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The World This Week
The UK's new bill on illegal migration

  GP Team

The World This Week #205, Vol. 5, No. 9

Sourina Bej


The UK: New bill on illegal migration | Misguided patchwork to Europe's refugee problem

What happened?
On 7 March, the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a new bill to stop illegal migration to the UK in small boats. Announcing the ‘Stop the Boats Bill,’ Sunak wrote: “If you come to the UK illegally, you will be stopped from making late claims and attempts to frustrate your removal. You will be removed in weeks, either to your own country if it is safe to do so, or to a safe third country like Rwanda.” Supporting his bill, the UK’s home secretary Suella Braverman, said: “The British people rightly expect us to solve this crisis... We must stop the boats. You will not be allowed to stay.” The ‘Stop the Boats Bill’, or Illegal Migration Bill has been tabled in the Parliament. With a rather overarching aim, the bill seeks to end illegal entry as a route to asylum in the UK. 

On 8 March, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR criticised the bill: “Draft migrant legislation proposed…would result in a de facto ‘asylum ban.’ “This would be a clear breach of the Refugee Convention and would undermine a longstanding, humanitarian tradition of which the British people are rightly proud,” added the UNHCR.

In 2022, 45,755 men, women and children have been recorded to have crossed the English Channel in small boats. In 2022, more than 89,000 people – in great numbers from Albania – have applied for asylum status in the UK. In the same year, the UK authorities made initial decisions on 29,150 asylum applications and granted some form of protection to 17,747 illegal and undocumented migrants. 

What is the background?
First, the bill in brief. The bill, once passed, would remove legal remedy for any adults arriving in the UK on small boats or in the back of a lorry seeking asylum, even if they had come from a war zone or faced persecution in countries well known for human rights abuses. Instead, people would be sent back to “a country or territory to which there is reason to believe [they would] be admitted.” The executive rationale for denying the right to asylum is that people who have travelled by boat will have passed through other safe countries, where they should have claimed asylum first. Thus, the bill rests on a diabolical interpretation of Article 31 of the Refugee Convention, which states that refugees should not be penalised for their entry, provided they come directly and show good cause.

Second, the spirit of the bill. In the period leading up to the illegal migration bill, the UK had also introduced the Nationality and Borders Act in 2022. Modeled on Australia’s offshore processing of migrant’s asylum status, the illegal migration bill has become a political flashpoint. While on one hand, the UK relaxes job permit applications for highly skilled labour, on the other hand it chooses to delegalize migrants based only on their choice of entry. The Labour party has argued that the boats are a consequence of the government not providing safe routes to the people. Washed-up bodies on the southern coast of Britain and sinking boats are realities too. The ruling Conservatives have argued that the boats represent people who are not seeking asylum but are economic migrants looking to jump the queue. The bill is a mere consequence of the UK’s protectionist attitude, symptomatic of the BREXIT behaviour. There exists a moral socio-political consensus on documenting the migrants, however in politicizing and consequently delegalising the migrants, the Conservatives are now catering highly to the anti-immigrant sentiment, which exists in large parts of British society.

Third, conflict with international human rights and refugee convention. The right to seek and enjoy asylum safeguarded in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and developed in the Refugee Convention of 1951, are a legal humanitarian body of work. Crucially, these documents do not say that this right depends on applying for protection in the first safe country, yet the international refugee law has remained difficult to enforce through legal mechanisms. It relies instead on a sense of moral solidarity whereby host states would protect refugees. Europe’s migration crisis has put this solidarity to test over time and the UK’s new bill directly challenges the international refugee law that puts right to asylum as its fulcrum.

Fourth, support of Europe’s far-right conservatives. The support for the UK’s stance on illegal migration has garnered much praise from Europe’s far-right leaders. “Bravo,” wrote Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland party on social media. “When will we finally have it?” said Éric Zemmour, the French far-right commentator, who was fourth in the race to succeed President Macron in 2022. Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister and head of the far-right League party, described the policy as “harsh, but fair.”

What does it mean?
First, legal challenges. Since leaving the EU’s Dublin Regulation, the UK does not have workable arrangements with other countries, other than Rwanda, to outsource the incoming migrants. Hence stopping them at sea is a large human cost to be borne. Furthermore, there is a deep contradiction in the bill. It states that those at risk of “serious and irreversible harm” will not be removed, thereby protecting the non-refoulement in principle. However, the methods to identify the risk without a legal challenge remains unclear. Breaking the rhetoric, asylum seekers only make up to 18 per cent of all kinds of migration in the UK. The asylum system in the UK has 166,261 unresolved cases till 2022. Is the new bill a fix for the administrative burden: the answer is diabolical. 

Second, underscoring the vulnerability of the migrants. This open-up the second legal challenge: “right to an effective remedy.” Since the influx of refugees in Europe and consequently on British shores in 2019, the UK has numerous cases where vulnerable people were found to have been unlawfully detained. The bill would rather render migrants paperless. It will do little to stop migration or even movement of people. The risk of undocumented migrants living through informal labour and more inventory networks of human trafficking will continue. 

Third, fate of the refugee convention. When a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, such as the UK, attempts to prohibit asylum seekers on account of their irregular entry, questions are raised on accountability and who protects the human rights framework when realism meets a protectionist State. Europe’s migration influx became its problem not by apparent choice but by deeper interconnected global forces. It was then the fate of the refugee convention and equal sharing of migrants became a debate. Today, a bill seems to be an answer to that debate where outsourcing, yet again after Australia, becomes a neo-novel fix. 

Fourth, emergence of a new categories of migrants. The bill, if passed, could intensify West’s integration paradox on who is most deserving to be allowed into the country.  New mental demarcations of deserving and undeserving migrants could only perpetuate marginalisation. This social behaviour is not unique today in the UK, as many immigrant groups have earlier attempted to distance themselves from new arrivals in order to avoid being associated with ‘negative’ social mobility and stereotypes. 

Fifth, a pathway for handling migrant crisis? The bill does more than open a debate on whether this could be Europe’s answer to the migrant crisis since 2016. What needs a deeper study is how the anti-immigrant stances of various far-right political groups in Europe could now be bolstered. The asylum seekers have been rising all over the EU, putting processing systems under strain. Lack of accommodation is a painful issue in countries such as Austria, where the government has started to house refugees and migrants in tents. At the same time, the social fractures within these host countries regarding keeping the migrants have also deepened.


Also in the news...
Regional round-ups

East and Southeast Asia This Week
China: Saudi Arabia and Iran resume ties after negotiations in Beijing
On 10 March, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia released a joint statement announcing the re-establishment of ties and reopening of embassies in the countries. The deal was brokered by China in Beijing. The meeting was conducted by the Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China Central Committee Wang Yi. The delegation from Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restart the cooperation agreement signed in April 2001 and the general agreement reached in May 1998. Wang Yi also congratulated the two countries on improving bilateral relations and laying the foundation for maintaining regional peace.
 
China: Xi Jinping assumes third term as President while NPC approves cabinet shuffle
On 10 March, China’s President Xi Jinping was elected unanimously for his third five-year term as the head of state; making him the most powerful leader in China since Chairman Mao Zedong. Xi was also appointed as the Chairman of the State Central Military Commission. Other than Xi, Li Qiang assumed his position as the Premier. The National People’s Congress also approved a cabinet shake-up wherein four vice-premiers, five state councillors, the state planner, the central bank governor, financial regulators and other members of the State Council were finalized.
 
North Korea: Military missiles testing to be as close to “real war”
On 9 March, North Korea fired short-range ballistic missiles at the Yellow Sea which is located between China and the Korean peninsula. The missile was launched from a North Korean city called Nampo. It reported that ballistic missiles did not impose any immediate threat to South Korea. Kim Jong-un asserted to intensify drills according to “real war”. The KCNA agency said, “Kim Jong-un stressed that the fire assault sub-units should be strictly prepared for the greatest perfection in carrying out the two strategic missions, that is, first to deter war and second to take the initiative in the war, by steadily intensifying various simulated drills for real war.” This comes in light of the growing military and joint exercise between South Korea and the US, where they are warning anyone from shooting their missiles as a direct provocation to war.
 
Japan: Biomass Resin company to use radiation affect rice as pellets
On 9 March, Japan's Fukushima area sees the revival of plantations after the nuclear reactor explosion which destroyed the crops and the affecting the area with radiation. The establishment of the company Biomass Resin which opened its factory in Namie has come as a relief to the populations as they venture to sell these rice into pellets. Since the explosion of rice was unsellable for consumption due to health concerns, this new innovation has garnered new hope for the farmers of the region. The president of Biomass Resin Fukushima said, “It’s mostly recovered from the quake and tsunami, but the other two are still heavy burdens... By building our factory here, we want to bring jobs and invite people back.”

South Asia This Week 
India: Australian Prime Minister’s visit
On 10 March, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese arrived in India for the first time since the elections. He held bilateral talks with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discussed the conclusion of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement and maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region due to China’s aggressive behaviour in the region. Prime Minister Anthony said: “Australia and India are great friends We are partners and we are building that partnership even stronger each and every day," On 9 March he visited Mumbai and paid a visit to indigenously built INS Vikrant. He said: “My visit [to India] reflects my government’s commitment to place India at the heart of Australia’s approach to the Indo-Pacific and beyond,”
 
Nepal: Ram Chandra Poudel elected as the President
On 9 March, Ram Chandra Poudel affiliated with the Nepali Congress was elected as the third President of Nepal. Nepali Congress Chief Sher Bahadur Deuba tweeted, "Hearty congratulations to my friend Ram Candra Poudelji for being elected as the President," He received the vote of 214 lawmakers of Parliament and 352 Provincial Assembly members. He was elected amid a political crisis within the ruling coalition.

Pakistan: Qatar to provide complete cooperation in development and progress agenda
On 5 March, during the 5th UN Least Developed Countries (LDC) Conference in Qatar, Prime Minster met with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani bilaterally. The press release from PMO maintained that Qatar has keen interest in strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries. During the meeting, the two leaders discussed ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation, investment, trade and employment opportunities for skilled manpower. The emir also accepted the prime minister’s invitation to visit Pakistan. PM also met with Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) Chief Executive Officer.

Pakistan: Requesting China for a rollover of USD 2 billion
On 7 March, reports The News International that Pakistan informed the IMF about the request they put towards China for a rollover of USD two billion as part of SAFE deposit (State Administration of Foreign Exchange) for another year. The revival of the IMF programme will aid Pakistan to receive funding from all possible avenues as well as the promised rollover by China, which has been verbally assured.

Pakistan: Iran to file USD 18 billion litigation for an IP pipe project
On 7 March, The Express Tribune reported that Pakistan is facing litigation against the incomplete Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline project. The country is threatened to face the international court where Iran claims that they spent USD 2 billion as part of the pipeline project, whereas Pakistan hasn’t even begun the construction. The project was halted under the pressure from Saudi Arabia due to a rift with Qatar, where two projects were made to be shelved. While the Qatar project resumed the Iran pipeline project never began. If Iran doesn’t go to International Court, this would mean they are surrendering USD 18 billion worth of claims. 

Central Asia, Middle East and Africa This Week
Iran: IAEA Chief’s visit
On 4 March, IAEA’s Chief Rafael Grossi held talks with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran. The visit comes in the backdrop of reports of near weapons grade uranium enrichment in Iran’s underground nuclear facility. Access to information and safeguards were the focus of the visit and the meeting. The joint statement without much details read that Iran “expressed its readiness to provide further information and access to address the outstanding safeguards issues.” Grossi expressed confidence that Iran will act on restoring the previously stopped monitoring activities and equipment, particularly surveillance cameras.
 
Iraq: Pentagon Chief’s visit
On 7 March, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin visited Iraq, met Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani and Defence Minister Muhammad Al-Abbasi and discussed the US forces deployed in Iraq. Post the meeting, he said that “US forces are ready to remain in Iraq at the invitation of the government of Iraq.” He reiterated that these troops are deployed to assist Iraq in its fight against terrorism. The mission of defeating the Islamic State has not been completed yet. Despite the loss of territory, ISIS is operating sporadically, in a decentralized fashion and eyeing a resurgence.
 
Kenya: Currency crisis beyond governments control, says trade minister
On 9 March, Kenya's trade minister said that currency shortage in the country is beyond governments' control. He called for incentives that would encourage local manufacturers to protect them from foreign competitors. A local media outlet reported that the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has directed commercial banks to ration dollars following the shortage of currency. Economists say that tough rules in the interbank currency market by the regulator is behind the crisis. In 2022, Kenyan currency lost nine per cent against the dollar.
 
Mauritania: German firms signs MoU for green energy project
On 9 March, a German firm said that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a USD 34 billion worth green energy project in Mauritania. The project is expected to produce up to eight million tons of hydrogen-based products annually in Mauritania. Egyptian and Emirati companies are also part of the project. The first phase of the project is due to be finished in Five years.
 
Nigeria: INEC postpones local assembly elections
On 8 March, Nigeria’s Independent National Election Commission (INEC) postponed elections for state governors and local assemblies for a week. The elections will be held on 18 March. This comes after the opposition challenged the presidential elections held last month alleging irregularities with the electronic voting system. The electoral commission said the legal challenge held up preparations and the machines would not be ready in time. 
 
South Africa: GDP decline by 1.3 per cent
On 8 March, BBC reported that South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product decreased by 1.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2022. Analysts say that the decline is far more than expected and blamed the energy crisis affecting productivity. Businesses were paralysed by power disruption leaving an increase in production cost as they had to depend on contingency power. Though the South African economy grew by two percent in 2022, it is far behind the six per cent target.

Europe and The Americas This Week
Russia: UPAB 1500B, GPS-guided glider bomb used in Ukraine
On 5 March, several news outlets reported that Russia's 1.5-ton UPAB-1500B gliding bombs were designed to hit highly protected objects at up to 40 kilometres against Ukraine. The munition can be dropped from an altitude of up to 15 km at a range of up to 50 km with a circular error possible (CEP) of up to 10 meters. UPAB-1500B was demonstrated for the first time in Russia during MAKS-2019.
 
The US: Annual threat assessment underscores technological competition, the threat from China and increased hostility between India and China
On 8 March, members of intelligence agencies testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in its annual hearing. The annual threat assessment report was also released. The report discussed a range of issues from China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, climate change and environmental degradation, health security and transnational issues like developments in technology, migration and global terrorism. The report stated an elevated risk of armed confrontation between India and China that might involve direct threats to American persons and interests. The brief section on India-Pakistan however opined that New Delhi and Islamabad probably are inclined to reinforce the current calm in their relationship.
 
 The US: Space Force conducts ground-based anti-jamming satellite communications
On 8 March, U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC) demonstrated ground-based anti-jamming satellite communications via a Protected Tactical Waveform (PTW) connection between a Protected Tactical Enterprise Service (PTES) joint hub and a test terminal, and a link to a PTW-capable modem developed by the U.S. Army Airforce Antijam Modem Program Office. The SSC said: SSC’s PTES team conducted the demonstration, which took place at the Joint Satellite Engineering Center in Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and included a demonstration of crypto initialization, acquisition and logon key and mission management, and performance monitoring,” PTES by Boeing and Hughes Network Systems aims to provide military forces with a joint ground platform for protected communications.
 
The US: Next generation intercontinental ballistic missile named as LGM-35A Sentinel
On 7 March, the official name of the ground-based strategic deterrent was dubbed as LGM-35A Sentinel. The Sentinel is to succeed the Minuteman III beginning in 2029, and it would represent a major upgrade costing USD 100 billion to the ICBM portion of the U.S. nuclear triad. The Air Force explained that Sentinel will use a modular architecture that can be easily upgraded with new, emerging technologies to meet evolving threats, and will be easier to maintain. The Sentinel missile will be thrusted by a solid rocket motor.
 
Mexico-US: Fentanyl is a US problem, will not allow foreign intervention in Mexico, says Obrador
On 9 March, the US White House homeland security adviser met Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico to highlight the fentanyl problem. Obrador said fentanyl, which is the cause of death of over 70,000 opioid deaths in the US, is a US problem. The development as a Texas Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw asked Obrador why the latter had opposed his proposal to authorise US military forces to target Mexico's drug cartels. Previously in January, Crenshaw proposed: " It’s time we directly target them (cartels). My legislation will put us at war with the cartels by authorizing the use of military force against the cartels. We cannot allow heavily armed and deadly cartels to destabilize Mexico and import people and drugs into the United States." Obrador said Mexico would not allow interference from any foreign government, "much less that a government’s armed forces intervene.” Obrador said: "In addition to being irresponsible, it is an offence to the people of Mexico."
 
Peru: Castillo's detention extended to 36 months
On 9 March, a judge doubled former President Pedro Castillo's detention period to 36 months from 18 months to "prevent Castillo from fleeing the country or interfering in the investigation." However, Castillo's lawyer termed the move a political prosecution and said he would appeal against the decision. Previously on 7 March, Castillo tweeted: "I reiterate my innocence regarding the false facts that I am accused of and denounce again this unjust kidnapping for serving my country loyally as President of the Republic."
 
Brazil: GMO wheat, a drought-resistant crop to be fielded for trails
On 9 March, Brazil approved the cultivation of genetically modified wheat to become self-sufficient and become an exporter of wheat across the world. The approval, which the biosecurity agency CTNbio posted, makes Brazil the second nation after Argentina to approve Bioceres' HB4 wheat strain for cultivation. Abimapi, an association representing biscuit, pasta, bread and cake makers in Brazil, said the approval could potentially increase internal supplies, which could reduce industry costs.


About the Authors
Sourina Bej is a doctoral candidate and KAS-EIZ scholarship fellow at the University of Bonn. Rashmi Ramesh and Akriti Sharma are PhD scholars in the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Avishka Ashok, Anu Maria Joseph, Apoorva Sudhakar, and Femy Francis are Research Associates at NIAS.

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