UK Government’s New Anti-Immigration Bill: Radical New Laws To Stop The Boats

Immigration papers
Joseph Clayton

On 7th March 2023, the UK government unveiled their new Anti-Immigration Bill which is currently being debated on the floor of the House of Commons. Rishi Sunak promised the electorate that he would tackle illegal immigration when he became Prime Minister in October, and this latest announcement is an attempt at just that.

This comes after 45,755 men, women, and children crossed the Channel in small boats to reach the UK in 2022, with over 3,000 people having already made the crossing this year to seek asylum and safety. This has led the government to argue that stricter legislation is needed to radically reduce these numbers and ensure that refugees enter the country through the legal process.

Therefore, the new anti-immigration bill, nicknamed “Stop the Boats”, would allow the government to remove people who arrive in the UK illegally “within weeks”, with asylum seekers receiving a lifetime ban on returning. This means that when refugees arrive via small boats or in the back of a lorry, they will be detained for 28 days and then deported.  Therefore, the Home Office won’t consider someone’s claim, even if they’re from a war-torn country such as Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria. 

The new anti-immigration bill is just an attempt to restrict a specific type of refugee

In 2022, 20,446 people were detained, with 47% detained for seven days or less. The current detention capacity in the UK is 2,286, meaning the government would be unable to hold every refugee for 28 days, therefore requiring extra capacity. As a result, the government are currently planning to convert a former RAF base in Essex and another in Lincolnshire to hold the detainees.

The government’s immigration minister Robert Jenrick has suggested that “thousands” of refugees could be sent to Rwanda under their new plan to stop channel crossings. He stated that the UK’s partnership with Rwanda is “uncapped” and they are “willing to take as many people as is required”, adding, “if it requires thousands of people to be sent to Rwanda, then we will send thousands of people to Rwanda.”

However, recent statistics have led many to question whether the new anti-immigration bill is just an attempt to restrict a specific type of refugee from being able to seek asylum here in the UK. This is important because refugees are not legally allowed to claim asylum from outside the UK, meaning that many people have no choice but to enter the UK without permission.

The government has forgotten that seeking asylum is a human right

This was shown in 2022, as only 1,185 refugees were legally resettled in the UK and did not arrive by crossing the Channel, 75% less than in 2019. This shows that it is not easily accessible for refugees to access safe, legal routes into the country. Therefore, if refugees do not make the dangerous journey across the Channel, it becomes much harder
for them to seek asylum in the UK.

However, in the last year, more than 210,000 visas have been issued to people fleeing from Ukraine to the UK, with none arriving by crossing the Channel and none receiving the threat of being detained and potentially being sent to Rwanda. So, if the government are only attempting to drastically reduce the number of refugees arriving via small boats, this suggests that only refugees from certain countries are being targeted, such as those from Afghanistan and Syria.

The government’s hard-line stance on small boats has received a large backlash throughout the UK and worldwide, with many critics arguing that the legislation is degrading, inhumane and harsh. It has also led many to question whether the government has forgotten that seeking asylum is a human right, meaning that everyone should be legally allowed to enter another country to seek asylum. This was highlighted when the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, was unable to confirm whether the bill was compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Suella Braverman could not confirm whether it is conductive with the European Convention on human rights”

These criticisms were highlighted by Gary Lineker in a series of comments made on social media in the last few days, which led to Lineker being forced out of his Match of the Day duties by the BBC during the weekend. In his comments, Lineker compared the language used by the government to launch their new asylum policy with 1930s Germany. This led to disagreements with the BBC, who received criticism over his tweet, stating that Lineker had broken impartiality.

Earlier this week, I interviewed the President of UoN Labour Students, Sarah Shepherd, on her thoughts and opinion regarding the government’s latest anti-immigration bill. She said, “The bill on asylum and migration that is in the process of being debated in the Commons places extreme limitations on the ability to claim asylum in the UK. This bill is inhumane, so much so that Suella Braverman could not confirm whether it is conductive with the European Convention on human rights. Instead of dehumanising people, the government should be focused on making the safe and legal routes into the UK highly accessible”.

Joseph Clayton

Featured image courtesy of Metin Ozer on Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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