York representatives respond to ‘ruthless’ migration bill

(Picture: CCL)

By Millie Simon – Regular Contributor

Impracticable. Immoral. Illegal. 

On Monday, Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s Illegal Migration Bill passed its second reading with not a single Conservative MP voting against it. The Bill outlines new powers to detain anyone who takes unofficial routes to get to the UK, and then be deported to a third country such as Rwanda with a lifetime ban placed on those who may wish subsequently to claim asylum in the UK. The Bill has been criticised by many including immigration advisors for its utter impracticality, as it fails to address the reasons why people are willing to risk their lives to reach the UK. The Government hopes that the Bill will act as a deterrent to prevent migrants from travelling to the UK, which will in turn reduce human trafficking cases. 

Yet a bewildering succession of legislation in recent years has attempted – and failed – to do just that. For example the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 not only failed as a punishable measure, but also did very little to reduce the number of boats crossing the channel.  Braverman has little evidence that this bill will be any more effective. Her predecessor attempted a similar strategy of deporting asylum seekers to a “safe third country”, but the so-called Rwanda plan has been successfully halted by campaigners and is currently waiting to be heard in the Court of Appeal and is even expected to be heard in the Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). So far, not a single person has been deported to Rwanda, demonstrating that immigration deterrents are ineffective without consideration for the cause of why people flee countries. 

Whilst the Home Secretary insists that migrants can enter this country through “safe and legal routes”, Amnesty International highlights that there are no safe and legal routes for people claiming asylum, and that the bill contains nothing about extending safe and legal boats until they have dealt with the issue of small boats. 

Labour’s candidate for York Outer, Luke Charters, challenged the Bill’s inability to tackle the core problem of trafficking gangs and worries the problem will grow worse for victims of trafficking. He also criticised York Outer’s Conservative MP, Julian Sturdy, for voting in favour of the bill. The York Central MP, Rachael Maskell, described the bill as “chilling” and in a press release focused on the “vulnerable people fleeing terrors unimaginable” calling it an “affront to our British values”. Maskell highlighted the inadequacy of successive Conservative home secretaries in charge of processing claims and ensures that Labour will provide “safe and legal routes… ending people smuggling and stopping dangerous journeys”. Julian Sturdy was asked to comment on the Bill, and at the time of publication, hasn’t responded. 

Braverman has insisted that Britain is suffering from an “invasion” of migrants and claims that 100 million people are expected to travel to the UK seeking asylum. Whilst this figure has been refuted, her ruthless Bill and even more dangerous rhetoric has provided the far-right, after years of decline and fragmentation, a new energy in rallying discontent. 

Eric Zemmour, the far-right candidate for the French Presidency in 2022, praised the British Government’s hardline stance “to protect his [Sunak’s] people from the submersion of migrants”, whilst Italy’s far-right deputy prime minister thought it was “harsh, but fair”. 

Even if the Bill makes it through both chambers, it is likely to be challenged by the courts for contravening the ECHR, despite the UK signing up to the law under Winston Churchill in 1951. Officials have been told that the bill breaks eight rights including preventing people from accessing their right to seek asylum, which the UN Refugee Agency has described as the “asylum ban”.  Even Braverman herself is unable to confirm whether the bill is compatible with the ECHR.

“Stop the boats” is one of five priorities Sunak outlined at the beginning of the year. It is incumbent that before the General Election next year, Sunak must prove that he is serious about stabilising the economy and securing jobs for the British electorate. The increased obsession on immigration, particularly post-Brexit, highlights the Conservative Government’s desperate attempt to distract the electorate from their own mismanaging of the economy, and scapegoat the most vulnerable of society.  It also threatens to impact on community relations in every town and city – including here in York. We must all be vigilant to see off any incipient far-right activity. 

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