Essex experts warn Illegal Migration Bill could see UK breach European law

  • Date

    Thu 25 May 23

General view of the Houses of Parliament

The Illegal Migration Bill leaves the UK at risk of becoming the first ever state to violate a key European law, researchers have warned.

Evidence submitted to the Joint Committee on Human Rights regarding the Government’s proposals states the UK could be the first Council of Europe Contracting State to be found in breach of Article 17 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The article prohibits the abuse of any rights outlined in the ECHR, and researchers from the University of Essex state the Bill in its current form will breach regulations as it will likely remove or severely limit aspects of Article 5 – the right to liberty and security of person.

The analysis, carried out by Dr Sabina Garahan and Dr Matthew Gillett of Essex Law School, also raises fears that the bill could violate Article 18 of the ECHR, which aims to stop states acting in “bad faith”.

They argue reports of anti-migrant rhetoric within Government – highlighted when the UN Commissioner on Human Rights condemned Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s reference to the arrival of asylum seekers as an “invasion” – as well as a lack of judicial involvement in the plan to detain asylum seekers also leave the UK at risk of breaching Article 18 for the first time.

Expert bodies including the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights have already identified a “predominantly political purpose” behind the Government’s migration policies, while the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has noted an apparent distortion of facts around asylum seekers.

Dr Garahan: “In eroding core aspects of the right to liberty, the Bill threatens the UK’s compliance with Article 17 of the ECHR, which bans the destruction and excessive limitation of ECHR rights. At the same time, the fact that the detention of migrants under the Bill appears to pursue a predominantly ulterior - in this case, political - purpose puts the UK at significant risk of violating Article 18."

Dr Garahan and Dr Gillett submitted evidence as part of the legislative scrutiny process taking place while the Illegal Migration Bill is debated.

You can view the written evidence submitted to committee here.