On 29 March, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (a Select Committee of both UK Houses of Parliament) took evidence from Professor Cathryn Costello on the Illegal Migration Bill, together with Dr Peter Walsh from Oxford’s Migration Observatory, and Sir Stephen Laws from Policy Exchange.
The discussion covered subjects such as possible deterrent effects of the Bill (if any), the broad scope of the legislation (far wider than for small boat arrivals alone); the question of what ‘coming directly’ means in Article 31 of the Refugee Convention; practical challenges such as removal of individuals; the disapplication of modern slavery protections; lack of Parliamentary time to scrutinise the Bill; and the detention of people with no hearing.
Regarding deterrent effects, Professor Costello stated that: “The scholarship demonstrates that deterrent asylum policy in general does not work.”
On violations of Article 31 of the Refugee Convention, she stated of the Bill: “It penalises everyone, and it penalises them by breaching lots of other rights in the Refugee Convention too because it completely bars individuals from having their refugeehood acknowledged – so that brings with it breaches of the other rights in the Convention, not just Article 31.” She also stated, “It has a fundamentally incorrect interpretation of Article 31.”
On the Bill more generally she says, “from Parliament’s point of view, if this Bill was passed, it is just conferring extraordinary sweeping legislative powers on the Secretary of State to legislate on matters of massive human rights sensitivity, and then trying to oust judicial scrutiny of the exercise of those powers, so to me, anybody concerned about British democracy and the rule of law should be also seriously concerned about the Bill.”
A later section of the Joint Committee meeting featured expert evidence presented by Vicky Tennant, the UNHCR Representative to the UK (from 17.33.30 in the video online), who commented on the legislation essentially forming a ban on seeking asylum in the UK.