Illegal Migration Bill ‘devastating’ for those facing serious persecution abroad

8 March, 2023

Yesterday saw the UK Government publish its Illegal Migration Bill, which Humanists UK has said will be ‘devastating’ for many people who are facing serious persecution abroad. If it becomes law, the Bill will see anyone arriving in the UK by non-legal routes be barred from possibly claiming asylum, including by denying them the right to make a human rights claim. Instead they will be locked up and then, where possible, deported. At the same time, there isn’t a legal route for refugees from most countries to reach the UK on the basis of their refugee status, and the Bill fails to create one. And by the Government’s own admission, the Bill may well be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Bill lists 57 countries that are said to be ‘safe’ for people to be removed to, from the UK. Amazingly the list includes Nigeria, which has the death penalty for blasphemy, and where Mubarak Bala, the President of the Nigerian Humanist Association, is currently serving 24 years in jail for the same ‘crime’. The list also includes countries like Ghana and Kenya, which criminalise homosexuality. An order to remove someone to such a ‘safe’ country can be challenged under a new process, sitting outside human rights laws, whereby people can try to convince the Home Secretary they would ‘face a real risk of serious and irreversible harm’ if removed. The Bill gives the Home Secretary the power to define ‘serious and irreversible harm’.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented:

‘This Bill would have a devastating impact on thousands of society’s most vulnerable people, who, having been persecuted abroad, will now have their basic dignity and right to safety denied in the UK as well. If the UK does not maintain its international human rights obligations, particularly under the European Convention on Human Rights, we are giving a green light to other countries to ignore human rights as well.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read the Illegal Migration Bill.

Read the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants’ article, ‘What would a safe, accessible, effective asylum system look like?

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