The new Nationality and Borders Bill entered Parliament for its first reading earlier this month and after a second reading has now been sent to a Public Bill Committee for further scrutiny – its findings are expected to be concluded in a report to be published in November.

The 87 page bill is the cornerstone of the Government’s new plan for Immigration and is set to deliver “the most comprehensive reform in decades to fix the broken asylum system”.

Despite some arguable undermining of the 1951 Refugee Convention, the Bill and its wider plan has three key objectives, according to the Government:

  1. to make the system fairer and more effective so that we can better protect and support those in genuine need of asylum
  2. to deter illegal entry into the UK breaking the business model of criminal trafficking networks and saving lives
  3. to remove from the UK those with no right to be here.

Essentially, a new criminal offence will be introduced which will make it illegal for asylum seekers to enter the UK without permission. The new offence will attract a maximum sentence of 12 months or up to four years on indictment.

Although differential treatment of refugees, depending on their mode of arrival, already exists under current Home Office policies, this Bill takes it one step further. Arriving into the UK illegally will also have an impact on how their asylum claim progresses and on their status in the UK, if that status is successful.

The Bill will also make it legal to remove asylum seekers from the UK to offshore centres while their asylum claim or appeal is pending.

It seems that any asylum seeker who knowingly arrives in the UK without entry clearance or leave to enter will have committed an offence – which is a violation of the Refugee Convention and therefore a breach of international law.

The publication of the Bill is the first step of its journey through Parliament and MPs will debate on its contents in the near future. If the Government has a majority at that stage, the Bill will be passed to the House of Lords. Only one it has passed through both Houses, will it be sent to the Queen for the Royal Assent and will become an Act of Parliament.