UK Illegal Migration Bill Becomes Law

Following a series of votes in the British House of Lords on Monday 17th July, the UK Government’s proposed Illegal Migration Bill also received royal assent on Thursday 20th July and has now become law. The Bill follows British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s long-term pledge to stop thousands of illegal migrants crossing the English Channel from France in small boats. These migrants come from a number of different countries and regions of the world, predominantly Albania, North Africa and the Middle-East. The Bill also gives the British Government full powers to detain and deport any and all illegal migrants who arrive in the UK who have not applied legally for asylum nor for refugee status. Such legal measures were implemented to allow thousands of genuine Ukrainian refugees to come to the UK, fleeing the ongoing war in their homeland.

Following the House of Lords vote, representatives of the United Nations quickly expressed condemnation of the passing of the Bill, claiming that the UK is violating international law. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk and UN Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi released a joint statement condemning the British Government and the passing of the Bill:

…[The Bill] Will have profound consequences for people in need of international protection…This new legislation significantly erodes the legal framework that has protected so many, exposing refugees to grave risks in breach of international law…

A statement from the UK Home Office rejected these accusations of the UK Government breaching international law with the passing of the Bill and stood by the Bill as necessary for British border security:

Our Illegal Migration Bill is a key part of our work to deter and prevent people from making small boat crossings, as it will see people who make these dangerous, illegal and unnecessary journeys detained and swiftly removed.

Currently, it is not yet exactly clear as to what will happen to the majority of migrants who enter the UK illegally, now that the Bill has become law, but according to previous laws passed by the British Government on the matter, the UK and the small African nation of Rwanda have signed an agreement that will ensure that hundreds – if not thousands – of illegal migrants who have entered the UK will be deported to Rwanda and housed in migrant centres there. Some investigations into the state of the accommodation offered to the migrants in Rwanda have revealed that the living conditions are surprisingly pleasant, considering the economic state of the small African country itself. However, one question always pops up regarding this matter – why Rwanda? It just seems rather out-of-the-blue, so to speak, for the UK to send its illegal migrants thousands of miles away to a small Central African country. According to the BBC, the British Government had allegedly made similar agreements with other “third, safe countries”, but it is not exactly clear as to which countries these are. It would have made far more sense if the British Government instead simply deported these people back to their respective countries of origin, if it is not possible to simply turn the boats around and send them back to France. The former option is more likely, however, considering the French Government’s unwillingness to continue taking in thousands more migrants, when France itself is already suffering numerous social and political problems centred around the problem of mass immigration and multiculturalism. The recent nationwide riots in France would not have escaped the attention of many people in Europe.

Last month, the UK Court of Appeal had ruled the Rwanda deal as illegal, but the British Government continues to challenge the Court’s judgement.

Currently, most illegal migrants who have arrived in the UK are held either in special detention centres exclusively for migrants or are accommodated in various hotels across the UK. Many of these hotels are luxurious and come at a very high financial cost to the British taxpayer. The most recent estimate put the British state funds at over £6 million per day for the accommodation of illegal migrants in these high-class luxurious hotels and other public accommodation. The high costs, plus a general atmosphere of uneasiness and low sense of safety around migrants from the point of view of members of the public who have to share their accommodation with these migrants, are further contributing factors to the British Government’s clampdown on illegal immigration as a whole.

Stefan Brakus

ETN Board Member (Serbia)

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