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First and foremost, the UK Government’s Illegal Migration Bill will violate the human rights of individual people. Often these people will be fleeing to the UK hoping for safety, but this Bill means they are likely only to be met with cruelty. That is the stark assessment we delivered to the Human Rights (Joint Committee) during their recent call for evidence on the Illegal Migration Bill.

A violation of rights

Our submission detailed the ways in which the Bill violates international human rights law, with a particular focus on the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (The Refugee Convention). These are both pieces of international law which the UK Government has voluntarily ratified, and so agreed to be bound by.

We also made clear that Just Fair supports submissions to the call for evidence from organisations including Liberty and René Cassin, which deal authoritatively with human rights obligations currently incorporated into our domestic legal order in the United Kingdom.

Our submission dealt with international human rights law.

Drawing international attention

We also detailed the various international human rights monitoring mechanisms which have noted the UK’s treatment of those seeking asylum including:

  • The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) – a review mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council. During the recent UPR of the UK, over 20 specific recommendations were made in relation to the treatment of refugees and those seeking asylum by the United Kingdom (for more information on the UPR see here).
  • The seventh periodic review of the UK by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) – a group of human rights experts who review the UK for compliance with ICESCR. CESCR recently formally requested that the UK Government provide information on the measures taken to ensure that all persons applying for international protection are given access to fair and efficient asylum procedures, protection against refoulment and access to independent appeal mechanisms. This is significant intervention which illustrates that the current procedure for dealing with asylum claims is of particular interest to this committee. (For more information on CESCR and this process, see here.)
  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – on 22 March 2023, the UNHCR Representation for the United Kingdom provided its legal observations on the Bill in a thirty-five page document. This communication noted that the Bill, if enacted, would breach the UK’s obligations under the Refugee Convention, the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, the 1961 Convention for the Reduction of Statelessness and international human rights law and would significantly undermine the international refugee protection system.

Conclusion

We ended our submission by noting that first and foremost, this Bill will violate the human rights of individuals. Often these people will be fleeing to the UK hoping for safety, but this Bill means they are likely only to be met with cruelty.  We also emphasised that the UNHCR outlines how the Bill puts the international refugee protection system at risk.  In addition, through human rights review mechanisms, states across the world, and human rights experts have been highly critical of our treatment of refugees and those seeking asylum.

We believe that proceeding with this Bill will further harm the UK’s international reputation as a leader in human rights.

Background image by  Veronika Belcheva