Tory immigration bill could condemn LGBTQ+ refugees to death: ‘Immoral, disgraceful and indefensible’

Rishi Sunak announcing the Illegal Migration Bill at a podium with the message "stop the boats".

The UK government is facing fierce condemnation from opposition MPs and senior Tories over its “immoral, ineffective and incredibly expensive” Illegal Migration Bill.

The bill has been devised by the Tory government to reduce or stop “small boat crossings” across the English Channel.

If it becomes law, all adults who arrive in the UK via the Channel or in the back of a lorry will be detained for 28 days. They would then be sent back to their country of origin or on to a third country like Rwanda. Families with children could also be detained and deported.

Opposition MPs, human rights advocates, religious leaders and even Tory MPs have condemned the measure, which could jeopardise vulnerable people’s lives.

Labour MP Diane Abbott told PinkNews that the Illegal Migration Bill is “disgraceful”.

“It probably breaks international law, which is even admitted by ministers on the face of the bill,” the veteran MP said.

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“It would deprive vulnerable asylum seekers their rights under international law, fail victims of modern slavery and leave unaccompanied children in detention centres.”

Diane Abbott at the Labour Party conference in 2019.
Diane Abbott was among those who criticised the bill. (Leon Neal/Getty)

She added: “It is completely unworkable as well as immoral. The government probably knows that. But this is not about solving the issue of thousands of people endangering their lives by cross the Channel in small boats. It is aimed at bolstering a Tory core vote strategy for the next election.”

Illegal Migration Bill could condemn LGBTQ+ refugees to death

Liberal Democrats MP Layla Moran told PinkNews that the UK has “a proud history of offering sanctuary to those in need of international protection” – but the government is now intent on “trashing that legacy”.

“People fleeing war or persecution should be treated with compassion, not as criminals,” she said.

Moran worries about LGBTQ+ refugees who could be sent to unsafe countries – the government has previously admitted there is evidence queer refugees could face persecution in Rwanda.

“I am deeply concerned about what this means for the safety of LGBTQ+ people seeking sanctuary in the UK. What may be a so-called safe country for some often is not for minority groups. Being sent back may be a matter of life or death for simply being who they are.”

Moran added: “Just like their botched Rwanda plan, this new legislation is immoral, ineffective and incredibly expensive for the taxpayer.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran. (Dan Kitwood/Getty)

“It does nothing to punish the evil gangs who are responsible for these dangerous crossings, and instead criminalises their victims. This is not a practical or sustainable solution, it’s another vanity project for this Conservative government.”

Labour’s Bell Ribeiro-Addy said those who have escaped “horrifying situations” shouldn’t have to risk their lives to get to the UK.

“Instead of putting down immoral and ineffective legislation that will further criminalise and punish some of the most vulnerable for taking the only option left to them, the government should be opening viable safe routes and giving people a genuine chance to rebuild their lives as part of our communities.”

Scottish Greens MSP Maggie Chapman described the bill as “indefensible” in a press release.

“It would punish some of the world’s most vulnerable people as part of a desperate and racist culture war that has been fuelled from Downing Street,” she said.

“Locking up refugees and asylum seekers in prison-like conditions and then deporting them to Rwanda is the sort of policy you would expect from the BNP, but now it is being promoted by some of the most senior politicians in Westminster.

“It is utterly shameful. The Tories are going against every principle of how to treat refugees, and are using the kind of vile rhetoric that would have been at home in the fascist regimes of the 1930s.”

Maggie Chapman, equalities spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, pictured at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre in 2019.
Maggie Chapman, equalities spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, pictured at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre in 2019. (Ken Jack/Getty)

Senior Tories to rebel on immigration bill

The government is also facing opposition from within its own ranks. Tory MP Caroline Nokes told Times Radio that she will vote against the bill.

“I might be an outlier in my party but I think we have an absolute duty to treat people humanely to keep people safe. I have absolute horror at the prospect,” she said.

Nokes continued: “I am deeply troubled at the prospect of a policy which seeks to criminalise children, pregnant women, families and remove them to Rwanda.

“I didn’t vote for the last Nationality and Borders Bill, this hasn’t achieved its aim in reducing crossings. In fact, we’ve seen them increase, and I fail to see what this legislation is going to do to act as a deterrent”.

Conservative MP Caroline Nokes arrives for the weekly Cabinet meeting at Downing Street.
Conservative MP Caroline Nokes arrives for the weekly Cabinet meeting at Downing Street. (Leon Neal/Getty)

Tory MP Chris Skidmore joined Nokes, saying he too will vote against the bill.

“I am not prepared to break international law or the human rights conventions that the UK has had a proud history of playing a leading role in establishing,” he tweeted.

“I will not be voting for the bill tonight.”

Opposition to the bill has grown steadily since Sunak first announced his government’s plans while standing at a podium bearing the slogan “Stop the Boats”.

The government’s bill has already been lambasted by Amnesty International UK and by Human Rights Watch, along with a number of other human rights groups.

It will receive its second reading on Monday evening (13 March).