Human rights groups concerned as UK brings about biggest overhaul to its asylum law

Edited By: Moohita Kaur Garg
London, United Kingdom Updated: Apr 29, 2022, 08:01 AM(IST)

Home Secretary Priti Patel, who comes from a family of asylum seekers and whose parents escaped Idi Amin's Uganda, has dubbed the controversial act's passage a "landmark" that brought about changes suited for the 21st century. Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

It imposes harsher prison sentences for anyone who enters the country illegally, raising concerns that it could be used against asylum seekers

In the biggest overhaul of its asylum system in decades, the United Kingdom has made the Nationality and Borders Act into law.

As per the Government of UK website this law will “deter illegal entry into the UK, breaking the business model of people-smuggling networks, and speed up the removal of those with no right to be in the UK.”

Also read | Boris Johnson's distraction plan: Forget partygate, let's 'take back control' of UK borders

Despite widespread outrage and charges that it violates international law, Britain praised what it called a "world-leading" overhaul of its asylum system.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, who herself comes from a family of asylum seekers and whose parents escaped Idi Amin's Uganda, has dubbed the controversial act's passage a "landmark" that brought about changes suited for the 21st century.

The bill, which was passed late Wednesday by parliament, includes maximum life penalties for human traffickers who are accused of assisting unauthorised migration.

However, it also imposes harsher prison sentences for anyone who enters the country illegally, raising concerns that it could be used against asylum seekers.

Watch | Gravitas: Outrage over UK-Rwanda migrant deal

The act gives agencies more authority to expedite the expulsion of failed asylum seekers and "dangerous foreign criminals," as well as brings an end to "meritless" judicial battles to prevent deportation, as described by Patel.

Quite notably one of its provisions, dubs, people who have claimed asylum in another “safe” country “inadmissible’ to the UK asylum system.

Human rights organisations and charities that help refugees and migrants have lambasted the idea, and some have threatened to sue the government.

The new legislation, according to UN Refugee Chief Filippo Grandi, may violate both the letter and the spirit of global refugee accords to which Britain is a signatory.

Also read | Rwanda genocide survivors moved out so Patel could inspect UK asylum facility

He expressed disappointment that the country was considering closing its doors to asylum seekers and giving refugees a lower status, with the possibility of deportation looming.

According to Oxfam's head of government relations, Sam Nadel, it is "heinous" and "a devastating blow for families fleeing conflict and persecution."

"The government should be protecting, not punishing, refugees," he remarked.

Among the key reforms are:

  • Tougher penalties for smugglers.
  • Up to four years in prison for illegally entering the country or overstaying a visa.
  • Measures to end “the merry-go-round of legal challenges which can be used to frustrate removal of those with no right to be in the UK”.
  • A “US-style Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme”.

Watch WION LIVE HERE:

(With inputs from agencies)

Read in App