Explained: What are Rishi Sunak's new immigration laws?

8 March 2023, 11:04 | Updated: 8 March 2023, 12:59

Rishi Sunak alongside illegal immigrant boats
Rishi Sunak confirmed his Immigration bill on March 7. Picture: Alamy

By Zoe Adams

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman have confirmed the Illegal Migration Bill which is causing a huge debate - but what exactly is it and what does it mean for the UK?

Rishi Sunak promised the UK he would tackle illegal immigrants when he became prime minister and his latest immigration and asylum seeker laws are his attempt at just that.

The PM, and Home Secretary Suella Braverman, confirmed in the House of Commons this week their new bill which will see people who arrive in the UK illegally removed "within weeks" and receive a lifetime ban on claiming asylum.

Causing much debate, with the UN refugee body saying they have huge concerns for the new bill, Rishi Sunak has said he's "up for the fight" and these "tough measures" were the only way to tackle the migrant crisis and to stop unsafe boats crossing the Channel.

Read more: New plans to stop small boats 'very concerning' says UN refugee body as Rishi Sunak insists he's 'up for the fight'

Read more: Gary Lineker sparks fury among Tory MPs after comparing migrant crackdown to Nazi Germany

He said: "All I can say is that we have tried it every other way and it has not worked. So I say again: my policy is very simple, it is this country—and your government—who should decide who comes here, not criminal gangs."

Suella Braverman walking to 10 Downing Street
Suella Braverman announced the new bill in the House of Commons. Picture: Alamy

What is Rishi Sunak's Illegal Migration Bill?

Essentially, the new law, also nicknamed 'Stop the Boats' wants to end illegal entry, especially via boats, as a route to asylum in the UK.

The main points of the new bill are:

  • People who arrive in the UK illegally will be detained and removed within weeks of arrival. If safe, they will go back to their home country, if not, they will go to a safe third country.
  • Under 18's who arrive unaccompanied and illegally will remain in the UK until adulthood and will then be removed to a safe third country. Limited circumstances could change this.
  • Asylum seekers who enter the UK illegally will not only be removed, but also face a permanent ban from returning.
  • Any asylum claims from those who travel to the UK illegally will be deemed inadmissible and reconsidered in a third country.
  • Any legal claims that can prevent someone being removed from the UK will be limited.
  • Modern slavery claims for those travelling illegally will be disqualified.
  • There will be an annual cap on the number of refugees entering via safe routes.
UK border sign
UK borders will be receiving tougher methods to stop illegal immigrants. Picture: Alamy

Andrew Marr's reaction to new Illegal Migration Bill

What have people said about Rishi Sunak's new immigration bill?

The tough new bill hasn't come without criticism, as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has stepped forward to say it's concerning.

Vicky Tennant, of the UNHCR, said: "We're very concerned. This is effectively closing off access to asylum in the UK for people arriving irregularly.

"We believe it's a clear breach of the Refugee Convention, and remember even people with very compelling claims will simply not have the opportunity to put these forward."

Labour's shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper branded the Bill a "con" and described the plans as "Groundhog Day" in the wake of criticism from campaigners who said the proposed policy would be unworkable.