Due to a substantial increase in individuals attempting to enter the United Kingdom (U.K.) unlawfully via small boats, which is inherently dangerous, and concerns over gangs having an incentive to smuggle people into the country, the U.K. government introduced the Illegal Migration Bill in the House of Commons on March 7, 2023. The bill is currently under consideration in the House of Lords. The government has stated that the purpose of the bill is to “make it unambiguously clear that, if you enter the UK illegally, you should not be able to remain here. Instead, you will be detained and promptly removed either to your home country or to a safe country where any asylum claim will be considered.” Under the current provisions of the bill, individuals entering the U.K. without lawful permission would be detained and removed to their home country, or if it is not safe for them to be removed there, to a safe third country, such as Rwanda, and applications for asylum would be considered from these countries. The inclusion of removal to a safe third country has been included in the bill despite this procedure currently being under consideration by the courts.
If enacted, the bill would place a duty on the secretary of state to remove individuals who enter the U.K. without lawful permission from the country as soon as is reasonably practicable. This would not require the secretary of state to remove unaccompanied minors until they are 18 years old, but he would have the power to do so. The bill would provide that any asylum or human rights claims from individuals who entered the U.K. illegally would be declared inadmissible, as would people who traveled through safe third countries. They would not be permitted to settle in the U.K. and, once removed, would not be allowed to reenter.
The bill would add Albania, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland to the list of countries designated as “safe in law,” whose inhabitants are not at risk of persecution and thus do not need U.K. protection. The government’s intention behind the bill is to ensure that individuals in need of asylum will enter through legal routes and avoid dangerous crossings and human trafficking, and has stated it intends to create more of these routes. The bill would also include an annual cap on the number of people who may claim asylum in the U.K., although this could be amended “in the face of humanitarian emergencies.”
The bill has been subject to considerable criticism from human rights groups, which have described it as a ban on asylum and state it breaches a number of the U.K.’s international obligations. The bill itself includes a statement from a government minister who notes, “I am unable to make a statement that, in my view, the provisions of the Illegal Migration Bill are compatible with the Convention rights, but the Government nevertheless wishes the House to proceed with the Bill.”
Clare Feikert-Ahalt, Law Library of Congress
May 12, 2023
Read more Global Legal Monitor articles.