London passes law against illegal immigration, banning asylum

The British parliament on Tuesday adopted a highly controversial law against illegal immigration that substantially restricts the right to asylum, contrary to international law on refugees, drawing criticism from the United Nations.

Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has made the fight against illegal immigration a priority, has promised to “stop” the arrival of migrants in small boats by the channel. According to the government, the new law should prevent these migrants from coming to the United Kingdom, which is struggling to fulfill a promise to “take back control” over borders at the time of Brexit.

According to the text, migrants who have arrived illegally in British territory will no longer be able to seek asylum in the country.

The government also wants migrants to be deported quickly after being detained, either to their country of origin or to a third country like Rwanda, regardless of where they come from.

Highly criticized even in the majority, the bill was blocked in Parliament for weeks, with the House of Lords demanding a number of amendments, notably limits on child custody and protection against modern slavery. It was eventually adopted overnight from Monday to Tuesday and now only has to be promulgated by King Charles III as a formality.

British Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made the fight against illegal immigration a priority as he speaks to reporters on the sidelines of a school tour in London, July 17, 2023. (Pool/AFP – Alberto Pezzali)

The United Nations strongly condemned the law, saying it “contradicts” Britain’s obligations under international human rights and refugee law.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk and High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi condemned it in a joint press release, saying it “will have serious consequences for those in need of international protection”.

Condemning the United Nations, it said migrants would have “no guarantee of being able to benefit from protection in the country” where they will be expelled. The law “creates sweeping new powers of detention with limited judicial review”.

– “Prison Boat” –

In 2022, more than 45,000 migrants, mainly from France, crossed the Channel aboard small boats, a record. More than 13,000 people have crossed the border since the beginning of the year. In the first quarter, it was mainly Afghans.

The government accuses illegal immigrants of “skipping the queue”, causing harm to those arriving through “safe” or legal means.

But the UN says, “the vast majority of people fleeing war or persecution do not have access to documents such as passports or visas.” “Safe or ‘legal’ avenues are rarely available to them.”

For the British NGO Refugee Council, “it is a dark day for the reputation of the United Kingdom” and “a sobering moment” for protection seekers: “the fight for a fair and humane asylum system continues”.

London last year struck a deal with Rwanda to deport illegal immigrants there, but so far no deportations have taken place. The first flight, scheduled for June 2022, was canceled following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

In late June, the courts declared the project illegal, but the government quickly announced an appeal.

The Anglican Church’s spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who is a member of the House of Lords, is strongly opposed to the legislation passed on Tuesday.

“I don’t know how” this would make it possible to stop the migrant boats, he said during the debate. He added, “I haven’t heard anything that makes me believe that.”

The barge Bibby Stockholm in drydock for refurbishment in Falmouth, southern Britain.  Barges should be used to keep illegal migrants.  we can read
The barge Bibby Stockholm in drydock for refurbishment in Falmouth, southern Britain. Barges should be used to keep illegal migrants. We can read “Don’t climb the barriers” (AFP – Ben Stansell)

The United Kingdom has other stipulations against illegal immigration.

Paris and London reached a new agreement in March, providing British funding to support France’s efforts to prevent departures to England.

Furthermore, to reduce the cost of hotel accommodation, around 500 asylum seekers will be accommodated on a barge docked in an English port.

The barge named “Bibby Stockholm” arrived at the port of Portland in southern England on Tuesday morning. It has been strongly criticized by NGOs, who call it a “prison boat”.

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