The U.K. Illegal Migration Act promotes trafficking and is inhumane

The U.K. Illegal Migration Act promotes trafficking and is inhumane – full stop.

  • Published on
    October 12, 2023
  • Written by:
    Ellie Finkelstein
  • Category:
    Human trafficking, Law & Policy
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October 18th is Anti-Slavery Day, a day marked to symbolize the importance of raising awareness and the need to eradicate all forms of slavery, human trafficking, and exploitation.  

Ironically, the U.K. recognizes this day as a national call to action, yet the government is doing more than failing in its stated aspirations. How? By the passing of legislation that undermines efforts to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking and attempts to justify asylum seekers’ deportation to a third country. 

Aiding trafficking, condemning victims 

The Illegal Migration Act contains some of the most ruthless anti-migrant provisions seen worldwide as part of its “Stop the Boats” campaign. It authorizes the government to deport asylum seekers arriving in the U.K. via so-called “irregular routes” and leaves victims with zero support or access to modern slavery protections, even if they are brought into the country under force or coercion.  

All this does is put those who have already suffered exploitation further at risk of being trafficked and exacerbate conditions of vulnerability that will drive more people into modern slavery.[1]  

Safe migration routes are the most effective way to protect people from trafficking and would undermine traffickers’ thriving industry. However, the government has no plans in its campaign to create such routes. Rather, the attention is solely on targeting migrants and refugees once they arrive in the U.K.  

Even Theresa May, former Prime Minister who recently apologized for creating a “hostile environment” when in power,[2] shared her concern over the dangers of this policy:  

“Traffickers could use [the threat of deportation in Britain’s new legislation] to persuade their victims… not to try to seek help. And if we are going to catch the [traffickers], we need the victims and survivors to be able to come forward to give the evidence necessary.”[3]  

Doubling down with no leg to stand on  

Even after much backlash from the UN’s refugee agency and the European Court of Human Rights, the U.K. government is doubling down on its controversial justifications for this Act. On September 26, Braverman challenged the UN convention for protecting refugees during a speech in the U.S. She questioned whether persecution for one’s sex or sexual orientation could really be grounds for asylum – overturning a landmark international protocol protecting hundreds of millions of people.  

In the same speech, Braverman promoted hostility towards migrants naming immigrants as an “existential challenge for the political and cultural institutions of the West” and referred to the high rates of immigration as a “failure of migrants to integrate.” This rhetoric connotes racist and xenophobic beliefs by drawing on the age-old position that non-white migrants pose a “threat that should be dealt with.”[4]  

Braverman’s dream is an asylum seeker’s nightmare 

The Act seeks to use threats of detention, deportation, and denied access as a deterrence to people arriving in the U.K. Home Secretary Suella Braverman says it is her “dream” and “obsession” to see a plane take asylum seekers to Rwanda.[5] The government’s plan to forcibly send asylum seekers to Rwanda, a third country, is so controversial that it is being scrutinized in the UK’s highest court.[6]  

Advocates warn that if asylum seekers are sent to Rwanda, there is a real risk that they could be tortured, punished, or face inhumane and degrading treatment in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights given Rwanda’s history of suppressing dissent. 

Yasmine Ahmed, the U.K. director of Human Rights Watch, which last week issued a new report on Rwanda, stated:  

 “The Human Rights Watch findings highlight that Rwanda is not a country the U.K. should rely upon to uphold international standards or the rule of law when it comes to asylum seekers.”[7] 

Critics of Rwandan President Paul Kagame are locked up, other Rwandans have disappeared, and the regime kidnapped an oppositional leading figure.[8] 

The link between harsh immigration policies and trafficking  

The Illegal Migration Act brings with it an increase in the risk of trafficking as it increases migrants’ vulnerability. Many who seek to get to the U.K. choose irregular routes out of dire necessity and a lack of alternatives. That might be fleeing violence, exploitation, persecution, or simply poverty and survival. The likelihood of being trafficked on the journey vastly increases when the routes are not regulated.  

Instead of providing safe routes and working to support trafficking victims on arrival, the plan to deport them to Rwanda further endangers them. Given Rwanda’s failure to uphold international standards for asylum seekers, the evidence suggests that those who are trafficked are not in a position to safely go to authorities and get the support they need.  

Take action 

Freedom United stands in unconditional solidarity with migrants and rejects the Illegal Migration Act. We stand for safe migration routes as the most effective way to protect people from trafficking.  Sign our petition to call for genuine anti-trafficking immigration policies. 

 

 1 Now the Illegal Migration Act has become law, what next? – Anti-Slavery International (antislavery.org)
2 https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/aug/31/theresa-may-says-she-regrets-using-term-hostile-environment 
3 New U.K. law allowing deportation of illegal migrants benefits traffickers, says former PM | CBC News 
4 What role does Islamophobia play in migration discourse? (migrantsrights.org.uk) 
5 British home secretary says it’s her ‘dream’ to see a flight take asylum seekers to Rwanda (thejournal.ie) 
6 UK’s Rwanda migrant plan under scrutiny at highest court | Reuters
 7 UK: Abandon Rwanda Asylum Transfer Plan | Human Rights Watch (hrw.org) 
8 Undercover on the government’s Rwanda plan – YouTube
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R Kern
6 months ago

Why not send Suella to Rwanda without a penny in her pocket, and no return passport.

Jocelyn DeCrescenzo
Jocelyn DeCrescenzo
6 months ago

We need fair and safe migratory laws which will foundationally protect migrants from the cruelty of human trafficking and, excuse me but WTF❣️Sending this dreadfully already suffering beyond belief population of human beings to Rowanda as a third country❓
The person who has written this piece of legislation, this “BILL” and the “people” who are supporting it all need to have their heads and their hearts examined- oh wait- they have no hearts…..

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