Britain’s House of Lords votes in favor of controversial immigration law that denies boat people asylum

A boat carrying migrants reaches the coast of Dover.  Photo Dan Kitwood/Getty

A boat carrying migrants reaches the coast of Dover.Photo Dan Kitwood/Getty

“Unenforceable, shameful and embarrassing for Britain,” is how Green Party leader Jenny Jones described the bill she had been trying to block all night Tuesday morning. Several members of the House of Lords have attempted adjustments, for example to limit the detention of children, but the controversial issue Illegal Migration Bill was adopted as is after a long night of discussion.

Now that the two houses of the British Parliament have agreed, only the signature of King Charles remains. If the law comes into force, refugees and migrants who reach Britain via an illegal route will lose the right to seek asylum there. The UK government mainly targets people traveling across Europe to cross the English Channel from France. They can then be imprisoned without any procedure and deported to their country of origin or another “safe country”.

About the Author
Carlijn van Esch is the foreign editor of by Volkskrant. She lives and works in Sierra Leone.

The UNHCR ruled harshly on the law on Tuesday, saying it “contradicts the country’s obligations under international human rights and refugee law and will have far-reaching consequences for people in need of ‘international protection,’ wrote UN human rights commissioner Volker Türk. Curator Filippo Grandi in a report. Türk also says he is concerned that other countries will follow suit and ignore their “asylum obligations”.

Human rights groups speak of a ‘dark day’ and warn that the ‘cruel’ law could go completely wrong. According to the British NGO Refugee Council, it is not possible at the moment to deport asylum seekers, which means that they will be detained for a long time with the consequence “human suffering and high costs for the taxpayer”.

Agreement with Rwanda

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government is grappling with the migration issue. The Conservative Party has promised voters an end to the large number of migrants and refugees arriving by boat, some 45,000 last year. The government is trying all sorts of ways to discourage migration, but so far it has had little effect.

An important part of the plans is to deport those the government calls “illegal migrants” to Rwanda. It had previously been agreed that asylum seekers who have little chance of obtaining a residence permit – especially single men – would wait for their procedure in the East African country. However, this agreement with Rwanda, concluded for more than 160 million euros, never saw the light of day because the judges drew a line there.

A stumbling block that still stands in the way of the very expensive Rwanda plan – costs: almost 200,000 euros per migrant – is the recent ruling by a British court that it is not a safe country. The judges ruled that there was too much risk that Rwanda would send asylum seekers back to their country of origin, where some face prosecution. Sunak strongly disagrees and takes the case to the Supreme Court. For now, the Illegal Migration Bill The government therefore has the right to deport asylum seekers, but no safe country has yet been found that is ready to receive them.

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