Illegal Migration Act will leave tens of thousands of asylum seekers in a permanent state of “limbo”

24 August 2023

According to a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), the recently passed Illegal Migration Act in the UK will leave tens of thousands of people crossing into the country via the Channel in a state of "limbo" and in need of government support. The report suggests that the government's approach to illegal migration, combined with a backlog of cases, will result in tens of thousands of individuals waiting indefinitely for their cases to be processed.

The report suggests that the act could result in escalating costs of between £5.64 billion and £6.38 billion annually to the Treasury within five years. Last year, over 45,000 people crossed into the UK via the Channel, and as of March, there was a backlog of 172,000 people awaiting an initial decision on their asylum claims.

Marley Morris, associate director for migration, trade, and communities at the IPPR, highlighted the narrow window for the government's migration policies to work, particularly in relation to the enforcement of the Illegal Migration Act and the removal of asylum seekers to Rwanda. Under the act, individuals arriving in the UK without prior permission will be barred from claiming asylum, and the Home Office will be legally obligated to detain and remove them to their country of origin or a safe third country. However, the act is currently on hold pending a Supreme Court ruling on the legality of the removals agreement with Rwanda.

Even if the act is fully implemented, the IPPR warns that the number of people arriving in the UK via small boats is likely to surpass the rate of removals. This would result in a growing population of individuals in limbo and put significant pressure on Home Office accommodation and support systems.

Speaking to journalists, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak acknowledged that it was unlikely to achieve his aim of "stopping the boats" before the next general election. He stated that the issue is complex and cannot be solved overnight.

The IPPR also noted that the Home Office would need to triple the rate at which it processes asylum claims in order to fulfill Sunak's pledge to clear delays in the system by the end of this year. Currently, the government spends over £6 million per day on accommodating asylum seekers in hotels and is exploring alternative lodgings such as barges and military bases.

The IPPR's forecast suggests that even if the Rwanda policy is approved, cross-Channel migration will continue, leaving approximately 200,000 migrants without hope of gaining status after five years. It would be a breach of UK and international law to deport people to countries where they would face persecution without first examining the validity of their asylum claims.

The Home Office responded to the report by stating that the Illegal Migration Act would help clear the asylum backlog by allowing for the detention and swift removal of those who arrive illegally. They also highlighted progress in reducing the "legacy" backlog of asylum cases and increasing the number of asylum decision makers.

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