Illegal Migration Act | BASW UK Statement
The Illegal Migration Act was given Royal Assent and passed into law on 20th July 2023. The Act makes provision for:
- the removal of asylum-seekers from the UK who have arrived in the country through what the UK Government determines to be an illegal route.
- detention for immigration purposes.
- changes to processes for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC).
- victims of slavery or human trafficking.
- leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom.
- inadmissibility of protections and human rights claims related to immigration.
BASW UK has made statements on the Act as it was going through the UK Parliament:
- BASW UK statement on ‘Illegal Migration Bill’, March 2023
- Illegal Migration Bill passes House of Commons, May 2023
BASW position on the Illegal Migration Act
BASW has opposed the Act since it was introduced as a Bill 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. There are unsafe routes, and the Government could make it easier to claim asylum in the UK from another country rather than force people to risk their lives to travel here.
The wider landscape
This piece of legislation was introduced in the context of an increasingly hostile environment in which asylum-seekers have been targeted by politicians and the media as a threat to the UK and portrayed as an issue that has to be resolved. The current Home Secretary and her predecessor have both made a number of inflammatory remarks about asylum seekers, including the allegation that there is “a serious problem of grown men masquerading as children”, and blaming asylum seekers for the Government’s failure to respond to overcrowding at centres. The Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick ordered for cartoon murals at a children’s asylum reception centre to be painted over as he believed that they were “too welcoming” and “sent the wrong message”. We stand against this rhetoric and behaviour, which is contrary to what we expect from senior political figures in the United Kingdom.
Social workers and the Act
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.
The Act creates a complex series of challenges and consequences for both refugees and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, which has resulted in a lack of clarity about how it will work in practice. We are in the process of creating a detailed briefing document for social workers about the Act to address some of the uncertainties and gaps that still need to be answered.