Sadiq Khan has warned Home Secretary Suella Braverman (pictured) that 50,000 asylum seekers living in London could be left in “immigration limbo” if her “cruel and unworkable” Illegal Migration Bill becomes law, placing them at risk of harm and exploitation and putting “already-stretched services in London on crisis footing”.
In a letter, the Mayor says he is “deeply concerned” by what he heard last week from over 200 experts from the capital’s local authorities, health service and voluntary groups who gathered at City Hall to discuss the potential impacts of measures proposed in the Bill, which would apply retrospectively to anyone who has arrived in the UK illegally since 7 March.
The government says people crossing the English Channel in small boats will be removed from the UK, and barred from ever returning or applying for British citizenship.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency the legislation, currently being scrutinised in the House of Lords, “would amount to an asylum ban” by taking away the right of those who arrive by irregular means to refugee protection “no matter how compelling their claim may be”.
Critics say this will effectively reward people traffickers, to whom asylum-seekers often turn if legal routes are not available, and create a category of people detained at public expense and not allowed to work who will nonetheless end up remaining in the country, possibly for years.
In his letter, Khan draws attention to a recent incident which resulted in about 40 asylum seekers sleeping on a street in Pimlico rather than reportedly sharing four to a room at the Comfort Inn to which they had been sent. Westminster Council complained to the Home Office, but was told the accommodation “meets all legal and contractual requirements”.
Khan argues that the incident makes clear that “the current asylum system is broken and this Bill will serve only to deepen the challenge” possibly resulting in “50,000 people over the next three years left in London, unable to access support, work or legitimate avenues to fend for themselves”.
He adds, “This legislation provides no recourse for victims of trafficking and modern slavery to seek help, which undermines decades of collaborative work across local and national government to root out slavery and exploitation through a victim-centred approach,” and expresses particular concern about the impact on children.
“The measures proposed in the Bill run counter to the fundamental responsibilities that local authorities uphold to safeguard all children in their care and to ensure they receive the right support that meets their needs,” Khan says.
He concludes: “Put simply, this Bill is cruel and unworkable and will do untold damage to thousands of people that would otherwise have found sanctuary and safety in London. I urge you to reconsider the measures in this Bill and work to create an asylum system that helps to protect vulnerable people.”
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