Statement on the Illegal Migration Act

26 July 2023

We have been reflecting, this week, on the Illegal Migration Act that was made law last week. This Act shows a flagrant disregard for the lives and wellbeing of people seeking safety, demonstrating the deterioration of the values and structures created to protect them.

The Act removes the right to seek asylum in the UK from those arriving through so-called ‘irregular’ means, shattering UK international human rights commitments to provide sanctuary to those fleeing war and persecution. Despite attempts to introduce amendments from the House of Lords, key features of the Bill will remain, including the abandonment of time limits on the detention of children. As the UN has stated, the Act poses a severe risk to the international refugee protection system, eroding the human rights principles on which it depends. 

We work, every day, with people facing the harshest edge of hostile immigration policy. They are fearful of removal to Rwanda, of detention and of barge accommodation, trapped in limbo without the right to work, subject to indefinite waiting times in a system that only seems to get slower. We hear from women isolated for months in hotel rooms with their newborns, from young men who speak of the rapid deterioration of their mental health in the asylum system, and from people who have lost hope in the possibility of sanctuary in the UK. There is a profound and severe human cost to this crisis and chaos of asylum policy. 

Instead of working to change this, the Illegal Migration Act continues abject and persistent failures to uphold commitments to human rights legislation, with disastrous, and sometimes fatal, consequences. In the context of inflamed polarisation across the UK, this active erosion of the rights of people seeking safety only serves to further demonise and threaten people who need protection and security. As we have stated in our submissions to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, this Act will breach our international commitments, and decimate remaining migrant rights in the UK. This joint statement signed by Positive Action in Housing echoes this warning. 

This legislation contradicts the 70-year-old human rights commitments of 196 states to provide protection to people seeking sanctuary, risking turning Britain into a pariah state. We will stand in solidarity with organisations across the UK, and continue to work with people across the UK who are threatened with the hostility of our asylum system. We will continue to work towards a better future for those fleeing persecution and war, where division and exclusion are abandoned in favour of compassion and international human rights law.

Iona Taylor (Advocacy and Campaigns Lead) and Sarah (Volunteer)

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