Commission opposes UK government's Illegal Migration Bill

As Scotland’s National Human Rights Institution, the Commission  protects the human rights of everyone in Scotland, regardless of where they were born.

We therefore strongly oppose the UK government’s Illegal Migration Bill, introduced to the UK Parliament on 7 March, which aims to deny people the right to seek refuge in the UK if they have arrived here ‘irregularly’.

The characterisation of those arriving by irregular means as ‘illegal entrants’ ignores the fact there are no safe or legal routes available for those fleeing the majority of the world’s conflict zones.

Instead of being offered protection, large numbers of vulnerable people will be criminalised, locked up and eventually removed.  This would apply not only to those arriving by small boats, but all other forms of irregular entry to the UK too.

The Bill has already been heavily criticised globally, including by the UN Refugee Agency (the UNHCR) which described it as amounting to a ban on asylum and therefore a clear breach of the 1951 Refugee Convention.   

The Bill’s proposals also undermine the protections of the Human Rights Act and threaten to put the UK in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, and other binding international treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The UK’s international reputation is predicated on respect for human rights, freedom and democracy. There is a real danger that other states in Europe and beyond will follow the example set by a UK government, where the fundamental rights and freedoms of vulnerable groups are being sidelined.

This Bill not only removes the rights of some of the most vulnerable people in our society; it threatens the functioning and credibility of the international human rights system.

While immigration policy is reserved to the UK Parliament, many aspects of policy related to the treatment of refugees in Scotland are within the Scottish Parliament’s remit, for example the housing of asylum seekers in local hotels.

We join human rights campaigners across Scotland in urging the Scottish Government, Members of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish MPs at Westminster to (a) challenge this Bill and (b) explore all the mitigations available should it become law.