Adding to the abundance of criticism already surrounding the Bill, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (CoE) adopted a draft resolution, on the 21st of June 2023, ￼stating￼ that the UK’s Illegal Migration Bill demonstrates an attempt ‘to legislate in a way that could risk breaching the UK’s international legal obligations and thus the rule of law’.
The Council of Europe, of which the UK is a founding member, is ‘the continent’s leading human rights organisation’. As part of membership to the organisation, all member states ‘are contracting parties to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)’ and are legally required to uphold its implementation domestically. The UK upholds this duty through the Human Rights Act, which the CoE cites as an ‘excellent example of an effective domestic mechanism for ensuring that Convention rights are respected and fully implemented at the national level’.
However, the Illegal Migration Bill, which would require a reworking of the Human Rights Act in order to be enshrined into UK law, has been described by the CoE as indicative of a ‘regrettable’ departure from what has been ‘an excellent system that has led to the UK having one of the lowest number of cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights’.
Writing for the Electronic Immigration Network, Alice Donald and Philip Leach have levelled stronger accusations against the bill, condemning it as intent on ‘setting the UK on a collision course with the Council of Europe, and especially the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)’. If the Government is to persist with the Illegal Migration Bill, being incompatible with the ECHR, they may ‘reconsider whether being part of the ECHR is in the UK’s long-term interests’, said one Downing Street source.
In his explanatory memorandum to the CoE’s draft resolution, Kamal Jafarov the report’s rapporteur, criticised the bill, writing that ‘unilateral attempts to legislate away one’s internationally binding obligations are unlikely to result in much progress for international peace and co-operation, nor the protection of some of the world’s most vulnerable‘. He later elaborates that ‘international law is part of the rule of law and is something we must all endeavour to value and to approach in a spirit of good faith’.
This criticism from the CoE builds on the abundance of criticism that the bill has already encountered at all stages of its lifecycle, having already been condemned for its potential issues regarding modern slavery and asylum.
The bill is due to enter the report stage in the House of Lords from 28 June 2023.