Defective and dangerous legislation must be changed before it passes into law
Six key issues with the Illegal Migration Bill must be dealt with before it passes into law, the Law Society of England and Wales has warned.
The controversial Bill reaches report stage in the House of Lords today (Wednesday, 28 June).
“The Illegal Migration Bill is a defective and dangerous piece of legislation that threatens to undermine the rule of law and access to justice. It is likely to be unworkable,” said our president Lubna Shuja.
We have identified six issues that must, as a minimum, be addressed before the Bill can be allowed to pass into law.
1. Legal safeguards against abuse
“Provisions within the Bill effectively prioritise the removal of an individual over and above human rights or safety concerns. They also unacceptably narrow the ability of the courts to provide protection against abuses,” said Lubna Shuja.
“Amendments should be made to ensure there are adequate legal safeguards in place and that the Bill is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).”
2. Interim measures
“There is a clear and unmistakable intention not to comply with interim measures issued by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in relation to the removal of a person under this Bill,” said Lubna Shuja.
“Interim measures are only used in the most serious cases where severe harm could occur.
“Disregarding and refusing to comply with interim measures issued by the ECtHR would be a clear, unambiguous, and serious breach of international law. This provision should be removed.”
3. Duty to remove
“We are seriously concerned that the duty to remove asylum seekers and prevent them claiming asylum will ultimately be unworkable. It will create significant problems down the line,” said Lubna Shuja.
“The government has only secured one removals agreement, which is with Rwanda. Rwanda alone will not be able to accept anywhere near the number of people who would be scheduled for ‘removal’ and, in any case, the agreement is currently subject to legal challenge.
“If after six months a person has not been removed the Home Office should be required to consider their asylum claim in the UK. This prevents a growing backlog of people who cannot be removed, with individuals kept in a state of limbo, without any route to claiming asylum or accessing justice, at an increasing cost to the taxpayer.”
4. Powers of the Home Secretary
“The Bill is intended to change the long-established protection that it is for the court to decide how long it is reasonable to detain someone for the purposes of removal,” said Lubna Shuja.
“The Bill creates a statutory power to detain a person where the Secretary of State considers that removal is no longer possible “within a reasonable period”. The effects of this could be vast numbers of people being held in detention long term, with fewer legal avenues to challenge it.
“Amendments must be made to ensure this is not the case.”
5. Legal advice and legal aid
“The government has confirmed that claims arising under the Bill will be in scope for legal aid and is consulting on increasing fees for legal aid work specifically related to removal notices under the Bill,” said Lubna Shuja.
“Whilst this is a positive step, the government needs to ensure legally aided advice will be practically available to individuals. Due to the tight timelines provided for making a claim, and a severe lack of capacity in the immigration and asylum legal aid sector, it is highly unlikely individuals will actually be able to access the legal advice to which they are entitled, at the time that they need it.
“The government must extend the timelines for making a claim, as well as provide urgent investment in legal aid to ensure there is capacity in the immigration and asylum legal aid sector.”
6. Modern slavery
“Under the Bill, victims of modern slavery and trafficking who have been brought to the UK - including children - will be disqualified automatically from modern slavery protections and subjected to removal,” said Lubna Shuja.
“Ultimately, this will undermine efforts to tackle human trafficking and modern slavery, which directly contradicts one of the government’s aims in introducing this Bill.”
Notes to Editors
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