Published: 8 March 2023
Last updated: 27 March 2023
The Home Secretary has announced an appalling attack on the right to seek asylum in the UK. The so-called ‘Illegal Migration Bill’ will cause harm and suffering for people fleeing war and persecution. If it is allowed to pass, it will strip people of their fundamental human rights and punish desperate people for taking desperate measures to reach safety.
This new Refugee Ban Bill will punish Afghans who have fled the Taliban. It will punish protestors who have stood up for women’s rights in Iran. It will punish young men who have fled forced conscription and human rights abuses in Eritrea. It will punish families who have lost everything in Syria. It will punish people who have been unable to access the government’s narrow and restrictive resettlement schemes, and who have no other choice but to reach the UK via irregular routes in order to claim asylum. People who are simply looking for a safe place where they can rebuild their lives.
Here’s what we know so far about what is in the the new Bill:
- The new bill aims to ban people from claiming asylum if they enter the UK through irregular routes.
Seeking asylum is a human right. The UK has an obligation under the UN Refugee Convention to give people a fair hearing, regardless of how they arrive.
- The bill will allow the government to detain people who arrive through irregular routes indefinitely.
Immigration detention strips people of their liberty and causes harm to mental and physical health. People should be housed in communities and be able to work while their claims are processed.
- The Home Secretary will have a new power to deport people “as soon as reasonably practicable.” People will be prevented from re-entering in the future.
This is unworkable and impractical. But, like the Rwanda scheme, it will cause fear and distress for refugees.
- The government will have a new ‘rights brake’, giving them the power to reduce the number of appeals and challenges available to people in detention.
The government is not above the law. Legal experts have already expressed concerns that the Bill contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights. Human rights apply to everyone equally – and it is extremely concerning that the government is trying to change that.
- The government has failed to announce any safe routes.
The only way to stop people making desperate journeys across the Channel is to create safe routes for refugees. The majority of people crossing the Channel are granted asylum. There is no refugee visa they can apply for. They can only apply for asylum when they arrive in the UK. If people fleeing war and persecution had a way to reach the UK safely, they wouldn’t have to risk their lives in a small boat.
Less than a year since this government passed its cruel Nationality and Borders Act, this new Bill will cause further chaos. It has been widely condemned as unworkable and it will be subject to legal and practical challenges that will delay or prevent its implementation. But the impact of the government’s demonisation of refugees is real and immediate. Recent attacks and protests outside hotels housing people seeking asylum show how dangerous it is when the government uses inflammatory language to whip up anti-migrant sentiment.
We know that there is another way. This government must work with its international partners to create a system where refugees do not have to make dangerous journeys. We need a fair, compassionate and effective system that supports people to reach safety and to start participating in the community from day one. We cannot turn our backs on desperate people who are seeking safety.
How you can take action
- Contact your MP. Write a personal letter and ask them to take a stand against the Illegal Migration Bill. The government claims that it is doing what the public wants – show them that they are wrong. It helps if the letter is personal, so explain why this topic matters to you.
- You can use template emails from Refugee Action and Safe Passage or find your MP’s contact details on the Parliament website. Make sure you include your address so your MP knows that you’re a constituent.
- You could also ask your MP to meet with your STAR group. For tips on how to talk about the Refugee Ban Bill, read this messaging guide from NEON.
- Raise your voice. Join the protest in Parliament Square at 6pm on 27th March, or find a local protest near you. You can also sign the petition to oppose the Refugee Ban Bill. Take every opportunity you can to show that you stand against this government’s anti-refugee laws. And remember that you are not alone – the cruelty of the government does not represent the British public. On 18th March, thousands of people joined protests in London, Glasgow and Cardiff to send the message that all refugees are welcome here.
- Join a group. Show people seeking sanctuary that they are welcome. Find people who are creating change in your local community. If you’re a student, join or set up a STAR group to make a difference to the lives of refugees and people seeking asylum by volunteering in partnership with local organisations and be part of a national network building a society where refugees are welcomed. Your group can also sign the pledge to fight the Anti-Refugee Laws.
- Don’t give up. If you feel scared and disheartened, you are not alone. But it’s more important than ever for all of us to work together and keep fighting for a fairer future. Talk to friends and family, take time to look after yourself, and remember that change is possible.
This Bill does not represent us. Refugees are welcome here.