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“Stop the boats”: UK Proposed Refugee Bill

The United Kingdom (UK) Government has proposed new legislation to confront the asylum seeker influx by boat. The Nationality and Borders Bill is aimed at tackling the increased difficulty for asylum seekers to seek refuge on the island. The Government argues the bill to be a necessary measure for the deterrence of those making dangerous journeys, as well as the prevention of the “criminal gangs” profiting from people smuggling.

Moreover, the UK Government has expressed that this bill represents an achievable solution to the complex immigration system issues and assists significantly in the management of the nation’s resources. With approximately 45 000 refugee arrivals by boat in the last year, UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has pledged to "take back control" of the country's borders and reduce sea drownings.


The bill will introduce a “two-tier” process for asylum claims. The system gives the “regular” category of claims prioritized over that of the “irregular.” “Regular” individuals define those who have arrived in the UK through official means, whereas “irregular” individuals refer to those who tend to arrive by boat. 


The bill proposes measures for the “irregular” category which includes detainment. Specifically, it allows the government to increase detainment time from the current limit of 28 days to up to 6 months. Furthermore, it would give authority to the government to relocate refugees to other nations if passed through a safe country on their journey to the UK. 


The nations are stated to be a collection of “safe third countries”, however, none have yet been identified. This bill gives Suella Braverman, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, a legal obligation to ensure the removal of all unauthorised boat arrivals without reviewing the claim and enables the removal of family reunion rights for those classified “irregular” claims.


If the UK government’s proposed bill is approved and implemented, the government would still violate its international obligations as per the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention. Regardless of whether the convention is “un-binding”, the bill still raises concerns about sovereignty.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has shared the opinion that the UK is neglecting its "fundamental obligations" and is failing to display a share of “global solidarity and responsibility”. The UK, as a sovereign state, has the right to control and manage its borders as they choose, however the responsibility to protect and promote the fundamental rights of individuals are often forgotten. 


There is uncertainty about how this will play out in the House of Commons, the main elective body of the UK, although the bill seems to have the majority. There is also a forecast that the unelected House of Lords will make use of its veto power to block the proposed bill. However, the question remains: will morality, the UN,  and their vows to ensure the protection of human rights, overrule this bill? Or will the state exercise its sovereignty to implement capacity control methods?




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