April 18, 2024

LONDON (AP) — A committee of British lawmakers said Sunday that the UK will break its international human rights commitments if it goes through with government plans to detain and deport people who cross the English Channel in small boats.

Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights said the Illegal Migration Bill “breaches a number of the UK’s international human rights obligations and risks breaching others.”

Scottish National Party lawmaker Joanna Cherry, who chairs the committee, said the law would leave most refugees and victims of modern slavery with no way of seeking asylum in Britain.

“By treating victims of modern slavery as ‘illegal migrants’ subject to detention and removal, this bill would breach our legal obligations to such victims and would increase the risk of trafficking of vulnerable people,” she said.

The committee urged the government to make sweeping amendments to the bill, including exempting trafficking victims and curbing the government’s power to indefinitely detain people. The government, which had pledged to “stop the boats,” is unlikely to heed the recommendations.

The legislation bars asylum claims by anyone who reaches the UK by unauthorized means, and compels officials to detain and then deport refugees and migrants “to their home country or a safe third country,” such as Rwanda. Once deported, they would be banned from ever re-entering the UK

Britain’s Conservative government says the law will determine tens of thousands of people from making perilous journeys across the Channel and break the business model of the criminal gangs behind the trips. Critics, including the United Nations’ refugee agency, have described the legislation as unethical and unworkable.

The parliamentary committee questioned whether the law would act as a deterrent and said it “could lead to people taking other, potentially more dangerous, routes into the UK.”

The bill has been approved by the House of Commons, where the governing Conservatives have a majority, but is facing opposition in Parliament’s upper chamber, the House of Lords. The Lords can amend the legislation but not block it.

More than 45,000 people, including many fleeing countries such as Afghanistan, Iran and Syria, arrived in Britain in small boats last year, up from 8,500 in 2020.

The government has housed many of those awaiting asylum decisions in hotels, which officials say costs taxpayers millions of pounds (dollars) a day. Authorities have said they plan to place new arrivals in disused military camps and a barge docked on the southern English coast.

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Follow AP’s coverage of global migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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