Anti-trafficking advocates have decried the Illegal Migration Bill introduced to the UK House of Commons in March. The Bill aims to reduce “small boat crossings” by detaining and removing people who arrive in the country by “illegal means”, as well as blocking them from returning.
The introduction of the Bill follows months of misleading statements by policymakers about victims of trafficking abusing the National Referral Mechanism – statements that were condemned by a group of UN human rights experts. LSI member FLEX, as part of the Detention Taskforce, called the Bill “cruel and unworkable” as it would lead to “harm, death and significant suffering” since a large number of victims of trafficking arrive in the UK by irregular routes. LSI member Anti-Slavery International said the Bill was a “boon for traffickers” who often use victims’ immigration status as a way of keeping them in exploitative conditions.
The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) stressed that, if adopted, the Bill would run contrary to the UK’s obligations under the CoE Anti-Trafficking Convention, particularly, Article 10, which obliges states to identify victims and not place them in detention and Article 13, which provides for a 30-day reflection period. Concerns about the Bill were also raised by IOM, UNHCR, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, NGOs, and academics.