Illegal Migration Act

This page provides you with essential information, what our view on the act is, and a full timeline of the actions we took.

What you need to know

The Illegal Migration Bill was announced on 7 March 2023. It aims to deal with challenges relating to the UK’s asylum process, namely small boat crossings on the English Channel.

The bill, which was not subject to a public consultation, made the following proposals:

  • remove those who enter the UK via unauthorised routes to their home country, or a ‘safe’ third country, such as Rwanda
  • block their access to the UK’s modern slavery protections
  • disregard in most cases asylum or human rights claims made by asylum seekers
  • widen the powers of detention for the purposes of removal, including detention of children

The bill passed through parliament and became law on 20 July 2023.

Our view

We are concerned that the Act may be incompatible with our international obligations under the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Refugee Convention.

Breaching our international obligations undermines the rule of law.

The Act will fundamentally reduce the oversight of our courts. More cases are likely to end up in Strasbourg, which puts the UK at increased legal liability.

The Act contains limited safeguards that, coupled with restrictive timescales for appeal, are likely to diminish access to justice for everyone caught by its provisions.

It is unclear where those in detention will be held and how they will access legal advice.

Tens of thousands of people could be detained indefinitely, at extensive cost to the UK taxpayer, as no ‘safe’ third country (beyond Rwanda) is available.

It is not clear that this Act is workable on its own terms.

This could all have significant implications for our reputation as a reliable nation that upholds its international responsibilities, which has long underpinned our position as an attractive hub for global investment and as a bastion of the rule of law.

Our successes

Although the bill has gone through, our work resulted in two successes:

  • We persuaded the government to add legal aid provisions to the Bill. Originally, the bill did not include any mention of legal aid. Our campaigning led to lines being inserted that ensure the provision of civil legal aid services for those in receipt of a removal notice

  • Following our campaigning on legal aid, the government will open a consultation into immigration legal aid fees

What we did

Find out more about the UK's asylum partnership with Rwanda

Find out how we're building public support and political will for change in our Reframing Justice programme 

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