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Sophie Cameron

Features and Opinion Editor, Solicitors Journal

UK introduces Illegal Migration Bill to address challenges in the asylum system

UK introduces Illegal Migration Bill to address challenges in the asylum system


The Bill aims to end illegal entry as a route to asylum in the UK

The UK government announced the introduction to Parliament of the Illegal Migration Bill on 7 March, which aims to address challenges in the UK’s asylum system. According to a Home Office press release, the new Bill “will remove the incentive for people to risk their lives through these dangerous and unnecessary journeys and pull the rug from under the criminal gangs profiting from this misery once and for all.”

The Bill will legally require anyone who enters the UK illegally and who has passed through a safe country to be removed to a safe country. The Bill will also strengthen the UK’s detention powers, which will allow migrants to be detained for 28 days with no recourse for bail or judicial review, and for as long as there is a reasonable prospect of removal. Parliament will also be required to set an annual cap on the number of refuges settled in the UK through legal routes, which will take into account local authority housing capacity, amongst other factors.

Anyone found to be entering the UK illegally, which includes illegal immigration by small boat crossings, will be detained and removed, either sent back to their home country if it is considered safe, or a safe third country. As an example of a safe third country the government cites Rwanda. In exceptional circumstances, where there is a risk that someone would suffer a real risk of serious and irreversible harm when they are relocated to a specific third country, they would not be removed until it is safe to do so.

In addition to this, access to the UK’s modern slavery support will be denied to anyone illegally entering the UK in order to clamp down on the alleged abuse of UK legislation that may prevent their removal from the country. Human rights claims or other legal challenges brought by illegal immigrants will also be heard remotely after that person has been removed from the country.

Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, who provided an oral statement to Parliament on the introduction of the new Bill, said: “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.”

Responding to the introduction of the legislation to Parliament, President of the Law Society of England and Wales, Lubna Shuja, said: “As with all legislation the Law Society’s lens is the rule of law and access to justice. We will analyse carefully whether these principles have guided the Government’s drafting of this bill. However, we are concerned that there has been no public consultation, including with lawyers, to ensure the bill is workable, provides due process for those claiming asylum or is compliant with international law. The Government has already conceded the bill may not comply with international human rights law (European Convention on Human Rights) and questions remain about compatibility with the UN Refugee Convention.”