More than 190,000 people – most of them refugees fleeing from some of the world’s most dangerous and repressive countries – could be locked up or forced into destitution under the Government’s new crackdown on desperate people seeking safety and sanctuary.
That is the finding from a new and detailed impact assessment of the consequences of the first three years of implementation of the Illegal Migration Bill, carried out by policy experts at the Refugee Council.
The analysis, based on publicly available sources and using conservative estimates based on existing data, suggests that as many as 45,000 children could be locked up in Britain under the plans.
And it predicts the massive – and avoidable – cost of the plans, suggesting that around £9bn will be spent over three years on locking up refugees in detention centres and accommodating people who can’t be removed to other countries.
In order to assess the impact of the proposals, the Refugee Council worked on the basis that the government manages to remove 30,000 refugees under its Rwanda scheme, though no removals have yet taken place despite millions of pounds having been spent on the plan.
Most of those who will be detained and deported under the new legislation are from Eritrea, Sudan, Syria and Iran, countries where people have increasingly limited safe routes to use to apply to reach the UK. Even the scheme for Afghans is not working – with only 22 people who fled the country having been resettled in 2022.
At the same time, refugee resettlement to the UK from UNHCR refugee camps is currently 75% lower than the pre-Covid level in 2019, and refugee family reunion visas are 40% down.
Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said:
“This draconian legislation stains our country’s reputation for fairness in the face of adversity.
“All the evidence shows that the vast majority of those who come here by so-called irregular routes are refugees escaping bombs and bullets, violence and persecution.
“They take these dangerous journeys as no workable alternatives exist for them – unlike Ukrainians who were rightly able to come to the UK on a visa scheme.
“Most people in Britain open their hearts and some their homes to those in need, fellow human beings seeking safety and sanctuary.
“We have done so for centuries – this bill rubbishes the very best of British values. It does not reflect the country we are in 2023. It is not who we are.”
Based on the Home Office being able to remove 30,000 people to Rwanda, detaining people for an average of 28 days, and being able to accommodate those not detained in dispersal-style accommodation, the Refugee Council estimates that, if the bill becomes law:
- In the first three years of the legislation coming into effect, between 225,347 and 257,101 people will have their asylum claims deemed inadmissible. This includes between 39,500 and 45,066 children.
- At the end of the third year, between 161,147 and 192,670 people will have had their asylum claims deemed inadmissible but not have been removed. They will be unable to have their asylum claims processed, unable to work and will be reliant on Home Office support and accommodation indefinitely.
- In total, between £8.7bn and £9.6bn will have been spent on detaining and accommodating people impacted by the bill in the first three years of its operation.
- The bill will do nothing to expand safe routes available to people who are trying to reach the UK.
Read the Refugee Council’s new briefing: Illegal Migration Bill – Assessment of impact of inadmissibility, removals, detention, accommodation and safe routes.