The front gates of Buckingham Palace, with the palace in the background.

Yesterday’s (17 July 2024) King’s Speech set out 40 bills for the next parliamentary session. These include proposed new legislation on asylum, the ‘Border Security, Asylum and Immigration Bill’. If passed, this bill could become the third law seeking to reform the UK’s asylum system in the past three years, following the Nationality and Borders Act (2022) and ‘Illegal Migration’ Act (2023).

What will the bill do?

The bill pledges to modernise the UK’s asylum system and clear the asylum backlog. This commitment to making decisions more effectively is welcome: people waiting for decisions are left stuck in limbo, sometimes for years on end. During this time, they are generally not allowed to work and so are forced into destitution.

It also rightly proposes measures to tackle people smugglers. We agree that this is important – no one wants to see people taking dangerous journeys across the Channel. But an approach solely based on deterrence won’t work.

We’re pleased also that the background notes to the bill commit to scrapping the cruel Rwanda plan.

What is it missing?

A focus on tackling smuggling gangs must be accompanied by introducing new safe routes. The causes of displacement aren’t going away, so we must ensure that people fleeing conflict and persecution have clear and safe ways to reach sanctuary in the UK. This approach has clear public backing – 50% of the British public supported the introduction of a humanitarian visa for refugees in a recent poll.

What’s next?

We hope that this bill is a step towards an asylum system that’s fair, just and efficient. Crucially, it must also recognise the legal right to asylum. And we must ensure that the debate around this legislation is centered on compassion, so displaced people feel welcomed, and aren’t presented as a threat.

There’s clear public support for a welcoming refugee policy, so we’re positive about working with the Government for the change we urgently need.