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The UK's cure to classism

British empire and the Commonwealth

With the introduction of the British Nationality Act 1948, the act was designed to provide a new meaning to the term citizenship in the United Kingdom and its colonies. For the first time in British history citizens of other commonwealth nations were allowed to become British subjects or Commonwealth citizens. This meant that they would be awarded protected status to enter and reside in the United Kingdom without needing a visa until January 1983.The act also led to a mass migration whereby British subjects were being recruited from South Asia, the Caribbean and Europe. Most notably the Empire Windrush from 1948- 1952, led to 1000-2000 Caribbeans entering Britain each year, by 1961 it was estimated by the national population census that they were 161,000 people who were born in the Caribbean living in the UK. Henceforth, by the late 1970’s it was estimated by the Royal Commission on the NHS that they were between 18,000- 20,000 registered doctors in the UK who were of mostly of Indian and Pakistani descent. Little recognition has been given by the British Government on the efforts ethnic minorities have played in reconstructing the NHS over the years.

Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951 and Protocol relating to the status of Refugees 1967

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland became party to the 1951 Refugee Convention on the 11th March 1954. This ratification was also followed by the adoption of the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees 1967. The UK had ratified the 1967 protocol in 1968. The difference between the conventions is that the 1951 Convention was limited to protecting European refugees whereas the 1967 protocol is worldwide and protects all individuals fleeing conflict and persecution. As Article 1 of the 1951 Convention stipulates that a refugee must possess a well-founded fear of being persecuted due to a protected characteristic such as race or religion. The convention becomes imperative on states that have signed the treaty to protect refugees on their territory according to international law. Articles 31, 32, & 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention provide clauses for refugees to not be punished on entry into a new territory, to have the right to not be expelled or to be returned to a state where they will receive serious threats to their life and freedom.

The 1951 Convention and the 1967 Optional Protocol are also further backed up by Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which states that everyone has the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution in other countries. Article 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998 also stipulates that no one shall be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment.

The Nationality and Borders Act 2022

The Nationality and Borders Act that was introduced in April 2022, already began discriminating amongst certain groups of potential refugees. The two-tier system that the act created identified only two forms of refugees as either group 1 or group 2, this meant that some refugees will either have more or less rights than others. Likewise, by limiting refugee’s family reunion for those refugees that came to the UK via a third country or through irregular routes, impedes on some of the main routes for refugees to arrive in the UK. Whilst the UK government wants to increase safe routes for refugees to the UK, the Nationality and Borders Act falls short of internationally accepted standards. The Nationality and Borders Act restricts existing safe routes and destroys possible refugee integration in the UK.

Will the illegal migration bill break international law when it becomes law?

The illegal migration Bill is expected to detain and remove refugees arriving in the UK through illegal methods such as small boat crossings, to their home countries or a safe third country. Currently it is unclear what are the safe and legal routes available if the bill were to become law in the UK. Conservative MP Tim Laughton had initiated proposals to amend the bill so that it will include specified safe legal routes once the bill has become law within a 6-month period. The bill has currently finished its passage in the House of Commons, and it is currently on its second reading in the House of Lords. Home Secretary Suella Braverman has announced a Rwandan asylum plan which is essentially an agreement with the Rwandan government to send asylum seekers to Rwanda so that they could apply for refugee status.

However, based on the legal challenges although the UK High Court of Justice had said in December 2022 that the scheme did not breach the 1951 Refugee Convention, The Court of Appeal have given permission to 6 individual claimants to appeal the legality of the home offices decision to return claimants.

The grounds in which an appeal can suffice, include whether the UK and the Rwandan agreement demonstrate enough protection against refoulement as stipulated in Article 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998, and whether the policy will breach Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

In 2023, when Suella Braverman was asked in parliament if she considers the Illegal migration Bill to be compatible with the 1951 Refugee convention, she asserted that the bill introduces international obligations. To disapprove the statement the UN Refugee Agency had stated: “The legislation if passed would amount to an asylum ban extinguishing the right to seek refugee protection in the UK for those who arrive through irregularity”.

Henceforth Braverman could not be sure if the bill would be compatible with section 19 (1) (a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 but instead asserted 19 (1) (B) and continued to proceed with the bill.

The Future of the migration policy

Since all legislation in the UK must be compatible with the Human Rights Act 1998, by detaining illegal refugees without bail or judicial review for the first 28 days goes against the English common law principle Harbeas Corpus, which is a principle that allows people to appeal against unlawful detention or imprisonment. The bill also further goes against Article 34 of the Human Rights Act 1998, therefore if a claimant ever wanted to bring a case to the European Court of Justice due to not being provided with a remedy in one of the high contracting states parties, they would not be given the chance to.

UK Home Office

Currently the Home Office have a backlog of over 160,000 immigration cases waiting to be dealt with. The Home office are well aware that they cannot remove illegal arrivals without a return’s agreement to the chosen safe third country, this will mean that many applications will be rejected leading individuals to more poverty, homelessness and exploitation. According to Matthew J Gibney non arrivals have been criticised because of the appealing implications they have for the institutions of asylum, therefore if every state were to operate the way Britain and the US did, they would be no access to asylum accept through resettlement programmes.

UNHCR Resettlement programme and challenges for modern slavery conventions

Recently, only 22 Afghan refugees from the Afghan citizens Resettlement scheme that was created in January 2022 have been resettled in the UK via referrals from the UN Refugee Agency. The original agreement by the UK government was that it would accept 20,000 people fleeing Afghanistan due to the threats of persecution from the Taliban. Lastly if the illegal migration bill became law, it would have a severe impact on those affected by modern slavery who need to be afforded asylum and humanitarian protection. This increases the individual’s risk to further exploitation, trafficking and psychological harm. The bill if enacted would also ensure a large-scale denial of support and the removal of people who are identified as victims of modern slavery before the victim identification process has been completed.

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