UK Parliament Human Rights Committee condemns controversial migration bill News
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UK Parliament Human Rights Committee condemns controversial migration bill

The UK Parliament’s Human Rights Committee on Sunday condemned the country’s proposed Illegal Migration Bill in their latest report and urged the government “not to breach its legal obligations to refugees, children and victims of modern slavery, and to play its part in the global system of refugee protection.” Government officials have claimed the bill will “deter (so-called) ‘illegal’ entry and prevent people smuggling and further deaths in the Channel.”

The 154 page report evaluates the Bill’s compatibility with the UK’s human rights obligations, including the UN Refugee Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking (ECAT).

“Having carried out legislative scrutiny of the Bill,” said Joanna Cherry KC MP, Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, “it is clear that it breaches a number of the UK’s international human rights obligations – including the ECHR and risks breaching others.”

Amongst the many provision the report scrutinized, the report makes a number of considerations and joint recommendations, including that clauses 2, 4 & 5 on the inadmissibility of asylum & human rights claims and removal of migrants penalizes refugees who come to the UK through channels other than the so-called “safe and legal routes.” The report notes that this would include children and victims of human trafficking, and asserts that the Government does not have the authority to exclude migrants in such a manner:

Clause 2 penalises refugees in clear breach of the Refugee Convention and Article 31 of the Refugee Convention by providing for a blanket denial of access to the asylum system for those who come to the UK irregularly and indirectly. It is clear that the drafters of the Refugee Convention recognised that refugees might travel through multiple countries prior to seeking asylum. Article 31 does not authorise the Government to deny the protections of the Convention to any refugee who enters the UK indirectly.

The recommendations also state that these clauses operate as an asylum ban, in breach of the Refugee Convention and protections in the ECHR, most notably the right to a remedy.

The Committee report discusses responsibility sharing and safe third states, noting the domestic legal proceedings on Rwanda and concludes that the Bill creates a risk of refoulement, or the forced return of refugees to their home country, particularly for victims of torture and LGBTQI+ protection seekers:

The designation of third states as sate “in general”, in the absence of any individualised assessments of risk, is not an adequate safeguard against refoulement. The approach in the Bill runs a very real risk of breaching the prohibition on refoulement, especially for specific groups such as women and girls, religious minorities, LGBTQI+ individuals, and torture survivors.

The report concludes on the UK Government’s approach to the Refugee Convention and EHCR more broadly, saying that “the UK cannot divest itself of its obligations” which “protects individuals from being returned or removed to another country where they face a real risk of serious harm.”

This marks a new setback for the Government amidst a string of by-elections after former Prime Minster Boris Johnson, and two other MPs, resigned from Parliament over the weekend. The Law Society and Bar Council had previously condemned the bill as “unworkable,” claiming it breaches the UK’s international obligations and undermines the rule of law.