BASW calls for Illegal Migration Act to be repealed by the next UK Government
The Act denies asylum seekers their rights, denies unaccompanied children who are seeking asylum their rights, creates systems of detention for children while not resolving the crisis of small boats crossing the Channel.
Earlier in 2023, the UK Government introduced the Illegal Migration Bill into Parliament which sought to limit the rights of asylum seekers who travel to the UK through “illegal routes”, including the rights of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC). It passed the legislative stages and received Royal Assent on 20th July 2023.
The Act makes a series of changes, with the most significant being that asylum-seekers will be removed to their country of origin or a safe third country if:
- They arrive through an “illegal route” as determined by the Government;
- They enter or arrive in the UK on or after 7th March 2023,
- They did not come directly from the country they are fleeing, and,
- They require leave to enter or remain but do not have it.
For unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, changes include:
- The Act gives the Home Secretary the duty to deport asylum seeking children once they are 18.
- Powers to detain children in the run up to them being deported at 18.
- Compulsory use of x-rays and MRIs in age assessment, and the assumption that the young person is over 18 if they do not consent and therefore liable to deportation;
- Giving the Home Secretary powers to deport under 18s
- Giving the Home Secretary powers to accommodate under 18s in contradiction to existing legislation relating to children.
- Effectively preventing a right of appeal – judicial reviews are possible, but they cannot stop deportation
BASW has opposed the Act since it was introduced to the House of Commons earlier this year, and we believe that any person arriving in the UK seeking asylum, no matter the route they took to get here, should have a fair hearing on UK soil. Under international law, there is no ‘illegal route’ to enter the UK just unsafe routes.
Social workers work with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who are in the care of local authorities. This legislation creates a separation between UASC and children born in the UK which contravenes basic principles of human rights and contradicts existing domestic legislation such as the Children Act 1989. We also fear that knowing they will be deported at 18, UASC will be more likely to go missing from care and be at risk of abuse by traffickers.
The Act also makes provision for UASC who refuse to undergo a biological method (such as an x-ray or MRI) to determine age to be considered as over 18, and then deported. The Act violates the rights of refugees and children which are outlined in law such as the Children Act 1989 and the Refugee Convention. Additionally, there are major practical problems of implementation which will further over-stretch public services and lead to ongoing challenges in the courts.
With all this taken into consideration, we consider it imperative that the next Government after the General Election repeals this Act. The Act makes no meaningful action to tackle the small boats crossing unsafe waters to reach the UK, and instead makes it more difficult for the UK to have a streamlined, fair, and effective asylum system. We will make our position clear to the political parties in the run up to the next General Election.