The United Nations has warned that the UK Illegal Immigration Bill, which passed into law last night, “will have profound consequences for people in need of international protection”, as it said that other countries might follow the UK’s example.
The Bill, which has been the lynchpin of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats” crossing the English Channel, became law after the government ignored a string of proposed amendments by the house of Lords failed to result in further modern slavery protections and child detention limits.
Volker Türk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said the new bill “sets a worrying precedent for dismantling asylum-related obligations that other countries, including in Europe, may be tempted to follow”.
And he warned that this could have “a potentially adverse effect on the international refugee and human rights protection system as a whole”.
The UH has again urged the UK government to reverse the law, and increase the number of safe and legal migration routes, so that people would be less reliant on illegal means of reaching the UK.
The end of the legislative sparring between the Commons and the Lords came on the same day that the controversial refugee barge Bibby Stocholm was making its way to Portland Dock in Dorset, where it will be used to house some 500 migrants, as part of a government effort to move refugees out of hotels and into other forms of accommodation while their applications are being assessed.
The St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP), which works closely on the ground with migrants and refuges, said it was “saddened” by the passing of the Bill.
“This Bill lacks compassion and humanity, and will put people and families seeking safety at risk,” the charity said in a statement this afternoon.
“This legislation will allow people, including women and children, to be detained or removed to third countries. It will punish and criminalise people for seeking safety and shelter and will leave many at risk.
“We are proud of the work of our members to support asylum seekers, and refugees, and we will continue to support people in need and campaign for their rights to be protected.”
The Catholic Church’s Lead Bishop for Migrants and Refugees, Bishop Paul McAleenan (pictured), said the Church will continue to ‘love the stranger’ and call for the expansion of safe routes for those fleeing their homes:
“This legislation stands at odds with the teaching of the Church on welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating refugees,” said Bishop Paul, who is also Spiritual Director of the SVP.
“Refugees are human beings made in the image and likeness of God, not a political problem to be solved. We must never make recognition of people’s dignity dependent upon where they come from or how they reach our country. The biblical call to love the stranger is unequivocal and indiscriminate.
“As a Church, we will continue to welcome those seeking sanctuary here and call for the expansion of safe routes. We urge our government to redouble its efforts to tackle factors such as conflict, persecution, and climate change that force people to flee their homes.”
Story by William Kelly, the Catholic Network