Tories’ Illegal Migration Bill is ‘assault on refugees’ says MP after fractious Commons vote
Backlash is continuing to mount against the government’s “immoral” Illegal Migration Bill after a tense four-hour debate in Westminster.
The bill has faced fierce criticism from human rights groups and politicians on both the left and the right since Rishi Sunak unveiled plans to “stop the boats”.
If the Illegal Migration Bill becomes law, all adults who arrive in the UK via the Channel or in the back of a lorry would be detained for 28 days. They would subsequently be sent back to their country of origin or to a third county like Rwanda.
At its second reading in parliament on Monday evening (13 March), MPs from across the political spectrum blasted the government for pushing ahead with the “cruel” law.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper described the Illegal Migration Bill as a “con that makes the chaos worse”, saying it will “lock up children”.
“It won’t do the things the prime minister and the home secretary have promised. It won’t stop the criminal gangs or dangerous crossings and, in fact, it makes it easier for those gangs as well,” she said.
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Green Party MP Caroline Lucas condemned the Tory plan as “immoral, deeply cruel and divisive” before tearing up a copy of the bill.
Braverman hit back at critics, who have said families with children could be detained and deported, insisting the bill “will not be applied to detain and remove unaccompanied asylum-seeking children”.
The home secretary said unaccompanied children will only be removed “in limited circumstances, such as for the purposes of family reunion”.
Illegal Migration Bill ‘violates human rights’
A Labour amendment seeking to block the bill was defeated by 249 votes to 312, meaning it will now proceed to the next stage – but the backlash is unlikely to die down anytime soon.
Labour MP Kate Osborne told PinkNews that the bill “violates human rights”.
“This government is attempting to dehumanise, scapegoat and finally criminalise an innocent minority for political gain,” she said.
“This bill goes against fundamental and international human rights, fails to ensure safe routes for refugees and fails to protect the LGBTQI+ community, women, children and victims of human trafficking.”
Osborne described the bill as “an assault on refugees”, saying it will only make the climate even more hostile for migrants who deserve “dignity, safety and humanity”.
“The government has consistently scapegoated refugees within society; by pitting people against refugees and using inciting, inflammatory language, they create hatred and division in communities in attempts to distract us from their own failure to govern this country.
“It puts refugees, including women and children in further vulnerability by leaving them in indefinite limbo, detained in unsanitary accommodation for an indefinite amount of time and denies them the right to a fair hearing, whilst removing protective laws that are necessary to protect their welfare and enables trafficking furthermore.
“The government have had 13 years in power and in that time they have failed to create safe and legal routes for those fleeing persecution and war. The Tories are woefully incompetent and this bill is a prime example of their inability to govern.”
Labour’s Nadia Whittome said the bill is “a de-facto ban on seeking asylum in this country”.
“The vast majority of refugees fleeing persecution have no way of putting in an asylum claim without reaching the UK first,” she said.
“All this policy will result in is more suffering for tens of thousands of people, including LGBTQ+ refugees escaping hatred and violence, who will be locked up and deported.”
Ahead of the Westminster debate, Tory MPs Caroline Nokes and Chris Skidmore spoke out against the bill, suggesting Braverman and Sunak’s plans could lead to a minor revolt within their own party.
Speaking on Times Radio, Nokes said: “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.”
Advocacy groups have also warned that the “dangerous” bill would have negative consequences for LGBTQ+ people who flee violence and persecution in their home countries.
“By introducing this heartless and cruel bill, this government is sending a message that it honestly doesn’t care about the safety and wellbeing of LGBTQI+ people seeking protection here,” said Leila Zadeh, executive director of Rainbow Migration.
“We have already received calls from LGBTQI+ people expressing distress about the potential impact of the bill on their lives, telling us they feel ‘unwelcome’ here.
“We are urging this government to stop this inhumane and dangerous bill immediately and instead focus on creating a compassionate and caring asylum system that treats people with kindness.”
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