21 Jul 2023

UK Government’s Illegal Migration Bill to prevent modern slavery survivors from accessing support

Walk Free fiercely rejects the Bill, which effectively removes access to asylum in the UK for anyone arriving “irregularly”.

Refugees on a big rubber boat in the middle of the sea that require help. Photo Credit: Naeblys via GettyImages.

The UK Government is now restricting safe and legal pathways for migration, meaning thousands of vulnerable people do not have a choice but to arrive “illegally”.

The Bill will also prevent victims of modern slavery from being identified and to access support, due to fears of being detained and deported.

Who does this affect?

This impacts people who are forcibly displaced from their homes and communities because of many reasons out of their control, as the Global Slavery Index highlights. This can include:

  • Conflict
  • Climate change
  • Persecution
  • Human trafficking
  • Other forms of exploitation

Displaced people are not criminals. Safe migration has never been more important, with the number of people on the move now higher than ever.

What was the response?

The UK Government overturned several suggested revisions made by the House of Lords to curb some of the most extreme and unworkable elements of the law.

These rejections included:

  • Reversing detention limits for children
  • The call to provide protection for potential modern slavery victims
  • The call to place a ban on LGBT migrants being deported to Rwanda and other countries potentially dangerous to them.

The Bill sets a grave precedent for the dismantling of long held international human rights standards. It breaches multiple international conventions and agreements.

This includes the UN Refugee Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (ECAT).

Additionally, UK Court of appeal judges ruled elements of the bill unlawful, namely the plans to deport individuals to Rwanda, which the UK Government is seeking further appeal against.  

UN agencies have released statements highlighting the serious human rights and legal concerns the Bill raises (IOM and UNHCR).

Civil society organisations have also called for the bill to be overturned (joint statement).

Walk Free is extremely concerned by the heightened vulnerability to exploitation this will cause for people who are already most vulnerable. This will severely undermine the UK’s government response to modern slavery.