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Ethics briefing
  1. Rebecca Mussell,
  2. Sophie Brannan,
  3. Veronica English,
  4. Caroline Ann Harrison,
  5. Julian C Sheather
  1. Medical Ethics, British Medical Association, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Rebecca Mussell, Medical Ethics, British Medical Association, London, WC1H 9JP, UK; rmussell{at}

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UK: Migration, health and human rights

At the time of writing, the UK Government’s ‘Illegal Migration Bill’1 had started progressing through the House of Commons.

The Bill will enable the removal of people who have come to the UK seeking asylum by ‘illegal’ routes, including via the dangerous Channel crossing in small boats.2 That duty would apply whether a person makes a protection claim, human rights claim or is a victim of modern slavery or human trafficking.

Asylum seekers risk crossing the Channel because there are very few, if any, safe and lawful ways to reach the UK. At least 60% of the people who have made the crossing last year would be recognised as refugees through the asylum process.3

The Bill will also give the UK Secretary of State a follow up duty to deny people arriving by ‘illegal’ routes access to the asylum system and to permanently deny them legal status in the UK, this includes leave to remain and citizenship.

On the 24 March, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights wrote to both Speakers of the UK parliament, stating ‘… the Bill would have serious consequences both for the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in the UK, and for the upholding of the UK’s international obligations more generally. The UNHCR [UN Refugee Agency] has already stated that the Bill is in clear breach of the UK’s obligations under the 1951 …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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