Documents to download

The Illegal Migration Bill was introduced in the Commons on 7 March 2023 and had its second reading on 13 March. Most of the Bill’s provisions would apply across all four parts of the UK.

The Bill’s purpose is to “prevent and deter unlawful migration, and in particular migration by unsafe and illegal routes, by requiring the removal … of certain persons who enter or arrive in the United Kingdom in breach of immigration control”.

The Bill was considered in a Committee of the whole House on 27 and 28 March. It is due to have report and third reading in the Commons on 26 April.

Summary of changes made in Committee

Two new clauses proposed by the Government were added to the Bill without divisions: clauses 49 and 50 of the Bill as amended in Committee. The new clauses would allow First-Tier Tribunal judges to act as judges of the Upper Tribunal, and for the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (rather than the Upper Tribunal) to hear suspensive claim appeals when the refusal decision is based on information the Secretary of State considers should not be made public.

Various clauses were subject to other Government amendments which were generally minor or consequential.

There were eight divisions on non-Government amendments or new clauses. None were added to the Bill.

During committee stage, the Minister for Immigration gave assurances to various Conservative MPs that the Government was willing to discuss concerns and amendments they had raised before report stage. These included proposed amendments on legal challenges to removal, interim measures of the European Court of Human Rights, the use of scientific age assessment methods, the extension of powers in the Bill to potential victims of trafficking and modern slavery, and proposals to amplify provisions on the availability of safe and legal routes of entry. There are several related Government amendments proposed for report stage.

An updated version of the Bill as amended in Committee (PDF) has been published.

Issues to be covered at report stage 

Government amendments tabled shortly before report stage propose nine new clauses and a new schedule for consideration.

The Government’s proposed new clauses are:

  • New clause 8 (Report on safe and legal routes). This clause was originally in the name of Tim Loughton. It would require the Secretary of State, within six months of the Bill’s enactment, to prepare and publish a report on safe and legal routes of entry to the UK. The Government has also adopted amendment 11, also originally proposed by Tim Loughton. It would require consultation with local authorities on the cap on the number of people who may enter the UK through specified safe and legal routes to begin within three months of the Bill’s passing.
  • New clause 22 (Interim measures). This clause would forbid the domestic courts from issuing injunctions preventing or delaying removal under the Bill. It is sponsored by the Home Secretary and a number of Conservative MPs, including Danny Kruger, Jonathan Gullis and Sir William Cash.
  • New clause 26 (Interim measures of the European Court of Human Rights). This clause would provide that interim measures of the European court do not affect the clause 2 duty to arrange removal, unless a minister determines that they should.
  • New clause 17 (Serious harm suspensive claims: interpretation). This clause is a replacement for a placeholder clause in the Bill as introduced. It identifies some things that can be accepted as “serious and irreversible harm” for the purpose of legal challenge to removal, and some things that cannot.
  • New clause 20 (Legal aid). This would allow people exercising the remaining rights of legal challenge to removal permitted by the Bill to access state funding for legal costs.
  • New clause 23 (Electronic devices etc) and related new schedule. These would give immigration officers powers to search people for mobile phones and other electronic devices.
  • New clause 19 (Credibility of claimant: concealment of information etc). This would extend existing legislation concerning behaviour that must be treated as damaging to an asylum seeker’s credibility to include failure to hand over information required to access an electronic device, such as a PIN.
  • New clause 24 (Decisions relating to a person’s age) and new clause 25 (Age assessments: power to make regulations about refusal to consent to scientific methods). These clauses would provide a power to make regulations about the consequences of a person refusing consent for their age to be assessed by a “specified scientific method”. These consequences could include the person being treated as an adult if they refused consent. People subject to the duty to arrange removal would be prevented from appealing against an age assessment decision, subject to the availability of judicial review.

The Government is also proposing to leave out two clauses. These are clause 8, concerning removal of family members, and clause 51, which was introduced as a placeholder clause for provisions on interim measures of the European Court of Human Rights.

The Government has also tabled many amendments to existing clauses. Significant Government amendments include amendment 174, narrowing the power to remove unaccompanied children in clause 3(2) and amendments 134 and 136, which would limit the exercise of the powers to detain an unaccompanied child to circumstances to be specified in regulations.

The Government is also proposing to strengthen existing rules on modern slavery victims seen as a threat public order or to be acting in bad faith. Amendment 114 would require such people to be disqualified from a 30-day recovery period for potential victims during which they cannot be removed from the UK, unless there are compelling countervailing circumstances. The Government also wishes to expand the circumstances in which a victim would be treated as a threat to public order (amendments 115-116).

A common theme of proposed non-Government amendments and new clauses is to introduce safeguards and exemptions to the exercise of powers in the Bill in relation to vulnerable groups, including unaccompanied children, families and pregnant women, and suspected victims of modern slavery in the UK.

There have also been amendments proposed by shadow frontbench teams and backbench MPs seeking to soften the cap on the number of people able to use safe and legal routes of entry to the UK, as envisioned in clause 53. These include proposals to exempt children under 18, or replace the cap with an annual target.

Documents to download

Related posts