Council of Europe expresses grave concerns over UK Illegal Migration Bill

Council of Europe expresses grave concerns over UK Illegal Migration Bill

The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) has expressed deep concern over the UK’s Illegal Migration Bill and its lack of compliance with core elements of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

GRETA stressed that the new legislation would constitute a significant step backwards in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery in the UK, and risk undoing many of the country’s significant achievements in this area, by making it harder to identify victims, prosecute traffickers and combat human trafficking.

Under the bill, nearly all people who arrive in the UK in breach of immigration control, and who do not come directly from a country where their life and liberty are threatened by reason of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, would be detained and removed from the UK.

GRETA stressed that, if adopted, the bill would run contrary to the UK’s obligations under the Anti-trafficking Convention, to prevent human trafficking, and to identify and protect victims of trafficking, without discrimination.

GRETA said that Article 10 of the Convention places an obligation on states to identify victims of human trafficking, and not to remove them until the identification process has conclusively established whether or not they are victims of trafficking. This obligation applies regardless of the manner in which a person has arrived in the country. Indeed, traffickers often take away victims’ travel and identity documents, as a way of exerting pressure, or give them false documents. The bill, if adopted, would deny the possibility for people who arrived without valid entry clearance to be identified as victims of trafficking.

Furthermore, Article 13 of the Convention provides for a recovery and reflection period of at least 30 days during which presumed victims of human trafficking are not to be removed from the country’s territory. During this period, they are entitled to assistance and protection, pursuant to Article 12, paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Convention, such as appropriate and secure accommodation, emergency medical treatment and legal counselling. Under the bill, the recovery and reflection period would likewise be denied to victims of trafficking.

GRETA is also concerned that the bill is being examined under the urgent procedure, which will not allow for proper consultation with the opposition, stakeholders, experts or civil society.

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