On Tuesday, March 9, the UK government announced its plans to permanently deny the right to asylum to the vast majority of migrants who arrive on UK shores via small boat, effective immediately. The proposed Illegal Migration Bill will apply a so-called“rights brake,” severely limiting migrants’ ability to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), to which the UK is a signatory.
Those who land on UK shores via small boats will be immediately detained without bail or hearing for 28 days. Ministers will be expected to remove migrants “as soon as reasonably practicable.”
Only those under 18, medically unfit to fly, or at a real risk of severe and irreversible harm in the country are being deported to be exempt from deportation. All other asylum claims would be “heard remotely after removal.” An asylum denial would lead to being permanently banned from entering the UK.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman introduced this Bill to Parliament, describing in apocalyptic terms, “waves of illegal migrants… 100 million people around the world [the global number of refugees] … They are coming”.
If passed, this Bill would deprive thousands of people of their fundamental human and democratic rights and give rise to an exponential expansion of Britain’s migrant internment camps.
Roughly 28,000 people entered the UK on small boats in 2021, 45,000 in 2022, and 2,950 in 2023, giving an annual projection of 65,000. This crossing is inherently dangerous and is reported to have claimed the lives of 52 people, including children, since 2018. Fleeing war, persecution, hunger and poverty, these individuals have already made even more dangerous journeys by boat over the Mediterranean or on foot through Europe.
These routes are used by so many as they feel that there is a little alternative. The UK offers limited refugee resettlement and family reunion schemes as legal recourse to asylum, outside of specific schemes for Afghans, Ukrainians, and Hong Kong citizens with British Overseas Status.
Two-thirds of those who crossed the Channel last year were granted asylum according to the Refugee Council, the majority from Afghanistan, Iran, Eritrea, Sudan or Syria. However, under Braverman’s proposed law, all those who arrive this way would be placed under blanket imprisonment.
The asylum seekers in the UK are faced with a plan to deport vulnerable people to Rwanda. At the same time, the government dismantled the current system of housing the 160,000 asylum seekers in hotels and sheltered accommodations. Braverman spoke out vehemently against this “farce of accommodating migrants in hotels.”
In response to Braverman, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper stated, “The government has allowed criminal gangs to take hold along the Channel and our border. At the same time, convictions of people smugglers have halved… costly, inappropriate hotel use has soared, removals of unsuccessful asylum seekers are down 80 per cent on the last Labour government”.
According to reports, conditions in migrant internment camps are already appalling, without considering the thousands more detainees the new law would lead to. The scandal broke last October over the conditions in Manston holding centre.
Designed to accommodate 1,000 people, the centre held nearly 4,000. Detainees reportedly suffered abuse and neglect, with guards accused of selling drugs and outbreaks of scabies, norovirus, diphtheria and MRSA. An inquest is ongoing into the death of a migrant who had tested positive for diphtheria.
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