Organisations working with vulnerable groups state concerns about the UK’s Illegal Migration Bill, noting the adverse effects it will have on human trafficking

A letter has been generated to call on UK political parties to rethink the Illegal Migration Bill, which is predicted to drive migrant victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) into the hands of traffickers and criminal gangs.

Likely to be exploited and put in further danger, it is a frequent occurrence that migrants who are rejected from home status in the UK fall into becoming victims of human trafficking.

MPs have already backed this Illegal Migration Bill by 289 votes to 230.

MPs have already backed this Illegal Migration Bill by 289 votes to 230

“The Illegal Migration Bill is effectively an asylum ban – it will protect traffickers and punish survivors. If passed, it will remove existing protections for victims of forced migration and sexual and gender-based violence.” Says Sabrina Galella, Policy Officer at JustRight Scotland.

What does the Illegal Migration Bill entail?

Introduced by Secretary of State Suella Braverman, the bill is to make provisions for the removal of migrants arriving illegally in the United Kingdom, or any person who has entered or arrived in breach of immigration control.

The government states its provisions include:

  • Detention for immigration purposes
  • Unaccompanied children
  • Victims of slavery or human trafficking
  • Leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom
  • Provisions about citizenship
  • Inadmissibility of certain protection and certain human rights claims relating to immigration
  • The maximum number of persons entering the United Kingdom annually using safe and legal routes

What are the issues with this bill for migrant survivors?

Under the new law, for example, migrant survivors would be excluded from the National Referral Mechanism and the asylum system.

The bill is to change the law so that those who arrive in the UK by these means can be removed to a third country such as Rwanda.

Temporary protection against removal from the UK is currently given to suspected victims of modern slavery or human trafficking while their case is considered. The bill removes this protection for those judged to have entered the UK illegally.

MPs such as former Prime Minister Theresa May have held criticisms about this bill, saying: “The Modern Slavery Act gave hope to victims; this bill removes that hope”

“The Modern Slavery Act gave hope to victims; this bill removes that hope”

British immigration concept with Lunar House building the Home Office Visas and Immigration Office in Greater London, England, UK
Image: © moussa81 | istock

Who is leading this coalition letter against the bill?

A coalition of organisations and experts working with these vulnerable groups have sent letters to the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Green, Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru parties, to raise concerns about the impact the Illegal Migration Bill will have on victims of SGBV.

Looking out for those seeking refuge in the UK, the letter calls for Britain’s political parties to commit to protecting survivors in their manifestos.

The signatories include representatives from the University of Birmingham, JustRight Scotland, Freedom from Torture, British Red Cross, Doctors of the World, Women’s Aid, Southall Black Sisters, and other organisations working to fight violence against women and girls.

What are the five pledges politicians should include in their manifestos?

  1. Commit to revising, proposals in the Illegal Migration Bill that renege on protections for forced migrants, replacing these policies with an asylum system that is compassionate, fair and effective.
  2. Commit to systems to better inform forced migrant survivors of their rights, entitlements, and protections under UK law.
  3. Commit to increase funding for specialist services for forced migrant survivors of SGBV run by ‘for and by’ organisations.
  4. Establish firewall or system of secure reporting to make it safer for forced migrant survivors of SGBV with insecure immigration status to report crimes and abolish NRPF.
  5. Commit to extending the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession from 3 to 6 months and extend the Domestic Violence Rule to allow all partners (including unmarried partners) experiencing Domestic Abuse to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
migrant boats
Image: © e4c | istock

“The British migration and asylum system is broken”

Sabrina Galella, Policy Officer at JustRight Scotland said: “This Bill will undoubtedly trap countless victims of modern slavery and human trafficking into indefinite exploitation by denying them the right to say they are a victim of crime. It will prevent victims from accessing mechanisms of safety through which people can escape exploitation.

“This Bill is unworkable – it will only cause suffering and put further lives at risk. We urge all political parties to sign our pledge and to work towards more humane and practical solutions to support people when they need it most.”

“This Bill will undoubtedly trap countless victims of modern slavery and human trafficking into indefinite exploitation”

Professor Jenny Phillimore, who leads the SEREDA Project, which examines SGBV experienced by refugees from displacement to arrival, said: “It is now well known that the British migration and asylum system is broken and unable to serve the public or protect and support some of the most vulnerable people in need of refuge and safety.

“Victims of sexual and gender-based violence, most of whom are women and children, are being failed by the system and are facing danger every step of the way. But it is within our politician’s gift to change that.

“That is why, today, we are calling for all political parties to include pledges to make desperately needed improvements to the Illegal Immigration Bill and the migration and asylum systems in their 2024 manifestos.

“The topic of immigration and asylum system is not a political football to be used to score points against opponents. It impacts real people every day causing additional harm to those it should be protecting.”


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