Our response to the Home Secretary’s “Illegal Migration Bill”.
The second reading of the government’s highly controversial ‘Illegal Migration Bill’ is scheduled for this afternoon. As a group of charities who work with refugees from all backgrounds, we strongly believe that these proposals are not only immoral and illegal, but ultimately unworkable.
According to UNHCR, the ‘Illegal Migration Bill’ amounts to a ban on claiming asylum for those who arrive irregularly in the UK. It flies in the face of the Refugee Convention and human rights law.
The TVIA have called upon our local MPs in the Thames Valley region to represent our views, respect international law and defend the rights of refugees.
Asylum seekers take dangerous journeys to the UK because safe and legal routes are not available to them, yet the Bill does not introduce any new safe or legal routes that would remove the need for dangerous channel crossings and put the smugglers out of business.
The Bill is full of gaps and unanswered questions, leaving vulnerable people in limbo. Most asylum seekers come from countries that our government recognises are too dangerous to return to. There is no evidence that any country except Rwanda will accept refugees from the UK as well as their own arrivals, and no indication that such plans will be workable.
Naomi, who was detained after seeking asylum in the UK and who is currently volunteering with us, says:
‘People have hope, whatever situation they’re in. They take very difficult measures because they’re hoping for a better situation. If you’re taking that hope away from them, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. They won’t know what to do. You’re breaking that bond and trust they have for this country.
I wouldn’t wish detention on other people because you’re stuck. You wake up every morning thinking “what’s going to happen to me?” Even if you leave detention, you’re never going to recover from what you went through there. It’s always going to be on your mind.’
Asylum seekers are not illegal and, according to the hundreds of volunteers and supporters we work with across the Thames Valley, neither are they unwelcome. Despite the government’s divisive rhetoric, we continue to believe that our values of welcome and compassion can win out over the politics of division and hostility.
About the Thames Valley Immigration Alliance (TVIA):
The TVIA is formed of four charities in the Thames Valley region that support refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants. Asylum Welcome, Refugee Support Group Berkshire, Slough Refugee Support and Settled work in partnership to increase access to immigration advice and legal services, and to advocate for asylum seekers, refugees, and vulnerable migrants across the Thames Valley.
For more information, and interviews, contact:
Hari Reed, Advocacy and Communications, TVIA
(1) About Asylum Welcome
Asylum Welcome (AW) has supported refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants in Oxfordshire for 25+ years. We help our clients understand and access rights and opportunities, develop and share their talents, and feel welcomed. In 2021-22, we supported around 3,000 individuals and families through integrated services. Our services are delivered by staff and a trained, multilingual team of 200+ volunteers.
(2) About Refugee Support Group Berkshire
Refugee Support Group Berkshire was started in 1994 by a group of refugees, and now supports hundreds of refugee and asylum-seeking people and families across Berkshire, from over 50 countries. RRSG provides: a safe space; OISC accredited advice; practical support; social activities; English classes; education and employment support; signposting; awareness raising.
For more information, see: https://rrsg.org.uk/
(3) About Slough Refugee Support
Slough Refugee Support (SRS) helps all asylum seekers and refugees in Slough and surrounding areas to achieve their rights and settle with dignity. Set up 24 years ago, SRS provides OISC advice and support up to Level 2/3; legal support from solicitors; Asylum Support (NASS); access to benefits, health and education support; family support; job searches for those eligible to work; English classes. Last year, SRS supported 402 clients from 36 countries.
For more information, see: https://www.sloughrefugeesupport.org.uk/
(4) About Settled
Settled has considerable experience in supporting EU migrants with post-Brexit registration and a related legal challenges. Settled is an independent charity providing information, advice and support in multiple languages to EU citizens in the UK. A small staff team coordinates 100+ volunteers throughout the UK, providing immigration advice to EU citizens to gain Settled Status and respond to difficulties they face, prioritising those most in need.
For more information, see: https://settled.org.uk/
(5) About Justice Together
The Justice Together initiative is a collaboration launched in 2020 with a decade-long vision to ensure that people who use the UK immigration system can access justice fairly and equally. This collaboration grew out of conversations led by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to explore with other foundations a strategic response to the expected spike in immigration advice needs. The aim of the Justice Together initiative is to build a community of people and organisations with diverse backgrounds, strengths, and experiences who can work together to transform access to justice in the UK immigration system. The initiative seeks to invest new resources in legal advice, strengthen immigration sector organisations, and influence wider change to support the lawful and fair functioning of immigration, nationality and asylum processes.
For more information, see: https://justice-together.org.uk/