UK unveils bill providing for detainment and removal of migrants who enter illegally

The UK government Tuesday unveiled its Illegal Migration Bill, which would require the deportation of anyone who illegally entered the UK and passed through a safe country. If passed, the home secretary will have the power to enforce the legislation. The bill comes under the scope of one of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s “5 key priorities for 2023,” in which he aimed to “pass new laws to stop small boats, making sure that if you come to this country illegally, you are detained and swiftly removed.”

Section 1 of the bill says it is designed “to prevent and deter unlawful migration, and in particular migration by unsafe and illegal routes.” Under the bill, people caught traveling via these “unsafe and illegal routes,” in breach of immigration control, are subject to removal by UK officials. Further details announced in a press release said, “Migrants may be detained for 28 days with no recourse for bail or judicial review, and then for as long as there is a reasonable prospect of removal.”

That said, migrants have the opportunity to apply for bail at the end of those 28 days, and habeas corpus protections against unlawful and indefinite prison remain in place. Additionally, unaccompanied children will not be removed to a third country until they reach the age of 18.

Further, migrants who come to the UK illegally will be prevented from settling in the country and will face a permanent ban from returning. Migrants will also not be able to seek asylum. Rather, their claims will be considered in a safe third country.

There will be limited circumstances in which legal challenges will prevent someone from being removed from the UK. Namely, if the third country the migrant should be moved to is deemed unsafe, they may remain in the UK. In order to make this workable, the UK will expand the list of countries that are considered safe in law. The government says the bill will make it “unquestionably clear when someone doesn’t need our protection because they are obviously not at risk of persecution in their home country.”

In response to the bill, Special Rapporteur on Slavery Tomoyo Obokata tweeted, “I am seriously concerned by the proposed disqualification of modern slavery referrals from foreign victims entering illegally.”

There have been concerns for international law and the legality of the bill, however UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman said, “Our approach is robust and novel, which is why we can’t make a definitive statement of compatibility under the section 91B of the Human Rights Act. Of course the UK will always seek to uphold international law and I am confident that this Bill is compatible with international [humanitarian] law.”

On page one of the bill, the home secretary states that she is “unable to make a statement that, in [her] view, the provisions of the Illegal Migration Bill are compatible with the [European Convention on Human Rights], but the Government nevertheless wishes the House to proceed with the Bill.”