Response to the government's Illegal Migration Bill

18 July 2023

Today, MPs voted to pass the government’s Illegal Migration Bill into law. The President and Vice-President have joined with civil society groups and charities in a solidarity statement to mark this moment, and express their concern about the impact the Bill will have on people seeking asylum in the UK. The statement reads:

“We all deserve to live safe from harm. But this senselessly cruel Act will have a devastating impact on people’s lives. It turns our country’s back on people seeking safety, blocking them from protection, support, and justice at a time they need it most.

In abandoning the UK’s moral and legal obligations, the Act risks breaching multiple international human rights treaties including the Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights while shielding the Government from accountability. The UK Government has admitted that it cannot confirm if the Act is compatible with the UK’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Act will force people into situations that threaten their lives – whether by placing children in detention or sending people off to countries where their lives might be at grave risk. Moreover, the Act attacks the very core of human rights, which is the principle that we all have them regardless of who we are or where we are from. In stripping the most basic rights from people seeking safety and a better life, the Act dismantles human rights protections for all of us.

Either all of us have human rights, or none of us do. While the UK Government’s plans will harm those seeking safety the most, this is an attack on all of us and the values we hold dear.

The government has rushed through this law despite broad and deep opposition. But our fight is not over. As caring people, we will continue to fight for the right for people to seek safety and a better life without being forced to take dangerous journeys and without being punished for how they enter the UK. We will keep holding those in power to account for upholding the UK’s international obligations. We will strive for an asylum and immigration system that treats everyone with dignity and respect. We will stand in solidarity with and fight alongside everyone who makes the UK their home and build a society that treats everyone with compassion.”

You can read the statement with the full list of signatories here: www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/issue/joint-civil-society-statement-on-the-passage-of-the-illegal-migration-act/.

The Methodist Church has been outspoken in opposition to the Illegal Migration Bill since it was announced earlier this year. In a joint statement with ecumenical partners when the Bill was announced, the President and Vice-President said that the Bill was “completely incompatible with our Christian conviction that all human beings are made in the image of God” and called on the government to withdraw the legislation and establish safe and accessible routes by which people can claim asylum in the UK.

In April, over 1450 church leaders wrote to the Prime Minister opposing the Bill, arguing that it would “foster discrimination and distrust” and cause “immeasurable harm”.

With it’s passing, the Illegal Migration Bill sees the implementation of plans to make claiming asylum in the UK via irregular routes illegal. You can read more about the challenges facing the UK asylum system here: www.jpit.uk/refugeesbriefing2023.

The Bill also pushes forward with the controversial plan to deport asylum seekers to safe third countries, including the planned partnership with Rwanda. The government continue to face opposition on these plans, and you can hear more about this in a 10 Minutes On podcast from the Joint Public Issues team here.