Image credit: Ashley Smith, Bibby Stockholm in Falmouth Docks, 2023.

The Illegal Migration Bill has completed its path through Parliament, with the government winning a number of late-night votes in the House of Lords. Once it has received royal assent, it will be up to the government when and how to implement it. 

Wilson Solicitors laments the passing of this legislation. The expert representation of asylum seekers has been at the core of the firm’s work for more than 30 years. In that time, we have had the privilege of representing thousands of refugees forced to flee war-torn and otherwise unsafe countries. In the absence of a visa allowing them to travel to the UK to seek protection, mostly they have arrived irregularly. We have witnessed the transformative effect that refugee recognition comes with – legal immigration status, the right to earn a living, family reunification, and building a life here. And we have seen the amazing contribution that our refugee friends have made to the communities they live in.

We believe this legislation will cause untold misery to the communities we work with. We continue to stand in solidarity with them. We will continue to do what we can to mitigate the worst impacts of this and other hostile environment policies for our clients.

We believe the legislation is unworkable and will be shown to be. We believe it will not achieve the government’s stated policy objective to “stop the boats”. And, as one eminent barrister has said, it is “[a] law that breaks every treaty in the book” – among others, the Refugee Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Council of Europe Convention Against Trafficking. 

At its core the legislation creates a legal duty on the government to detain people who arrive in breach of UK law; to refuse their asylum, human rights and other protection-based claims; and remove them to their country of origin or, if that is unsafe, another country that is designated as safe.

The legislation also expands powers of immigration detention and eviscerates hard-won protections for unaccompanied children, families with children and pregnant woman. It allows the government to detain people at facilities like Manston, which became dangerously overcrowded last year.

And it severely curtails the ability of the courts to scrutinise government decisions made under the legislation, for example in relation to detention.

In our experience, the overwhelming majority of people arriving by small boat come from war torn and countries that are otherwise unsafe for them. There is no safe or legal route for them to seek protection in the UK. To comply with the core duty to remove them from the UK, there will need to be a safe third country that is willing and equipped to receive large numbers of people. The only country the UK currently has an agreement with is Rwanda, which the Court of Appeal recently found to be unsafe

Unless and until there is somewhere to send them, large numbers of people fleeing persecution and seeking protection will be stuck in a cruel form of limbo, unable to have their claims considered, prohibited from earning a living for themselves, and forced to live government provided accommodation. Others will likely disappear and be exploited and ill-treated. There is little evidence that this will, as the government thinks, deter people from coming. 

If you have a family law case you need assistance with, please contact Mavis on 020 8885 7986 to arrange for an appointment with a solicitor in the family team.

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