I’ve waited until the outcome of the Lords’ vote on 10 May before writing about the Illegal Migration bill. It’s all in the name – it is illegal. The bill is illegal. Not people seeking sanctuary. The bill blatantly breaches international law. Everyone must know by now that every single person in this world has an international human right to seek asylum in any country that they choose. It’s part and parcel of the refugee convention, which certainly does not state that asylum seekers must claim asylum in the first safe country they reach. That’s just not true; if it were, Italy or Greece would have almost all asylum seekers. And It is certainly not up to any particular country to dictate who may arrive. Yes, governments can choose to reject a claim for asylum after due consideration of an application. But they can not legally choose to turn away anyone and everyone who arrives by so-called ‘illegal’ means. There is no illegal refugee. I repeat, every person seeking asylum is legally entitled to do so, in any country that they choose. They are not acting illegally, they are perfectly within their rights.
Out of touch?
So why is the Westminster government so hell-bent on pushing this inhumane bill through? Who do they think they are appealing to? Are they just whipping up division or creating a smoke screen to deflect from other issues? Have they got this all completely wrong? I like to think that they have. Surely the people of the UK are better, more compassionate, than this morally bankrupt bill would suggest? Surely people realise that becoming a refugee could happen to anyone – it’s just the luck of where you’re born or what happens to the country that you live in. It could happen to you or me.
The numbers of support groups for refugees and asylum seekers would certainly paint a different scenario to the ‘will of the people’ constantly referred to by government ministers; people wanting to help other people, and actively doing so. 174 organisations standing for refugees, human rights and anti-slavery have demanded that the bill be dropped. The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken out against it. But in spite of so much objection to it, the vote to kill the Illegal Migration bill was lost in the House of Lords, 76/179. It will now be debated for amendments to improve it- although how anything so heinous can be merely improved stretches the imagination somewhat.
Individuals and organisations are trying to have their voices heard, speaking out against the bill, campaigning for safe passage, humane treatment for people. The bill is little more than a nasty governmental PR stunt, with horrendous consequences for the most vulnerable people. If it ultimately becomes law, it will not stop people smugglers or traffickers; it will not deter people from risking their lives to get to the UK. There is hope that the bill may meet its end after the third reading in the House of Lords – albeit small. On past performance, there may be hope that the Westminster government may develop a conscience and U-turn. We must hope, speak out, email MPs, act individually and with others to try to stop this bill, continue to make our voices heard. And vote wisely.
After all, if you or I were seeking asylum – or, for that matter, Rishi Sunak or Suella Braverman – how would we all like to be treated? As in the detail of the abhorrent Illegal Immigration bill? Or justly, with humanity and compassion?
I think we all know the answer.