A committee of UK lawmakers has raised concerns over the government’s intention to detain and deport migrants who cross the English Channel in small boats. Stating that it would violate the country’s international human rights commitments. The Joint Committee on Human Rights in Parliament expressed that the proposed Illegal Migration Bill not only infringes upon existing human rights obligations. But also poses the risk of violating others.
Chairing the committee, Scottish National Party lawmaker Joanna Cherry emphasized that the legislation would leave the majority of refugees and victims of modern slavery with no viable means of seeking asylum in the UK. She warned that treating victims of modern slavery as “illegal migrants” subject to detention. And removal would not only breach legal obligations to these vulnerable individuals but also heighten the potential for increased trafficking of people in need.
The committee urged the government to implement substantial amendments to the bill. Including exempting trafficking victims from its provisions and limiting the government’s power to indefinitely detain individuals. However, the government, which had previously pledged to “stop the boats,” appears unlikely to consider these recommendations.
The proposed legislation seeks to disallow asylum claims by individuals who arrive in the UK through unauthorized means. It also mandates officials to detain and subsequently deport refugees and migrants “to their home country. Or a safe third country,” such as Rwanda. Once deported, these individuals would be permanently banned from re-entering the UK.
Soaring Crossings: UK Grapples with Increased Arrivals Amidst Legal Debate
The UK government argues that the bill will deter tens of thousands of migrants from undertaking perilous journeys across the English Channel. And disrupt the business model of criminal gangs facilitating these trips. However, critics, including the United Nations’ refugee agency. That have deemed the legislation as ethically questionable and unworkable.
The parliamentary committee raised doubts about the law’s effectiveness as a deterrent and highlighted the potential for individuals to seek alternative. Potentially more dangerous, routes into the UK.
While the bill has received approval in the House of Commons, where the governing Conservatives hold a majority. It faces opposition in the House of Lords, the upper chamber of Parliament. The House of Lords possesses the authority to propose amendments to the legislation but cannot outright block it.
Last year, over 45,000 people, including many escaping conflict-ridden countries like Afghanistan, Iran, and Syria, arrived in the UK via small boats. A significant increase from the 8,500 arrivals in 2020.
To address the accommodation of those awaiting asylum decisions, the government has housed many individuals in hotels. Incurring substantial costs to taxpayers each day. Authorities have announced plans to relocate new arrivals to decommissioned military camps and a docked barge along the southern English coast.