Thank you for contacting me about the Illegal Migration Bill.
The volume of illegal small boat arrivals has overwhelmed our asylum system. The asylum system currently costs the British taxpayer £3 billion a year, and since 2018, some 85,000 people have illegally entered the UK by small boat. This is why stopping the boats was one of the five promises the Prime Minister made to the public in January. The new Illegal Immigration Bill will fulfil this promise and means that someone who enters this country illegally will be swiftly detained and removed back to their home country if it is safe. This will help the break the business model of people-smuggling networks, and ultimately save lives.
I can assure you that as we reduce illegal migration, the Government will do more to help the most vulnerable through safe and legal routes as it has done for Syria, Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Ukraine. Since 2015, the UK has offered safety to nearly 480,000 people from all over the world. While supporting the most vulnerable, the Bill will introduce an annual cap, to be determined by Parliament, on the number of refugees the UK will accept, once illegal migration is under control. In conjunction with local authorities, this will allow the Government to take into consideration local capacity for accommodation, public services and support.
Economic Impact Assessment
The Bill is critical to stopping the boats and will mean that if someone comes to the UK illegally, they should be detained and swiftly returned to their home country if safe, or relocated to a safe third country. The impact assessment published yesterday makes clear that inaction is simply not an option. The volumes and costs associated with illegal migration have risen exponentially, driven by small boat arrivals. Unless the Government acts decisively to stop the boats, the cost to the taxpayer and the damage to society will continue to grow.
The asylum system currently costs £3.6 billion a year and £6 million a day in hotel accommodation, but that is not the true cost of doing nothing. The impact assessment shows, the cost of accommodating illegal migrants has increased dramatically since 2020. If these trends continued, the Home Office would be spending over £11 billion a year, or £32 million a day, on asylum support by the end of 2026. In such a scenario, the Bill would only need to deliver a two per cent deterrence in arrivals to enable cost savings.
The impact assessment suggests that passing this Bill could directly save the UK taxpayer over £100,000 for every illegal migrant deterred from making a small boat crossing. It also finds that the Bill could lead to a much wider set of benefits—including reducing pressures on local authorities, public services and the housing market—that could not be monetised, meaning that the savings will in fact be much greater.
Rule 39 and Strasbourg
The Home Secretary has said that the Rule 39 process that enabled the Strasbourg court to at the last minute block removal flights to Rwanda last year, was deeply flawed. As such, that is why the Government has already initiated discussions with Strasbourg, to ensure that Rule 39 orders meet a basic natural justice standard, and one which will prevent the abuse of Rule 39 to thwart removals. I understand that the Bill sets out the conditions for the UK's future compliance with such orders.
The Home Secretary made a statement under Section 19 (1) (b) of the Human Rights Act 1998. I understand that this does not mean that the provisions in the Bill are incompatible within the Convention rights, only that there is a more than 50 per cent chance that they may not be. The Government has said that it is testing the limits, but the Home Secretary remains confident that this Bill is compatible with international law. Both Houses will have an opportunity to thoroughly scrutinise the Bill and once approved the measures in the Bill will have been expressly endorsed by Parliament, and the Government expects the courts to take this into account.
Calls to support New Clause 10 of the Bill
I am aware that New Clause 10 sought to establish a process to fast-track asylum claims from “specified countries”. I am aware that provisions set out in the Bill make it clear that the asylum or human rights claims of those who have entered the UK illegally and who have not come directly from a place where their life or liberty were threatened will be declared inadmissible and therefore will not be substantively considered. For this reason, the Government did not support New Clause 10 during the Bill’s Remaining Stages.
Detention of Pregnant Asylum Seekers
I appreciate the concern that people have for female asylum seekers who are in a vulnerable position, however, the Government has been clear that we cannot allow a system which incentivises people, including women and children, to risk their lives and pay people smugglers to come here illegally.
This system is neither compassionate nor fair, which is why the Illegal Migration Bill will end illegal entry as a route to asylum in the UK, breaking the business model of people smuggling gangs and restoring fairness in our asylum system. It will ensure anyone arriving via small boat or other dangerous and illegal means will be in scope for detention and swiftly removed. However, I have been assured that appropriate healthcare provision will be provided for all those in immigration detention.
Removal of LGBT People
Lord Stewart of Dirleton, one of the Government's law officers, has pointed out that an LGBT person who fears for their safety if sent to a given country – for example, a gay Ugandan being sent to Gambia – has a means of challenging removal under the Bill. If the open expression of a person’s sexual orientation would prevent them living in a specified third country without being at real risk of serious and irreversible harm, they would meet the threshold for a serious harm suspensive claim as outlined in Clause 39, and the principles enunciated by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in the case of HJ (Iran) would be upheld.
This Bill will ensure that we have a safe and fair immigration system, which will continue to help the most vulnerable.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP
Further Measures Included in the Bill
The new Bill will ensure that if someone enters the UK illegally:
• The Home Secretary will be under a new duty to remove them.
• They will be detained, with no recourse to Immigration bail or judicial review within the first 28 days. The Government can maintain detention thereafter so long as it has a reasonable prospect of removal.
• The number of appeals and challenges available to suspend removal will be radically narrowed. Only those under 18, medically unfit to fly, or at real risk of serious and irreversible harm in the safe country they are being removed to, will be able to delay their removal.
• Other human rights claims, including the right to private or family life, or other forms of Judicial Review cannot suspend their removal. They will be heard remotely, after removal.
• They will be disqualified from using Modern Slavery rules to prevent removal. If someone is identified as a potential victim of modern slavery, the Government will ensure they are safely returned home from where they were removed against their will, or to another safe country. Removal from the UK may only be deferred where a person is co-operating with law enforcement agencies in an investigation into the circumstances of their trafficking. This will mean that genuine victims are protected, while preventing people from abusing the UK's modern slavery laws to thwart their removal from the UK.
• They will face a permanent bar on lawful re-entry to the UK and a permanent bar from securing settlement in the UK or from securing British citizenship through naturalisation or registration, subject only to very narrow exceptions.