Speaking for Ourselves

The name that says it all: the illegal immigration bill

The name that says it all: the illegal immigration bill


 Migrant Voice - The name that says it all: the illegal immigration bill

So it’s come to this: the illegal immigration bill - a name  with a double meaning that itself encapsulates the mess we are in. Extraordinarily, the Government is proposing legislation that carries an admission that it might be against the law.

The UK has arrived at this remarkable juncture after years of deliberate cultivation of a hostile environment, disregard of evidence, use of obfuscatory and inflammatory language, and political grandstanding. 

In 2002 there were more than 103,000 claims for asylum. Last year the number was less than 75,000. So there is no justification for talk of an ”invasion” or even of crisis, and even less justification for talking about people arriving illegally: it is not illegal to flee danger and come to this country, in a small boat or by any other form of transport, to apply for asylum. 

As we have seen in other areas of life, such language is dangerous because some members of the public interpret it as sanction to commit acts of violence against those they see as enemies. In the UK, the far right are using such language to stoke fears and justify violent protests and attacks on hotels housing asylum seekers

Now the rhetoric is getting worse. Announcing the proposed legislation in Parliament, the Home Secretary raised the spectre of 100 million people who could qualify for protection on our shores in coming years: “Let’s be clear - they are coming here,” she said. This is scaremongering. Worldwide, the vast majority of refugees live in countries next to their own.
The following day, in a newspaper article, she raised the stakes by referring to “billions” of potentially fleeing people.

The tawdry parliamentary debate that followed Braverman’s statement about the Government’s plans degenerated further still, dominated by point-scoring and blame in place of analysis and understanding. This abhorrent initiative and the rhetoric surrounding it are clearly part of a potent election culture war strategy.

Migrant Voice will stand up to the actions proposed - from the failure to speed up creation of safe routes to the undermining of efforts to protect victims of modern slavery, from the stripping of people’s rights to seek asylum and judicial review of asylum decisions to the forced detention of asylum seekers. The new legislation would lead to tens of thousands of asylum seekers being in an indefinite limbo with no rights and nowhere to go. It would also end the UK's upholding of the United Nation convention for the protection of refugees and to breaking international law.

In the meantime, it is essential that all who participate in the continuing controversy over the bill use facts rather than exaggerations to buttress their case, and stop using inflammatory language. Failure to do so endangers political life in general and thus our democracy.

Sadly, and dangerously, the row over what the Government tags the “small boats bill” (a slogan taken directly from an Australian election victory a decade ago) has become a key election issue, with accusations and counter-accusations of motives being hurled across the divide in the House of Commons. These over-heated words inevitably find their way into public discourse, generating heat rather than light. The people who stand to suffer are asylum seekers, migrants, and indeed all of us.

Photo credits: Migrant Voice, 2021

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N1 9JP

Phone: +44 (0) 207 832 5824
Email: info@migrantvoice.org

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Number: 1142963 (England and Wales); SC050970 (Scotland)

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