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  • Ghalia Burgan

The United Kingdom’s Hardline Migration Policies

Ghalia Y. Burgan is completing an MSc. in International Public Policy. She worked with the Arkbound Foundation, the UK’s only NGO concerned with diversity and inclusivity within the world of publishing.
Source: https://www.humanrightsatsea.org/news/english-channel-migrants-and-refugees-safety-life-sea-comes-first

Background

A key priority set out within the Sunak-led Conservative government is the implementation of the “Illegal Migration Act” and “Rwanda Asylum Act” set forth by former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, and her predecessor, Priti Patel, respectively. The aforementioned individuals served as Home Secretaries from 2019-2022, and 2022-2023, respectively, and consistently headlined media platforms with outlooks reflecting inadvertent hardline immigration policies. A fundamental issue encapsulated within both Braverman and Patel’s campaign, as well as time in office, was the indiscrete discrimination towards undocumented individuals seeking asylum to the United Kingdom (UK). Both actors consistently employed rhetoric, inherently “othering” these individuals, in an effort to harbour domestic support towards extreme policy initiatives, most notably the previously referenced “Illegal Migration Act”, and the “Rwanda Asylum Plan”.


The “Illegal Migration Bill”, introduced by Braverman in March 2023, was proposed in an effort to deter individuals crossing the English Channel, by preventing asylum claims within the UK, “using detention and deportation” of an individual, including children, if they deem it appropriate. This bill essentially coincides with Patel’s “Rwanda Asylum Plan” (2022), whereby the plan proposes the deportation of asylum seekers arriving to the UK “illegally”, to be sent to Rwanda, as a supposed “safe” third country, whereby the individual’s asylum claims would be processed there.


Ideology

The political rhetoric employed by both Patel and Braverman is one that appeals to nationalist ideologies, rather than the rule of law and order. The exclusionary discourse spouted by both actors essentially seeks to dehumanise the asylum seekers, characterising the waves of undocumented immigration as an “invasion on [our] southern coast”. This discourse essentially engages in a “corrosive narrative”, that seeks to promote inhumane and cruel policies for “populist political gain”. The efforts by the Conservative government to insight hysteria amongst the civil society for the sole purpose of achieving popular support, is further conveyed by Braverman’s remarks. Braverman acknowledged that the migration policies proposed by her party, are “more than 50%” likely to violate human rights laws, however remained adamant towards their imposition, demonstrates the “lengths to which” the Conservative party is “prepared to go” to achieve its political agenda.


Furthermore, the Conservative party’s consistent roll out of false claims and misinformation has in turn encouraged right-wing extremism within England, whereby extremists have filmed themselves targeting hotels where refugees were being housed.


Criticisms

Albeit Patel made adamant efforts to push forward this exclusionary policy-agenda, the rule of law, prevailed, siding with the individual’s seeking asylum, ruling the “Rwanda Asylum Plan” illegal and unlawful, as well as designating it an “unsafe” third country for asylum seekers, due to “ongoing human rights violations”. The “Join Us or Die” document, citing Rwanda’s Extraterritorial Repression, conveys the tactics utilised in Rwanda to suppress “dissenting voices” against Rwandan’s seeking international protection, essentially conveying the fragility and unsafe nature of the state as a whole, further deeming it unfit for asylum seekers. Taking into consideration that seeking asylum from persecution is a fundamental human right under the 1951 Refugee Convention, the UK government’s supposed concern with the well-being of these individuals, is essentially a fallacy. The UN Refugee Agency has expressed concern regarding the Migration Act, where they claimed, it would essentially amount to a ban on asylum seeking, “extinguishing the right to seek refugee protection in the UK” for irregular arrivals into the UK. The Agency goes onto argue that this bill would be a “clear breach of the Refugee Convention”.


Patel, and the Conservative government as a whole have faced a culmination of criticism, sublimely encapsulated through Emilie McDonnell’s sentiment regarding the topic at hand. McDonnell argues that if the government is truly concerned with reducing the deaths across the Channell, as well as “tackling people-smuggling and trafficking”, then denying them the access to asylum, is not the answer.


Non-governmental organisations and human rights lawyers have argued that a more workable and humane solution is for the government to ensure safe routs for asylum seekers, such as “humanitarian visas, expanded resettlement schemes”, as well as pathways for family reunification.


Concluding Remarks:

In conclusion, this article has aimed to take a critical standpoint regarding the UK’s hardline immigration policies, by initially laying out the overview of the immigration bills, followed by an analysis of the ideological foundations, and a subsequent discussion regarding the criticisms attached. The Home Secretaries, as well as the party as the Conservative Party as a whole, ought to be held accountable for the discriminatory discourse they have espoused, and the evident human rights violations committed.



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