JustRight Scotland is deeply dismayed by the Migration Bill introduced this week by the UK Government. This Bill marks a new low in the current government’s assault on all our human rights – it is cruel, unnecessary, and unlawful.
In its current form, the Bill prevents people from seeking refuge in the UK altogether if they arrive “irregularly” by making their claims inadmissible. This means that the UK Home Office will not offer a fair hearing but will instead focus only on detaining and removing people. This applies no matter how genuine and compelling their claim may be, and with no consideration of their individual circumstances.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has expressed profound concern that this Bill, if passed, “would amount to an asylum ban”. The Bill will strip many people of their right to seek protection here – there are simply no alternative safe routes for people fleeing places such as Iran, Iraq, Eritrea, Syria, and Sudan to claim asylum in the UK.
The Home Secretary has publicly and continuously asserted that her Bill will not put more people in harm’s way. This is nonsense. The Bill provides for detention, when no crime has been committed, without even the possibility of review. It strips victims of trafficking and exploitation of support. It removes children who arrive alone in the country from local authority care and puts them directly into the care of the UK Home Office. It strengthens the case for detention of children, families, and other vulnerable people, including elderly people, disabled people and survivors of sexual violence, torture, and trauma.
We want to stop Channel crossings. They are dangerous and result in needless loss of life. We believe the right response is to create more safe, dignified, and legal routes to the UK. The programmes for Ukrainian and Hong Kong refugees show this can be done.
This must be coupled with clearing the backlog of asylum claims which the Home Office has allowed to build up, and creating a system that is fair, upholds the rule of law, and functions effectively across the board. That means guaranteeing a fair, dignified level of support and community-based accommodation and, if necessary, orderly and lawful removal.
This Bill is out of step with all the steps being taken in Scotland to strengthen human rights protections for all. It cuts across Scottish legislation and policy designed to offer all people equal protection from torture, abuse and harm in Scotland, no matter who they are, or where they come from.
We must be clear and unequivocal in our collective response in Scotland: seeking safety is a right, not a crime. That right is enshrined in the UN Refugee Convention and the European Convention of Human Rights. We must also be clear that an attack on the rights of one group of people is an attack on the very idea of human rights. This Bill must be resisted. It cannot be allowed to pass into law. It cannot become the representation of how we treat those, seeking safety from persecution and conflict, who arrive on our shores.
We stand in solidarity with everyone harmed by this Bill. We urge others to raise their voices. We call on Scotland’s MPs, Scotland’s Government and Parliament, Scottish political leaders and public authorities to oppose this Bill with all the power and influence available to them.