Migration Bill could threaten protections from torture and slavery

The UK Government should reconsider its approach to refugees and asylum, the Law Society of England and Wales said ahead of the second reading of the Illegal Migration Bill on 13 March 2023.

President of the Law Society of England and Wales Lubna Shuja said: “The rule of law and justice are at the heart of Britain’s identity and our position in the international community.

“There is a high chance this bill may not comply with international and domestic law. It could lead to the British state violating fundamental rights such as the right to life, to be protected from torture, trafficking and slavery, to liberty, to fair trial.

“The bill would also give the Home Secretary broad powers, drastically reduce oversight by British courts and diminish access to justice for those seeking asylum.

“The Home Office accepts that more than three in four people claiming asylum here in 2022 are refugees. The near-total ban on asylum this bill proposes would mean most refugees seeking asylum in the UK in future would be refused the protection they have as a right under the UN Refugee Convention.

“The Home Secretary would also have the power to deport unaccompanied children, potentially exposing them to human trafficking and other risks, with no clarity on how this power could be used. This may breach the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“If the UK were to violate international law in this way it would jeopardise the British government’s reputation for upholding the rule of law and delivering justice.

“This would rock the UK’s standing as a reliable nation that upholds its international responsibilities, which has underpinned its position as an attractive hub of global investment and a bastion of the rule of law.”

Lubna Shuja added: “Good law-making requires rigour and attention to detail. But there has been no public consultation, including with lawyers who have practical experience of these cases, to ensure this bill is workable or provides due process for those claiming asylum.

“Tens of thousands of people would be detained indefinitely under these proposals, at great cost to the taxpayer, as there are not at this time safe third countries they could be removed to.

“It is a fundamental principle of British justice that people are given a fair hearing, with the time and advice needed to be properly prepared. The Government must clarify where individuals detained under the bill will be held and how lawyers will be able to access these facilities, whether legal aid is available to individuals affected by the bill and how this will be provided.

“The Home Office should instead fix the administrative problems with the asylum system so it is fair and fit for purpose. And it should make any decisions which have a profound impact on people’s lives in line with our international commitments.”

Notes to the editor

Read our parliamentary briefing on the Bill ahead of the second reading in parliament. 

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