Human Rights ruling as set out in an update to the Bill this would entail a clear and serious breach of international law.”