New UK Law will “Undermine the fundamental right to seek asylum”
Europe and Human Rights Researcher,
Global Human Rights Defence
In March 2023, UK Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, proposed a new Asylum and Migration Bill that would make it illegal to enter the UK in a small boat (Syal, 2023). The proposed law change would make it a criminal offence to enter the UK in a small boat, with penalties of up to four years in jail (Independent, 2023). The government claimed that this measure is necessary to prevent people smugglers from exploiting vulnerable people and putting their lives at risk. However, critics argue that this law change would make it more difficult for genuine asylum seekers to reach the UK and claim asylum, forcing them to take more dangerous routes.
This proposed law change comes amid a surge in the number of people attempting to cross the English Channel in small boats. According to the Home Office, more than 18,000 people have arrived in the UK in this way since January 2021 (BBC News, 2023). The government has been under pressure to take action to address this issue, with critics arguing that the current system is not fit for purpose.
Many human rights groups and charities have raised concerns about the impact of this proposed law change on vulnerable people seeking asylum. They argue that it is a violation of international law and human rights to criminalize people who are simply seeking safety and protection from persecution. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) stated that the proposed law change would "undermine the fundamental right to seek asylum" and "risk violating the UK's obligations under international law" (BBC News, 2023).
The proposed law change has also been criticized by opposition MPs, who argue that it is a distraction from the government's failure to address the root causes of migration and asylum seeking. They argue that the government should focus on providing support to countries where refugees are fleeing from, and on improving the UK's asylum system to make it more effective and humane.
Sources and Further Reading:
BBC News. (2023, March 24). Asylum seekers: Priti Patel to introduce bill to tackle 'broken' system. BBC News. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-60822774
Laybourn, I. (2023, March 7). Asylum seekers face up to four years in jail under new UK law. Independent. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/asylum-seekers-small-boats-law-illegal-b1924781.html
Syal, R. (2023, March 7). Suella Braverman’s Asylum and Migration Bill Law Change. The Guardian. retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/mar/07/suella-braverman-asylum-migration-bill-law-change-small
UNHCR. (2023, March 10). UNHCR statement on UK asylum and migration bill. Retrieved from https://www.unhcr.org/uk/news/press/2023/3/623d1c7c4/unhcr-statement-uk-asylum-migration-bill.html