Asylum seekers crossing at a point
Government must reevaluate its Bill on Illegal Migration, Mayor of London warns. CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/Reuters

London's Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has urged the government to reconsider its contentious Illegal Migration Bill in order to avoid leaving tens of thousands of helpless individuals trapped and without assistance in the city.

Khan, a well-known supporter of refugee rights, is concerned about the new legislation, which wants to deny almost everyone entering the UK the ability to travel. The mayor emphasised the possible effects of seeking refuge in a letter to the Home Secretary.

Due to the severity of the situation, a summit was organised last month in City Hall that brought together people and organisations dedicated to assisting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. During the meeting, experts raised worry that the Bill will lead to the denial of tens of thousands of pleas for asylum, putting people in danger of detention, deportation and an unending period of legal "limbo".

They also emphasised concerns about how the legislation's potential impact on victims of modern slavery and human trafficking would be adverse because it would severely limit their options for receiving assistance and safety. Furthermore, the experts underlined the fact that some vulnerable groups, such as LGBTQI+ refugees and people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, will suffer disproportionately, aggravating homelessness and economic problems.

A recent report from the Refugee Council predicted that the Bill would have a significant impact on tens of thousands of children and cost the country £9 billion in the first three years of its implementation, including costs for housing and detaining those who would be affected, reinforces Khan's concerns. Children, expectant mothers and victims of trafficking would suffer the worst effects since they would be detained and sent to countries like Rwanda, leaving them stranded in the UK without the means to support themselves.

Mayor Sadiq Khan also highlighted how vulnerable people were being housed in overcrowded and dangerous situations due to the present asylum backlog and reliance on inappropriate hotel accommodations. Images from last week showing asylum seekers camped out in front of their accommodations in Pimlico show a system in disarray. He forewarned that the challenge will only get worse as a result of this Bill.

In addition, Mr Khan also drew attention to the dire state of housing conditions resulting from the current asylum backlog and inadequate accommodations in hotels. Disturbing images from Pimlico showing asylum seekers camped out in front of their accommodations highlight a system in disarray. Khan warned that this Bill would only exacerbate the existing challenges, making the situation worse for vulnerable individuals.

"London has a proud history of providing refuge to those seeking sanctuary," said Sadiq Khan, speaking out against the planned legislation. "However, the government's Illegal Migration Bill will put tens of thousands of already vulnerable people at greater risk."

According to the Mayor of London, dismissing requests for help and denying access to resources could lead to irreversible harm, continuing a cycle of exploitation, poverty and homelessness. He urged the government to reconsider its plans and fulfil its responsibility to aid those fleeing oppression and violence.

Echoing Khan's sentiments, Deputy Mayor for Communities and Social Justice Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard asserted: "The government's Illegal Migration Bill risks real harm to those coming to our shores and would have a significant impact on our capital."

An urgent summit was organised to address the issues mentioned, particularly those affecting victims of human trafficking, by bringing together charitable organisations and concerned citizens in recognition of the seriousness of the situation. The government must act right away to stop future harm because of the distressing issues that vulnerable people face.

Independent Migration Policy Consultant, Zoe Gardner, warned that the Bill seemed tailor-made to benefit human traffickers rather than targeting criminal networks effectively. According to Gardner, the law does not adequately safeguard individuals who have already suffered the effects of crime, which eventually leads to a rise in homelessness, poverty and financial difficulties at a time when living expenses are rising. She emphasised that because of years of budget cuts, support organisations are already overburdened at a time when the long-term repercussions would be noticed.

The acceptance of this action by the government, according to Migrant Voice Director Nazek Ramadan, would equate to turning a blind eye to refugees and victims of human trafficking, endangering the wellbeing of thousands of Londoners.

Ramadan praised the mayor for lending an ear to those directly impacted, particularly asylum seekers who shared their harrowing experiences, and commended his decision to take a stance that aligns with the principles of compassion and justice. Genuine solutions that prioritise protection and uphold human rights should be sought, rather than resorting to exclusion and indifference, Ramadan added.

Highlighting the wider implications, Zoe Bantleman, Legal Director of the ILPA, condemned the Illegal Migration Bill as an intentional attack on both immigrant rights and the rule of law. Bantleman emphasised that the legislation undermines opportunities for legislative and judicial scrutiny, interferes with devolved autonomy and violates international legal obligations while granting the government broad and harsh powers.

By abandoning its obligations to migrants seeking safety from persecution and human trafficking, the UK risks subjecting vulnerable individuals to a perpetual state of uncertainty and exploitation, she warned.

Rick Henderson, CEO of Homeless Link, emphasised: "No one should be made homeless as a result of their immigration status." He expressed deep concerns about the impact of the Illegal Immigration Bill and its potential to exacerbate homelessness among vulnerable populations.

In light of these impassioned pleas and stark warnings from various experts and advocates, the government faces mounting pressure to reconsider the proposed Illegal Migration Bill. The fate of tens of thousands of vulnerable individuals hangs in the balance, as London's Mayor, along with countless supporters, rallies for a compassionate and pragmatic approach to immigration policy, one that ensures protection and dignity for those seeking refuge.