UK government plan amounts to ‘asylum ban’ in breach of Refugee Convention
New UK government plans to deport asylum seekers who arrive irregularly and exclude them from modern slavery and human rights protections have been sharply criticised by lawyers and human rights campaigners.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman KC yesterday introduced the Illegal Migration Bill, which provides that anyone who enters the UK illegally and who has passed through a safe country will be legally required to be removed.
Migrants may be detained for 28 days with no recourse for bail or judicial review, and then for as long as there is a reasonable prospect of removal.
In the Daily Mail today, Ms Braverman claimed the new law was necessary when there are “100 million people displaced around the world, and likely billions more eager to come here if possible”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the new law would “make clear that if you come here illegally, you can’t claim asylum, you can’t benefit from our modern slavery protections, you can’t make spurious human rights claims and you can’t stay”.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said the bill amounted to “an asylum ban” and would, in its current form, present “a clear breach of the Refugee Convention”.
In a statement, UNHCR added: “Most people fleeing war and persecution are simply unable to access the required passports and visas. There are no safe and ‘legal’ routes available to them.
“Denying them access to asylum on this basis undermines the very purpose for which the Refugee Convention was established. The Convention explicitly recognises that refugees may be compelled to enter a country of asylum irregularly.
“Based on the Home Office’s most recently published data, the vast majority of those arriving to the UK in small boats over the Channel would be accepted as refugees were their claims to be determined. Branding refugees as undeserving based on mode of arrival distorts these fundamental facts.”
Lubna Shuja, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: “As with all legislation our lens will be the rule of law and access to justice. We are concerned neither of these principles have featured in the government’s framing of the bill prior to publishing it.
“So, we will be looking carefully at whether Britain will uphold its international obligations and whether the Home Office can deliver a fair and workable process.”
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, said: “Attempting to disqualify people’s asylum claims en masse regardless of the strength of their case is a shocking new low for the government.
“There is nothing fair, humane or even practical in this plan, and it’s frankly chilling to see ministers trying to remove human rights protections for group of people whom they’ve chosen to scapegoat for their own failures.
“People fleeing persecution and conflict will be irreparably harmed by these proposals, while the UK is setting an utterly terrible example to other countries around the world.”
He added: “Just like the cruel Rwanda scheme, this is a cynical attempt to dodge basic moral and legal responsibilities which this country continues to expect others to take.
“The government is callously using vulnerable people for its own political ends — this is about politics, not the people themselves.
“Ministers need to focus on the real issue — which is the urgent need to fairly and efficiently decide asylum claims while urgently introducing accessible schemes, so people seeking asylum do not have to rely on people smugglers and dangerous journeys.”