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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Illegal Migration Bill: Final Lords Challenge Defeated by Government

Following a series of successful votes in the Lords, the Illegal Migration Bill is poised to be enacted as law, solidifying the government’s efforts to curtail the influx of small boats crossing the English Channel.

This legislation’s core is the prime minister’s commitment to halting illegal entry via the UK borders. According to the bill, the home secretary is legally obliged to detain and expel individuals who unlawfully enter the country.

During a late-night deliberation in the House of Lords, endeavors to reintroduce time limitations on child detention and implement safeguards against modern slavery were rejected by peers.

With the completion of the parliamentary process, the bill will now proceed for royal assent, ultimately transforming into a binding law.

According to BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Dominic Casciani, the current situation regarding individuals arriving in the UK on small boats remains uncertain in the months ahead.

Under the bill, the government is obligated by law to detain and expel those who enter the UK unlawfully, with the intention of sending them to Rwanda or another deemed “safe” third country. However, there are currently no comparable agreements in place with any other nations, as stated by our correspondent.

Moreover, the Court of Appeal recently deemed the plan involving Rwanda unlawful. Despite this ruling, ministers contest the judgment and seek to overturn it.

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Parliamentary ping-pong

For a significant period, the government engaged in a contentious dispute with the Lords regarding the bill’s final version, resulting in repeated amendments proposed by a cross-party group of peers.

Recently, the bill underwent a back-and-forth process known as parliamentary ping-pong, where it moved between the House of Commons and the House of Lords on three occasions.

One of the proposed amendments sought to ensure that the National Crime Agency provided regular reports on immigration crime operations every three months. However, this amendment was rejected by a majority of 35, with 201 peers voting against it and 166 in favor on Monday.

Another amendment aimed to establish safeguards for individuals in the UK who are victims of modern slavery. This proposal, which called for a 14-day grace period allowing access to support and cooperation in criminal proceedings against traffickers, was rejected by 205 votes to 193.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, a critic of the bill, withdrew his request for the government to formulate a 10-year strategy for international collaboration on refugees and human trafficking to the UK. MPs repeatedly dismissed this demand, prompting his decision to abandon it.

The resolution of the impasse between members of the House of Lords and Members of Parliament (MPs) clears the path for the bill to attain royal assent, signifying formal approval by the King to establish it as an Act of Parliament or law.

In the course of the Lords debate, Lord Murray of Blidworth, the Home Office minister, highlighted the overwhelming strain placed on the UK’s asylum system by the rising number of small boat arrivals. He emphasized that the daily cost of accommodation alone was burdening taxpayers with ¬£6 million.

Given the staggering figure of over 45,000 individuals embarking on perilous Channel crossings last year, Lord Murray argued that such a situation was no longer sustainable. He stressed the necessity of breaking the “business model” employed by human traffickers and urged the Lords to uphold the will of the elected House and the British people by passing the bill.

Ahead of the debate, Stephen Kinnock, the shadow immigration minister, characterized the bill as unworkable and an exercise in what he deemed “performative cruelty.” He further asserted that Rwanda’s capacity to accommodate migrants arriving via small boats would only constitute a minute fraction, thus rendering the threat of deportation insufficient in deterring individuals from undertaking the journey.

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