Barely a week after he had presided over the coronation of King Charles III, the leader of the Church of England, Archbishop Justin Welby, launched a scathing attack on the government’s new Illegal Migration Bill, describing its plans to tackle migration as “morally unacceptable.” During a parliamentary debate taking place in the unelected House of Lords in early May, Welby argued that the bill ignored “the reality that migration must be engaged with at source” and leaves the poorest countries to “deal with this crisis alone.”
The new bill contains a raft of measures designed to deter the arrival of refugees and other migrants on British territory, with a central aim being to break the link between reaching Britain and accessing asylum. Under the bill, Home Secretary Suella Braverman would have a duty to remove from the country anyone arriving without permission who does not come “directly” from a country where their life or liberty would be under threat. Given that the U.K. is an island off the richest and most democratic region on earth, and that most refugees arrive from countries that do not enjoy visa-free air travel to it, the bill would effectively make anyone arriving at the border ineligible for asylum.
While it applies to asylum-seekers in general, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government hopes, above all, to halt the arrival of unauthorized small boats carrying asylum-seekers from France via the English Channel. In 2022 alone, more than 45,000 people undertook the dangerous trip, most of whom went on to apply for refugee status in the United Kingdom. This year the number of arrivals has continued apace.