More than 300 academic experts in migration have signed a joint letter to the government to object to the UK’s Illegal Immigration bill, arguing the policy is not “evidence-based, workable, or legal under human rights law”.
The scholars, from mostly British universities, warned the bill will not stop small boats crossing the Channel, but would, however, increase “the chance of death” as people were funnelled into more dangerous journeys.
The letter, which was published online and in The Times on Wednesday, called the bill “a deterrence approach” by the government in response to the current “maritime humanitarian crisis”.
However, the letter says, “there is no evidence that we are aware of, as experts in this field, to suggest that deterrence-based approaches are effective”.
The group pointed to Australia where its government’s attempt to deter boat arrivals with offshore detention had failed to “stop the boats” or break people smuggling networks.
Instead, the “Pacific solution” had resulted in “enormous financial costs” to Australian taxpayers, the violation of fundamental rules of international laws and numerous legal challenges.
“Because the (British government’s) policy will not stop the boats, it is not workable,” the group said.
“A large and growing population of people who would otherwise have a strong case for asylum will be turned into ‘illegal immigrants’.
“They will be detained, or housed in hotels or army barracks at great expense to the state, with no clear mechanism to resolve their status.
“In many cases (for example, Afghan, Syrian and Eritrean asylum seekers) it will not be possible to return them to their country of origin.
“Again, there is already a large body of research evidencing the consequences of maintaining a vulnerable population of people in a state of deportability, poverty, and destitution. At least one consequence is that these people become extremely vulnerable to exploitation and forced labour.”
The letter concluded by saying that the bill will be “counter to all evidence on forced migration journeys”, in addition to being “illegal and immoral, but also unworkable and flawed on its own terms”.
It comes after the Conservative Party chairman apologised to the head of the civil service after an email sent out in the Home Secretary’s name said public servants had held up efforts to tackle unlawful migration.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has said she did not sign off the correspondence last week which blamed “an activist blob of left-wing lawyers, civil servants and the Labour Party” for blocking previous attempts to prevent migrants from arriving in small boats across the Channel.
The government’s controversial asylum proposals laid out in the Illegal Migration bill cleared their first Commons hurdle on Monday.
The legislation aims to stop people claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive through unauthorised means, with the measures part of Mr Sunak’s action plan to deliver on his pledge to stop small boats of migrants from crossing the English Channel.