The Law Society has condemned legislation that would make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission.
The Nationality and Borders Bill begins its passage through parliament today. Home secretary Priti Patel said the legislation ‘paves the way for a fair but firm system that will break the business model of the gangs that facilitate dangerous and illegal journeys to the UK while speeding up the removal of those with no right to be here’.
However Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said the bill risks undermining Britain’s standing as a nation that is true to its word and upholds international agreements.
Boyce said: ‘It is extremely difficult to see how core parts of the Borders Bill would not breach our international obligations enshrined in the Refugee Convention, which recognises that people fleeing persecution may have to use irregular means to travel to safety and should not be penalised for it.
‘Punishing asylum-seekers who reach our shores by any irregular routes - such as by boat - would create a two-tier asylum system and overturn a hard-won, longstanding international agreement.
‘The rule of law and access to justice should underpin any reform of the asylum system. The measures, as briefed, risk seriously infringing both these pillars of our democracy. The country’s reputation for justice and fairness would be seriously damaged if they became law.’
The bill is part of a series of reforms that the government has pledged to introduce as part of a ‘New Plan for Immigration’.
Lord chancellor Robert Buckland said today: ‘Our reforms will ensure that immigration appeals are heard fairly but not repeatedly – resolving cases more quickly and reducing the burden on our legal system.
‘All too often judges are asked to review cases that have already been rejected on multiple occasions and stand zero chance of being overturned. These clog the system at taxpayers’ expense, delay the removal of people who have no legal right to be in the country, and cause misery to those with legitimate claims awaiting resolution.’
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