UK Bar Council, Archbishop of Canterbury call Illegal Migration Bill ‘deeply flawed’ and ‘morally unacceptable’ News
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UK Bar Council, Archbishop of Canterbury call Illegal Migration Bill ‘deeply flawed’ and ‘morally unacceptable’

The UK Bar Council on Wednesday called on peers in the House of Lords to reject the “deeply flawed” Illegal Migration Bill.

The second reading of the bill took place in the House of Lords this afternoon and saw the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby make representations as to the immorality of the bill. This was after the council briefed peers on the bill. The main problem the council cites with the bill is that it sees the legislation as restricting judicial scrutiny, undermining the rule of law, and removing respect for human rights. All of these concerns occur while simultaneously allowing for an extension of immigration detention powers and the corresponding limitations on judicial protection of liberty, essentially expanding the powers available to the Home Secretary.

Nick Vineall KC, Chair of the Bar Council, said:

We recognise that it is right and proper for Parliament to wish to achieve better control of illegal immigration. But it is wrong to try to remove judicial oversight, and wrong to ignore obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. This is a deeply flawed piece of legislation. It undermines access to justice and contravenes fundamental principles that form the bedrock of the UK’s constitutional settlement. We hope the House of Lords will reject it.

During the debate in Lords which took place throughout the day, Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Paddick in opposition to the second reading sought a motion to decline the Illegal Migration Bill. This motion proposed the House should decline to give the bill a second reading on the grounds that the bill fails to meet the UK’s international law commitments and allows ministers to ignore the directions of judges, saying it:

  • undermines the UK’s tradition of providing sanctuary to refugees by removing their legal right to claim asylum and protections offered to modern slavery victims;
  • fails to provide safe and legal routes for refugees;
  • fails to include measures to eliminate the backlog of asylum cases and to tackle people-smuggling gangs.

If agreed to, this motion will indicate that members have rejected the bill, which will then be removed from future Lords business.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said, “the bill has no sense at all of the long-term nature of the challenge that the world faces” with migration and global warming. He also called the bill “isolationist,” “morally unacceptable,” and “politically impractical.” The Archbishop further urged the government to reconsider many of the provisions which he said disagreed with the UK’s history, moral responsibility and international interests.

The bill has seen criticism from trafficking experts at the Council of Europe and a trio of UN Special Rapporteurs, building on mounting pressure against the government to uphold its obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention.