Stopping the boats: On the U.K.’s new ‘Illegal Migration Law’

Source: The post is based on the article “Stopping the boats: On the U.K.’s new ‘Illegal Migration Law’” published in The Hindu on 10th March 2023.

Syllabus: GS – 2 – Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.

Relevance: About UK’s new ‘Illegal Migration Law’.

News: Recently, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has severely criticised the U.K. Prime Minister’s plan to pass a new “Illegal Migration Law”. This is because the planned law effectively stops the granting of asylum to migrants who reach the U.K. illegally.

What is the reason behind UK’s new ‘Illegal Migration Law’?

The UK government is worried that many number of persons are attempting to travel to the U.K. and trying to apply for asylum while on British soil. This according to the UK government is costing significant cost to the exchequer.

Hence, the new law aims to return illegal asylum seekers to either return to their own country or to a “third country” which will enter an agreement with the UK. For instance, Rwanda has entered into an agreement to provide processing facilities for illegal migrants.

Illegal immigrants will also face a lifetime ban on citizenship and re-entry to the U.K.

Exceptions: The Bill makes exceptions for those arriving directly from the countries they are fleeing. But such people will be a small proportion given the short distances “small boats” could travel.

Read more: Study explains migration events that brought genetic diversity among Nepalese population

What are the challenges in implementing the UK’s new ‘Illegal Migration Law’?

According to the UNHCR, a) the law would contravene international laws, including the 1951 Refugee Convention that Britain is a signatory, b) Those who flee their homes and countries often do so without proper paperwork, as they are forced to leave to save their lives. So, there are problems in identifying their source countries, c) An estimated 45,000 came to the U.K. on “small boats” last year. They would have been economic refugees rather than political asylum seekers. But, the British government does not make a distinction between the two, d) The Bill is like the U.S administration that latched on to the equally catchy “Build That Wall” slogan, e) The plan to transport asylum seekers to a third country highlights neo-colonialism and will involve considerable cost which migrants are unlikely to be able to afford,

What the western countries should focus on while enacting Illegal Migration Laws?

Introspect their message: Western countries have long quoted international law and convention to India on its plan to forcibly deport Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, or to discriminate on the basis of religion in the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Hence, they must introspect on their message to the world by enacting such laws themselves.

Does not belittle the real contributions of immigrants: Western countries should value the significant contributions made by immigrants to western societies. Including those like the parents of UK’s present PM and UK’s Home Secretary, who made their journey from Africa.

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