UK’s Controversial Illegal Migration Bill Passes; UN Raises Concerns
The United Kingdom has passed a highly contested Illegal Migration Bill, paving the way for easier deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda. Despite facing opposition and amendments from the House of Lords, the bill was successfully approved by the House of Commons, and it is now awaiting Royal Assent to become law.
The legislation, proposed by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, aims to address the increasing number of asylum seekers attempting dangerous crossings from France to the southern coast of England. Under the new law, most individuals will be prevented from claiming asylum in the UK without permission and will be deported to their country of origin or a designated safe country like Rwanda.
However, the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda has drawn criticism from opposition politicians, lawyers, and civil rights groups, who argue that it is inhumane, cruel, and ineffective. The United Nations human rights chief, Volker Turk, expressed serious concerns about the bill, stating that it raises legal issues and sets a troubling precedent for dismantling asylum-related obligations. Turk further warned that other countries might follow suit, posing a potential threat to the international refugee and human rights protection system.
While the passage of the bill marks a significant milestone for the UK government’s efforts to curb irregular migration, the implementation of deportation flights to Rwanda is not expected to commence until next year. The Supreme Court is yet to rule on the legality of such deportations, with a decision expected later this year.
Despite the bill becoming law, its full enforcement will be dependent on resolving legal challenges in the courts. A spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed confidence in their success in the Supreme Court challenge and emphasized that the new powers cannot be fully utilized until the legal issues are resolved.
The passage of the bill coincided with the arrival of a barge that will house asylum seekers off the southern coast of England. The use of barges has sparked controversy, with critics arguing that it is a cost-saving measure at the expense of proper accommodation. The government defended the use of barges, stating that it provides a cheaper alternative to hotels.
Last year, a record number of 45,755 people crossed the English Channel in small boats, predominantly from France. The number of arrivals in 2023 has already exceeded 12,000, similar to the rate seen in 2022.
The United Nations expressed concerns about the potential domino effect of the UK’s legislation, warning that other countries may be tempted to adopt similar measures. The UN called on the UK government to reverse the law and instead focus on increasing safe pathways for legal migration to reduce the reliance on irregular and illegal routes.
The passing of the Illegal Migration Bill in the face of opposition from various groups highlights the deep divisions surrounding immigration policies in the UK. While the government argues that the bill is necessary to address the challenges posed by irregular migration, critics argue that it fails to uphold human rights obligations and overlooks the complex factors driving forced displacement. As the legal challenges continue, the implications of this controversial legislation will unfold in the months ahead.