The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today urged the Government to rethink its ‘cruel and unworkable’ Illegal Migration Bill to prevent tens of thousands of people being stranded in London without any support.
The Mayor has written to the Home Secretary warning that the impact of the Bill – which aims to take away the ability to seek asylum for almost anyone arriving in the UK – could see more than 50,000 people over the next three years left in London, unable to access support or work, and highly vulnerable to exploitation and homelessness.
He warned that the Bill actually risks incentivising and emboldening traffickers as their vulnerable victims will no longer be able to escape by securing protection and support in our country to safely rebuild their lives.
Last month, individuals and organisations that provide support services for people seeking asylum, refugees and migrants were brought together for an emergency Summit at City Hall to discuss the far-reaching impact that the Bill is likely to have on the capital.
At the Summit, experts warned that the Bill could see tens of thousands of people have their claim for asylum deemed inadmissible, leaving them at risk of detention and removal, while facing an period of indefinite legal “limbo”.
Speakers outlined that there are no exemptions for people trafficked to the UK, nor for victims of modern slavery, and expressed fears that the legislation will benefit traffickers by removing recourse for their victims to seek protection and support.
Delegates also expressed fears that people arriving in the UK would be at increased risk of homelessness and destitution, and that specific groups would be particularly vulnerable, including LGBTQI+ refugees seeking sanctuary, as well as those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.
Sadiq’s warning follows an assessment from the Refugee Council which estimated that tens of thousands of children will be impacted if the Bill becomes a law, and around £9bn will be spent nationally on detaining and accommodating people impacted by the Bill in the first three years of its operation.
The Government’s proposed law could be applied to children, pregnant women and victims of trafficking arriving in the UK – all of whom would be at risk of detention and removal to other countries, such as Rwanda. In the meantime they would be abandoned in the UK without the means to support themselves. The majority of people arriving in the country would previously have been entitled to sanctuary in the UK, including people who have been forced to flee conflict in Afghanistan and Syria.
The Mayor also highlighted that the current asylum backlog and reliance on unsuitable hotel accommodation was leaving vulnerable people in overcrowded and unsafe conditions. The images of people seeking asylum camped outside their accommodation in Pimlico last week demonstrates a system at crisis point. He warned that this Bill will only serve to deepen the challenge.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “London has a proud history of providing refuge to those seeking sanctuary, but the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill will put tens of thousands of already-vulnerable people at increased risk.
“It is a cruel and unworkable policy that plays directly into the hands of human traffickers and risks leaving more than 50,000 people, including thousands of children, in London without access to support. Ignoring requests for sanctuary and denying access to services, could cause untold damage – trapping people in a cycle of homelessness, destitution and exploitation.
“We have a responsibility to help those fleeing oppression and violence, and – far from washing their hands of these individuals – the Government should be urgently rethinking its plans as we work to build a better London for everyone.”