Government’s Illegal Migration Bill set to become law, despite concerns of LGBTQ+ migrant groups

The Bibby Stockholm migrant barge, which will serve as living quarters for up to 500 asylum seekers, arrives at Portland Harbour on July 18, 2023

The UK government’s controversial Illegal Migration Bill, which could result in asylum seekers being deported to Rwanda, is set to become law after a final series of votes in the House of Lords.

The legislation, part of prime minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to stop small boats crossing the English Channel, would see adults who arrive in the UK via the stretch of water between France and Britain, or in the back of a lorry, detained for 28 days. 

They would subsequently be sent back to their country of origin, or to a third “safe” country such as Rwanda, a move which campaigners have described as cruel.

After a late-night debate in the Lords, the bill will now go forward for royal assent and become law, the BBC reported.

The bill has also proved unpopular with voters, with more than 50,000 people signing a petition calling for the government to scrap the proposals, citing fears over LGBTQ+ refugees’ safety.

While homosexuality is not illegal in the country, campaigners have argued that Rwanda is unsafe for LGBTQ+ people, while the Home Office’s own official foreign travel advice says that LGBTQ+ people “can experience discrimination and abuse” there.

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Former prime minister Theresa May condemned the bill, which will apply to victims of trafficking and slavery, accompanied children, and unaccompanied youngsters as soon as they turn 18, arguing that it “will enable more slave drivers to operate and make money out of human misery”.

The government, however, argued that any potential victims of modern slavery would be returned home or to another “safe country away from those who have trafficked them”.

The Illegal Migration Bill was passed despite the Court of Appeal ruling it unlawful in June, with ministers challenging the judgment.

“It’s definitely not a safe environment,” gay Rwandan refugee Innocent, whose name was changed to protect his identity, previously told PinkNews

“[LGBTQ+ people in Rwanda] are not going to be protected, and they’re going to face discrimination. Some of them have already faced discrimination their entire lives and went to the UK hoping that was going to change.”

The BBC reported that an accommodation barge, which is due to eventually house 500 asylum seekers, arrived in Portland Port, in Dorset, on Tuesday (18 July), despite local protests.

The first asylum seekers are reportedly expected to board the Bibby Stockholm later this month. 

“By introducing this heartless and cruel bill, [the] government is sending a message that it honestly doesn’t care about the safety and well-being of LGBTQI+ people seeking protection here,” Leila Zadeh, the executive director of Rainbow Migration, has previously told PinkNews.

“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.”

Naomi Smith, the chief executive of campaign group Best for Britain, added: “This cruel bill will now give the government the green light to flout international law and mistreat refugees to distract from their own failure to fix the problems they created.”

PinkNews has contacted the Home Office for comment.

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