top of page

Suella Braverman’s ‘Anti-Refugee’ Bill shows we need to protect Immigration Status in equality act

In March 2023, Suella Braverman introduced her ignorantly named ‘Illegal Migration Bill’ to the House of Commons, drawing widespread controversy, most notably the BBC sports presenters boycott of the 11th-12th March. Her proposed Bill will allow the detention and removal of asylum seekers who arrive in the UK through irregular routes, including unaccompanied children and victims of human trafficking. By arriving in the UK via an irregular route, these asylum seekers will be unable to claim asylum, with any claims they make being deemed as legally inadmissible. They would also be excluded from protection under the UK’s Modern Slavery laws. Instead, these asylum seekers will be returned to their dangerous country of origin or to a third country, such as Rwanda and be banned from returning to the UK.


The aim of the Bill was to target Channel boat crossings due to the steady increase in crossings that have occurred since 2020, with the current Government being under the impression that those who cross the Channel can only have ill intentions of exploitation and reliance on the welfare state. In doing so, the Government are highlighting their utter lack of awareness of the impossibility of their own asylum system, as system that is fundamentally impenetrable and inaccessible for asylum seekers.


This should be done through applying intersectionality, in accordance with other protected characteristics, where each person is seen as a human being deserving of respect and dignity.

Many refugee and asylum seekers do not have access to their passports, visas, and paperwork that the UK requires to submit a claim for legal asylum. Further, the backlog within the asylum system wastes time that these people desperately do not have. Many arrive in the UK desperately out of options to live a peaceful and dignified life, yet we choose to close our doors to them and leave them in a state of limbo and indecision. This Bill demonises and diminishes those that are in desperate need, undermining their fundamental human rights which have been outlined in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and also the Refugee Convention, both documents to which the UK has legally ratified. This Bill is a distasteful and sour extension of the Nationality and Borders Bill, and acts to erode away at our universal understandings of human rights. In other words, behind this wave of new bills, is an underlying current that is fundamentally shifting the parameters of human rights.


The Equality Act Review has continually suggested that Immigration Status becomes a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. We propose that those who are discriminated against because of their immigration status, especially those that are experiencing the asylum system, both regularly and irregularly, are protected under law and afforded the same fundamental rights that any British Citizen is afforded. This should be done through applying intersectionality, in accordance with other protected characteristics, where each person is seen as a human being deserving of respect and dignity. This is not revolutionary; this is simply ensuring that those who have experienced migration and the distress that comes with it, are provided their legally entitled human rights, and have the opportunity to start a new and dignified life in the UK, Instead of shunning and shaming asylum seekers, we could be offering them a home and enabling them to put their skills and talents to contribute to the UK, it is shameful that the government opts instead, to wasting millions of tax payers earnings to construct discriminatory and oppressive systems designed to marginalise and exclude.


Its time we take back control of the political tone we are setting for our country through the Equality Act.

Bills such as the ‘Illegal Migration Bill’ are passed under the guise of ‘making Britain great again’, which resonates with the ‘Take back control’ slogan of the Leave EU Campaign. We know that such rhetoric has only led to our economic decline as a country, and such bills exploit the fear of the voting body, while plainly hiding the fact that our country is desperately relying on migrant workers to uphold our institutions such as the NHS, which is past breaking point. A rich body of academic literature which clearly demonstrates that migrants deference is ineffective, and has continuously been ignored by the government.


Whilst we can be hopeful that there is still time for this Bill to be rejected, our increasingly far right slanted Government has repeatedly shown that inclusion is not their priority, but rather, reinforcing the discriminatory hierarchies that have propelled them to power is of upmost importance. We can only see such an approach being applied in the rhetoric surrounding British Pakistani men as perpetrators of CSE (Child Sexual Exploitation), despite the Government’s own report showing that white men are the largest group of perpetrators.


It is clear that the UK has become a country that undermines human rights by employing dog whistle political techniques, and in doing so supports human suffering and shows an utter lack of respect for the contributions that others have made to their nation. Only this week, the Sackler family name has been removed from buildings at the University of Oxford and during BLM, many universities such as University College London changed the names of their buildings that were names after eugenicists and colonialists had been changed. The ‘great’ in Great Britain should now be removed. Since the language we employ hold a great deal of power, we ought to urgently redress the increasingly hostile political climate by enshrining protection for migrants and refugees within our equality laws. Its time we take back control of the political tone we are setting for our country through the Equality Act.


Resources


Vox (2023) ‘The UK’s extreme new immigration plans, explained’. Available at: https://www.vox.com/2023/3/11/23634575/uk-immigration-bill-braverman-sunak-boats-channel


UN (1948) ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’. Available at: https://www.ohchr.org/en/universal-declaration-of-human-rights


UN (1951) ‘Refugee Convention’. Available at: https://www.unhcr.org/uk/1951-refugee-convention.html


UK Parliament (2023). ‘Illegal Migration Bill’. Available at: https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3429


Refugee Action (2021). More than 320 organisations have signed an open letter to PM Rishi Sunak calling out the Government's latest anti-refugee Bill’. Available at: https://www.refugee-action.org.uk/more-than-320-organisations-call-out-governments-latest-anti-refugee-bill/#:~:text=More%20than%20320%20organisations%20have,Commons%20on%20Monday%20March%2013.


The Guardian (2023). ‘Rishi Sunak to launch bill to stop people arriving on small boats claiming asylum’. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/mar/05/sunak-to-launch-bill-to-bar-asylum-claims-from-people-arriving-on-small-boats


UK Government (2022) ‘Nationality and Borders Bill Explanatory Notes’. Available at: https://bills.parliament.uk/publications/44460/documents/1174

Comments


bottom of page