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Anna Yassin, Migrant Project Manager

14th June 2023

On the 25th May, the GLA called an emergency summit to discuss the potentially far-reaching consequences of the Illegal Migration Bill. Glass Door’s expertise was called on to discuss the potential impact of the Bill on homelessness.

At Glass Door we share the concerns of the GLA, sector partners, UNHCR and many others, that the Bill, if passed into law in its current format, will undermine and damage fundamental systems that exist to protect people seeking sanctuary.

It risks increasing homelessness, destitution, and exploitation in a vulnerable population without recourse to justice.

Background to the bill

The Illegal Migration Bill was proposed by the government to act as a deterrent to ‘illegal migration’; to prevent people coming to the UK through ‘illegal and dangerous journeys.’

The government proposes that most people who have not used ‘safe and legal routes’ to arrive in the UK will be banned from claiming asylum; their asylum claims will be deemed as ‘inadmissible’, and they will be liable to detention and removal. Statutory limits for detaining unaccompanied children, families, and pregnant women will be disapplied and judicial oversight curtailed.

The Bill proposes that people can be removed to any country classified as safe ‘in general’ if they travelled from there or will be admitted there, irrespective of whether it is safe for that individual. Currently the government does not have any returns agreements in place with other countries apart from Rwanda, and removals to Rwanda are currently on hold while the policy is being challenged in the Court of Appeal.

According to UNHCR, the Bill ‘effectively extinguishes’ the right of refugees to be recognised and protected in the UK. It breaches the UK’s obligations under the Refugee Convention and international human rights laws, it is detrimental to the international refugee protection system and conversely, will increase pressure on the UK asylum system.

The fact is, there are no safe and legal routes to travel to the UK, no such thing as an asylum or humanitarian visa.

Resettlement pathways exist for extremely limited numbers of people. Most people in need of international protection do not have the option to fly out of their country of origin where they are at risk of persecution.

The National Referral Mechanism, the ‘NRM’, is the UK’s framework designed to identify and protect victims of trafficking and modern slavery. The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 (NABA) already made significant procedural changes to the NRM referral process that excessively scrutinises victims’ experiences and puts further pressure on frontline services to evidence a person’s exploitation. The Bill goes further, blocking victims of modern slavery who have arrived in the UK via a route deemed ‘illegal’ from accessing any safeguards under the NRM.

Prior to NABA, it was extremely challenging supporting migrant guests, who we identified as potential victims of modern slavery, into the NRM and safety off the streets. Guests faced numerous barriers; fear of statutory services, an overstretched voluntary sector, significant delays for an initial ‘reasonable grounds’ decision (‘reasonable grounds to believe’ a person may be a victim of trafficking) risk of re-exploitation while rough sleeping, and the consequences of trauma and other complex issues.

The additional burdens presented by the legislation will only make it harder, if not impossible, for victims to access support. 

It puts pressure on frontline services such as ours, with limited resources, who will be in the impossible situation of trying to support people who have no recourse to safety or justice for crimes committed against them.

As a frontline service we see the human impact of the administratively burdensome asylum system that subjects people to protracted limbo, waiting for decisions on their claims. Refugee Council estimates that if enacted, within three years there would be between 161,147 and 192,670 people in the UK whose claims would be deemed inadmissible, who would not have been removed from the UK due to lack of formal returns agreements with other countries. Although some may have access to Home Office support and accommodation, there is an increased risk of yet more people falling through the cracks, vulnerable to destitution and exploitation.

What the Bill will look like in its final incarnation is yet to be seen. What we do know is that ‘hostile environment’ policies have had a detrimental impact on vulnerable migrants, put inordinate pressure on frontline and statutory services, fostered a legal aid crisis, and not addressed the issues the Home Office themselves face, such as the huge backlog in the asylum system.

The Illegal Migration Bill offers no solutions, only adds to the problem.

Glass Door's Migrant Project

Glass Door’s Migrant Project works to support and advocate for homeless and destitute non-UK nationals. We assist people to navigate the enormous complexities and challenges of the asylum and immigration systems. We provide advice and guidance to guests of our service, and work in partnership with statutory and non-statutory agencies to influence policy and practice in response to migrant homelessness.   

With the extension of hostile environment policies, we have seen a year-on-year increase in demand on our service, and we have had to adapt accordingly.

Our focus has been on developing cross-sector partnerships and to extend our advocacy work in this area, to try and influence policy and practice to improve outcomes for our migrant guests. Internally, we have specialist caseworkers registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner who can provide basic advice on immigration and asylum matters, and manage these complex cases.