The UK’s Unlawful Migration Invoice, introduced by the house secretary on 7 March 2023, may have devastating humanitarian and medical penalties for folks looking for sanctuary within the UK. Each day, we at MSF witness the grave influence worldwide of violent insurance policies that concentrate on deterrence and containment to manage asylum. We all know that these practices price lives.
This invoice is supposedly aimed toward stopping “unlawful” immigration by punishing and successfully banning individuals who come to the UK irregularly—primarily by crossing the English Channel in small boats—from claiming asylum. That is significantly insidious coverage making as a result of, for most individuals looking for security, just about no secure and authorized routes are accessible, as the federal government has systematically closed or severely restricted them. Consequently, many individuals are left with no selection however to aim harmful crossings to succeed in the UK—even with the specter of punishment in the event that they arrive. The laws is intentionally designed to inflict hurt on, and dehumanise folks looking for security.
MSF groups around the globe work with individuals who have been displaced by violence, persecution, and different hardships. Many are survivors of torture, trafficking, and sexual violence, or members of marginalised communities. Below the brand new invoice’s stipulations, all of those folks can be barred from receiving safety within the UK in the event that they arrived with out prior permission. That is regardless of the House Workplace’s personal knowledge, which present that the clear majority of individuals crossing the English Channel go on to be granted refugee standing.1
The invoice permits authorities to detain—instantly and indefinitely—individuals who arrive within the UK irregularly, earlier than they’re eliminated to Rwanda, one other “secure” nation, or their nation of origin. It is a colossal growth of the official and de facto detention of individuals. Realistically, eradicating folks looking for asylum from the UK is not going to be a workable coverage and can merely strip folks—together with kids, pregnant girls, households, and survivors of torture and trafficking—of their dignity and rights. They are going to be contained, indefinitely, away from native communities, with no alternative to assert asylum, inadequate entry to healthcare, and no thought when, or even when their state of affairs will change.
This uncertainty, lack of dignified remedy, and the circumstances of detention have severe well being penalties. In Greece, the place MSF works with folks looking for security who’re contained in remoted and extremely securitised centres on Lesvos and Samos islands, our groups have seen many individuals with severe psychological and bodily well being issues. Most individuals have fled battle or persecution and have been uncovered to appalling ranges of violence throughout their migration journeys. Between September 2021 and September 2022, 40% of MSF’s sufferers with psychological well being issues on Samos had signs associated to psychological trauma.2 Though the state of affairs has now improved, our groups beforehand witnessed excessive ranges of psychological well being struggling among the many folks there, exacerbated by deplorable lodging circumstances and a lack of know-how on their authorized standing or size of confinement. In 2022, our employees routinely handled sufferers with post-traumatic stress dysfunction, despair, and different psychological well being issues.2 The UK authorities has publicly acknowledged that it views the Greek strategy as a mannequin for its personal coverage.
Hurt on a much bigger scale
We all know that the well being of individuals looking for asylum within the UK has already been harmed on account of their detention within the UK. Delays within the asylum system have led to tens of 1000’s of individuals being accommodated for months or years in insufficient, unhealthy dwelling circumstances as they wait for his or her claims to be processed.3
In late 2022, bottlenecks within the system led to extreme overcrowding on the Manston asylum processing centre in Kent, the place folks have been pressured to sleep on the ground of tents in unsafe and unsanitary circumstances, leading to outbreaks of scabies and diphtheria.4 By blocking entry to the asylum system completely, the Unlawful Migration Invoice will recreate related circumstances to these seen at Manston, however on a a lot larger scale.
The House Workplace has continued to concern adults and youngsters whose age is disputed with notices of their elimination to Rwanda, regardless of the coverage going through ongoing litigation and with no imminent begin date. This observe is clearly designed to instil worry and anguish amongst these focused, their households, and the broader neighborhood. If the coverage goes forward, it is going to trigger additional human distress. In 2017-18, MSF labored on Nauru island, the place the Australian authorities despatched folks looking for asylum for “offshore processing,” and our groups noticed a few of the worst psychological well being struggling in MSF’s 50 years of existence. We discovered that 60% of our sufferers skilled suicidal ideation, and 30% tried suicide, together with kids as younger as 9.5
These merciless and deplorable insurance policies breach the UN Refugee Conference and won’t cease folks fleeing warfare, persecution, and different horrific realities from attempting to hunt security within the UK. All this invoice will do is inflict better struggling, pressure folks to take much more harmful routes, and in the end price lives. The one practical method to cease folks making treacherous crossings throughout the English Channel is to urgently arrange secure and authorized routes to the UK, accessible to folks of all nationalities, and decide to a good, workable asylum system.