Hundreds of people have rallied in London to protest against the British government’s controversial new asylum and migration law as MPs debated the measures in the House of Commons.
The crowd gathered in Parliament Square on Monday evening, holding signs and chanting slogans: “What do we want? Safe passage. When do we want it? Now”, and “Who built the NHS? Migrants built the NHS.”
“Migrants and refugees welcome here: blame austerity, not migrants,” a placard read.
The protests erupted after the government announced its new 'Illegal Migration Bill', upon which, people entering the UK on small boats will be detained immediately and hindered from claiming asylum in the UK.
The new plan also bans immigrants from returning once removed. Prior to this, asylum seekers had the right to remain in the country to have their cases heard.
“This bill will not stop people … people will find even more dangerous routes to cross. When people are fleeing, there’s nothing in this world that can stop them,” Kolbassia Haoussou MBE, co-founder of Survivors Speak Out told protesters in Parliament Square, urging them to contact their MPs. “We have people, we have the power.”
The bill passed to its second reading on Monday night following a vote by MPs of 312 in support to 250 against.
Labour MP, Nadia Whittome, told the crowd: “We’ve got to tell those Tory MPs sitting in the chamber of the House of Commons right now to stop the dehumanizing, denigrating, disgusting rhetoric that they use to talk about refugees.
“People arriving on our shores, they’re not an invasion, they’re not queue jumpers, they’re not criminals, they’re not illegal. They’re people just like you and me,” Whittome added.
In the Commons session on Monday, Home Secretary Suella Braverman defended the government's plan and said her political opponents were "naive do-gooders" and there has been "too much" immigration in recent years.
Braverman, whose parents migrated to Britain in the 1960s from Kenya and Mauritius, told parliament that she “will not be hectored by out-of-touch lefties.”
The government’s new plan comes as most of these asylum seekers qualify to have their claims considered in the UK under international law and the government cannot declare them inadmissible forcefully.
Home Office figures show that around 3,000 migrants have crossed the Channel already this year, compared with a record of 45,000 channel crossings during the whole period of 2022, surpassing the previous year's record by more than 60 percent.
Aside from its casualties, the flow of illegal migrants has also soured Britain's relations with neighboring France, prompting a blame game between the two.
Meanwhile, as a solution to stop the crossings and manage hundreds of refugees who pass the Channel every day, the UK government signed a deal with Rwanda in April 2022 to send those refugees to the East African country.
Under the deal, signed off by then Home Secretary Priti Patel, the migrants and asylum-seekers entering Britain would be sent thousands of miles away to Rwanda on a one-way ticket.
The UK has promised Rwanda an initial £120m as part of an “economic transformation and integration fund” and has pledged to pay for operational costs too.
The High Court has ruled that the government's Rwanda asylum plan is legal, but the decision is likely to face further challenges in the courts.
A rolling program of promises from the UK government to sort out small boat crossings has so far failed to deliver, and there is no evidence showing that the electorate believes the government is doing a good job on this.