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Briefings on the Illegal Migration Bill 2023

Kamena Dorling
Beth Mullan-Feroze

The people we support have gone through unimaginable trauma and suffering and it is through the UK’s asylum and trafficking systems that they can access desperately needed support, accommodation and the right to remain in this country. It is only when they have that safety and security that they can begin to recover and rebuild their lives.  

The ‘Illegal Migration’ Bill, if passed, will strip those fleeing war, persecution and human rights abuses of their right to seek safety this country. It will, as emphasised by the UNHCR, amount to an asylum ban on those who arrive irregularly and will prevent access to vital support for survivors of trafficking and modern slavery. The government has admitted that this Bill breaches international law; but it doesn’t just do that, it removes access to justice and redress for the most vulnerable deeming them a subclass of the population not worthy enough to be treated equally before the law. This Bill is a fundamental breach of a survivor’s right to seek sanctuary and protection.

Let’s be clear - this is not just about ‘small boats’: under this Bill the vast majority of those arriving outside the very limited existing ‘safe routes’ will be blocked from protection. Survivors from countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Iran and Syria, including children arriving on their own, will instead be left living in limbo for years, unable to claim asylum and access any form of secure status. With no returns agreements in place and no-where to which the government can remove them, survivors will have to either be held indefinitely in the already overstretched and problematic immigration detention estate or left to languish in Home Office-run accommodation. surviving on £9 a week. 

The Bill will also remove protections for survivors of trafficking and modern slavery, a response to false and wildly misleading claims from the government that the National Referral Mechanism is ‘being abused’. Survivors of trafficking will of course continue to come to the UK by irregular routes because a core aspect of human trafficking is the movement of people and the use of threat, force or fraud and the abuse of vulnerability to do so. Others will continue to travel to seek safety and may be trafficked during, or following their journey. Preventing them from accessing support plays straight into the hands of traffickers, who will use fear and isolation to keep people trapped in exploitation and exploit others.  

The Home Office knows from its own research shows that this Bill will do little to actually ‘deter’ people risking their lives to seek safety. There is also a wealth of clinical evidence on the significant harms caused by immigration detention, and by living in immigration ‘limbo’. The only outcome of the punitive (ineffective) deterrence policies contained in the Bill is will be widespread trauma and suffering. By denying refugees and survivors of trafficking the opportunity to regularise their status, this legislation will deny them and their family members any chance of rebuilding their lives in safety. Excluded and yet unremovable, this population will become even more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse in the UK.  

Our briefings and evidence on the Bill: