As the harmful Refugee Ban Bill progressed to the debate stage in the U.K.’s House of Lords this week, the archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby called out the legislation for being “morally unacceptable”.
Welby joins a growing number of groups and individuals taking a stand against the bill that, amongst other alarming measures, proposes to rip up modern slavery protections for people who reach the U.K. through irregular routes.
Speaking in the House of Lords on Wednesday Welby said:
“[The bill] is isolationist, it is morally unacceptable and politically impractical to let the poorest countries deal with it alone and cut our international aid,” he said. “This is an attempt at a short-term fix. It risks great damage to the UK’s interests and reputation at home and abroad, let alone the interests of those in need of protection or the nations who together face this challenge.”
The controversial Refugee Ban Bill would leave victims who arrive in the U.K. via irregular routes without support and at risk of deportation before their asylum claims have been fully investigated. Alarmingly, it would strip modern slavery protections for victims who arrive in the U.K. through an irregular route, even if forced. Trafficking victims risk being thrown in detention centers, left to languish indefinitely or deported to an unsafe country where their lives could be at risk.
Government plan goes against international law
The UN High Commission for Refugees provided an analysis of the bill clearly stating that, if passed into law, it would be in contravention of international standards and risks undermining the entire international refugee protection system.
The government’s justification for this legislation is ostensibly to prevent people making dangerous journeys via small boats to reach the U.K., citing that people seeking refuge in the U.K. should do so via legal routes. This argument crumbles under scrutiny. Firstly, there are no legal routes for most people fleeing dangeer to come to the U.K. and there appears to be no intention from the government to open up such routes.
Without these, people fleeing persecution, torture, and trafficking have no means of reaching the U.K. to seek asylum. For those trafficked to the U.K., reaching the country against their will, they would be effectively abandoned by the government who would no longer allow them to access support as a trafficking victim.
Furthermore, the bill proposes to deport people seeking asylum including trafficking victims to third countries where their rights and lives may still be in danger, and there appears to be no provision in the legislation that would require the relevant authorities to conduct an assessment on whether the third country would be indeed be safe for that person.
It’s clear that unsafe migration and lack of safety nets for migrants and trafficking victims mean men, women and children everywhere are at risk of exploitation, trafficking and abuse. Harmful legislation like the Refugee Ban Bill will only put trafficking victims in greater danger.
We can’t let this pass. Add your name to the campaign today!