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New U.K. Policy on Refugees

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New U.K. Policy on Refugees

Why in news :

  • The Conservative government of the U.K. is proposing to adopt a new, stricter policy to deal with asylum seekers who arrive on the island via boat.
  • The government has taken this step to fulfil a promise made in January 2023 by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, to “stop the boats”.

  • It was among the five key policy priorities he outlined at the time.
  • While the Illegal Migration Bill (IMB) is yet to be passed by the U.K. Parliament, once that happens it will have retrospective applicability from March 7, 2023.

Response of the global community on the move :

  • The proposed plan to deport to origin or remove asylum seekers arriving in the U.K. by boat to a third country has been sharply criticised by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and by leaders of the European Union.
  • They have argued that the new U.K. policy is incompatible with international law, specifically the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

What measures does the Bill propose?

  • The Bill, when passed into law by the U.K. Parliament, will require that the Home Secretary detain and remove those arriving in the U.K. illegally, either to Rwanda or another “safe” third country.
  • It would deny migrants the right to bail or judicial review for the first 28 days of their immigration detention.
  • It would only allow migrants who are minors, medically unfit to fly or at risk of serious harm in the country of their removal to delay their departure from the U.K.
  • The Bill would also seek to set a cap on the number of refugees who will be permitted to settle in the U.K. through “safe and legal routes” — which at the moment only apply to people from Afghanistan and Ukraine, or British National status holders in Hong Kong.
  • A relatively miniscule number of refugees also can enter the U.K. through the U.K. Resettlement Scheme, the Community Sponsorship Scheme, the Refugee Family Reunion and the Mandate Resettlement Scheme.

Is the bill consistent with human rights laws?

  • The U.K.’s Home Secretary admitted in a letter to MPs, that there was a “more than 50% chance” that the new bill is incompatible with international law.
  • This is most salient in the concept of non­refoulement, an idea encapsulated in the Refugee Convention as well as the ECHR, to which the U.K. is a signatory.
  • It states that refugees should not be returned to a country where they face threats to life and liberty.
  • In this context, it is expected that the bill will be challenged in the courts and might fail on the grounds of inconsistency with human rights laws.
  • However, the U.K. High Court recently ruled that the Rwanda deportation plan did not violate any human rights conventions.

Syllabus : Prelims + Mains; GS2 – International Relations

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