We Oppose the Illegal Immigration Bill—Open Letter from Climate activists
Dear Prime Minister and Home Secretary,
We are writing as members of the climate justice movement to voice our opposition to the Illegal Migration Bill, introduced in Parliament on Tuesday 7th March. As a community committed to creating a green future that is fair and equitable for all, we believe this bill is unjust, heartless, and risks violating the human rights of the most vulnerable in our society.
Recent years have seen a growth in the number of people crossing the channel in small boats to seek asylum in the UK. Making such a crossing is dangerous, and we have already seen people losing their lives making this journey. 90% of those making this crossing go on to seek asylum. The government believes that this bill will reduce the number of people entering the UK in this way, by ruling the claims of anyone entering through an unconventional route 'inadmissible' and deporting them to either their own country or a 'safe third country'. There are currently no viable alternatives for many people fleeing war and persecution, and the government has yet to propose any. Although the Homes for Ukraine Scheme has been successful in supporting thousands of Ukrainians seeking sanctuary, the Afghan Resettlement Scheme resettled a mere 22 people in the UK last year, and there are no routes for people attempting to reach the UK from most other countries.
The bill also aims to prevent anyone entering the UK through unconventional routes from accessing the UK’s modern slavery support system. This will unfairly criminalise people who are trafficked into the UK as victims of modern slavery and deny them the support they vitally need.
Successive home secretaries have stoked up hostile attitudes towards refugees by describing refugees as ‘illegal migrants’, introducing policies such as deploying vans telling people to ‘Go Home’, and attempting to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. This, combined with anti-refugee media coverage, has contributed to recent violence at a hotel housing asylum seekers in Knowsley earlier this year. The government is also failing in its duty of care to refugees. The Manston detention centre has been shut down after it was found that people were being held there for weeks at a time in unhygienic conditions, and it recently emerged that hundreds of children have gone missing from government facilities. Vulnerable, traumatised people deserve to live in safety and dignity while their claims are processed, and the government must do more to safeguard vulnerable children.
Additionally, current government policies make it impossible for refugees to live full lives in the UK whilst their asylum claims are processed. The UK is currently the only country in Europe where it is legal to detain someone indefinitely while their claim is processed. This is an inhumane way to treat people who have suffered violence and trauma. Asylum seekers are also not allowed to work in the UK while their claim is processed, and must live on less than £7 a day; this leaves vulnerable people at risk of destitution. The number of people awaiting decisions on their asylum claims reached a record high of 166,000 in February 2023, and 110,000 people have been waiting more than 6 months for their claims to be assessed.
The UK takes fewer refugees than most European countries. In 2021, Germany received 190,500 asylum applications, France received 120,700, but the UK only received 50,000. We know that most people displaced by war or natural disasters remain close to their country of origin, meaning that many countries take on significantly higher numbers of refugees. Those that do come to the UK usually do so because they have family ties here, or speak English.
Climate change will lead to extreme weather which, as well as causing loss of life, livelihoods and homes, can result in political instability and conflict. This will increase the number of people who are forced to leave their homes, and some of them may seek to come to the UK. As a country with a historic responsibility for contributing to climate change, we must ensure that people are able to seek refuge here and that safe routes are introduced for those seeking asylum.
We call on the government to:
Drop the Illegal Migration Bill and all policies that seek to criminalise asylum seekers who enter the UK through unconventional routes
Introduce safe routes for those attempting to cross the channel to seek asylum
Take action to ensure the safety of children missing from hotels
Clear the backlog of asylum cases that has been growing since the pandemic
End the indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers
Allow asylum seekers the right to work while their cases are being processed
Tatiana Garavito, Tipping Point UK, Care & repair lead
Raeeka Yassaie, Parents For Future Dacorum
Rhiannon Osborne, Health for a Green New Deal
Katie Williams, UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC)
Joshua Bloodworth, UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC)
Lucy Jordan, UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC)
Connie Muir, Croydon Community Energy
Scott Kirby, UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC)
Sarah McArthur, UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC)
Pia Eldergill, UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC)
Sinéad Magner, UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC)
Riya Patel, UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC)
Abi Deivanayagam, Race and Health, UK
UK Youth Climate Coalition
Croydon Climate Action
Croydon Community Energy
London Friends of the Earth Network
Race & Health