“It is essential that parliamentarians prevent legislation that is incompatible with the United Kingdom’s international obligations being passed”, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, in her letter to the House of Commons and the House of Lords about the “Illegal Immigration Bill”, published today.
The Commissioner warns that “the Bill’s provisions create clear and direct tension with well-established and fundamental human rights standards”.
By preventing people who arrive irregularly in the UK from having their asylum claims assessed, the Bill would strip away one of the essential building blocks of the protection system. “Passing the Bill would add to the already significant regression in the protection of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in the UK in the last few years”, the Commissioner stresses.
Various elements of the Bill that are of concern to the Commissioner are highlighted, including the lack of guarantees that objections to removal would be assessed fully in accordance with the standards set out in the ECHR, the exclusion of most potential victims of trafficking in human beings from modern slavery protections, the widespread powers of detention, and strict limits on judicial challenges to detention. She also warns that the Bill would reverse progress made in reducing the harmful practice of detaining children.
The Commissioner further observes the risk that the Bill would leave potentially large numbers of people in legal limbo and reiterates the importance of safe and legal routes as a credible alternative to dangerous, irregular Channel crossings. However, providing a credible alternative means that the UK government should not wait to expand such safe and legal routes only after boats have stopped arriving, and that a framework should be put in place to enable those who have a potentially legitimate claim to protection or stay on other grounds in the UK can make such a claim from France.