We don’t know, is the succinct response. However it is possible to hazard some educated assumptions.
Evidence On How Refugees Make Decisions
There is little research on how refugees make decisions. It is difficult to ascertain the motivations of such a diverse set of people from such a diverse variety of areas, nations, and backgrounds. In no way are refugees a uniform group.
Yet, there is some content accessible. The JCWI website has a fascinating fairly recent study available. Research on this topic is now being conducted by Sherine El Taraboulsi McCarthy. On the topic of asylum seekers’ “destination preferences,” there is some little older research by Heaven Crawley and Jessica Hagen-Zanker available as well. There is also a Home Office research paper from 2002 if you want to go really back.
This data reveals a variety of objectives, a substantial role for chance, agents and smugglers, a significant role for the “imagined destination,” and little knowledge of how asylum seekers are treated in the countries of destination.
Deterrence Is Ineffective
The lack of effectiveness of deterrent laws in countries of destination is one thing the research repeatedly demonstrates. There is no proof that either of the two things a deterrent strategy would need to achieve to be effective has ever occurred.
The policies in question would need to be explained to the refugees first. There is not much proof that they do. They obtain their information from unofficial sources such friends, relatives, social media, agencies, smugglers, and fellow travellers. These are not accurate and credible sources. Even worse, agents and smugglers could purposefully lie to increase business. Yet a lot of it depends on perception and imagination, gleaned from a lifetime’s worth of sporadic news sources. The truth is that refugees have no actual idea what will happen to them in the many nations they may travel to.
In addition, if they were aware of it, they would have to be concerned about it. On this front, there isn’t much evidence either. It is simple to understand why.
We’re talking about a bunch of individuals who may have travelled over deserts, crammed themselves into small boats, avoided border patrol agents and gangs equally, and endured unspeakable adversity. On these treks, they have occasionally witnessed the deaths of friends, family members, and fellow travellers. Since 2014, around 26,000 people have perished while trying to cross the Mediterranean. What would prevent them if none of it worked to discourage them?
They are additionally inspired by hope. It is infamously difficult to kill, but Braverman, Sunak, and company are doing their best. In spite of all the facts, refugees continue to move in the hopes that things would improve. Sherine McCarthy discusses “cognitive migration” and the “imagined destination“; migrants believe that once they arrive at their destination, everything will be better. Like everyone else, they are prone to overestimating their own abilities in a hypothetical new setting. “If I can just get there, I’ll…“
This is not always illogical. Even taking huge risks could be worthwhile if one’s condition is already dire. After all, refugees have absolutely nothing to lose.
The Illegal Migration Bill – Is It Unique?
The Illegal Migration Bill’s goal is undoubtedly punitive. Perhaps word will get out.
At least some people might be discouraged from moving from French coasts to British ones if they are denied legal status, including the chance to ever work legally or be joined by family members. but, probably not many. After all, the legal “inadmissibility” process that is currently in place has been in place since January 2021 and has had no appreciable impact. However, there has been no discernible effect from the unofficial policy, in place since 2019, of making asylum seekers wait indefinitely for determinations.
Some refugees might be discouraged if flights to Rwanda begin operating sometime in late 2023 or early 2024 and the government builds sizable new detention facilities to house all arrivals before sending them there within 28 days of arrival.
In that case, they would seek protection elsewhere. After all, that is the entire British government agenda. Yet, that might not make the French or the EU very happy. Comparable EU nations like France receive significantly more asylum requests than the United Kingdom does. 2022 saw the receipt of 85,000 asylum requests in the UK, 296,555 in Germany, 179,705 in France, and 128,015 in Spain.
The gap would only widen if the Illegal Migration Law truly achieves its goals. As a result, there may be less chance of obtaining a viable returns agreement. In an effort to push refugees to its neighbours, the UK government is undermining the minimum requirements of the Common European Asylum System and starting a race to the bottom.
In any case, not everyone will be discouraged by the Illegal Migration Bill. It’s possible that refugees will move to more shady ways in an effort to completely avoid discovery by law enforcement. They will then simply maintain their silence rather than requesting refuge.
All the attention is on the small boats. It is unlikely that the government would have enacted the Illegal Migration Law if it weren’t for the public anxiety this specific route produces and the visibility of small boats. Nonetheless, there are several ways to cross the channel.
Several of the people arriving in small boats right now appear to be trying to get to British waters so they can be rescued. Basically, as they reach the halfway point, they draw attention to themselves. Instead, we might observe small boats trying to sneak up on British coastlines. In fact, they might intentionally try to avoid being rescued because doing so would involve Rwanda. Even if they end themselves in trouble and begin to absorb water, it might still be the case.
Although I am not an expert, I believe it would be far riskier than before to attempt to complete the entire passage without being discovered or saved. That might discourage some, I guess, but it might result in fewer people trying to cross but more fatalities overall.
Or perhaps we’ll see refugees revert to using trucks to get around. This is the “conventional” method of travelling to the UK. It has become increasingly difficult to travel by vehicle as a result of numerous changes, most notably the implementation of harsh fines on haulage businesses and drivers and the steadily rising degree of security surrounding specific UK departure points. But, it’s not impossible; it’s simply that using tiny boats was simpler.
For instance, we might see greater attempts to use sealed containers. 39 Vietnamese migrants died as a result of asphyxia as a result of this in 2019. In 2000, 58 asylum seekers perished in a similar manner. To get over the security measures put in place at significant French ports, we might instead see new, lengthier routes from further away. Or, more immigrants may try to enter the country through Ireland and the Common Travel Area, thereby shifting the UK’s problems elsewhere.
Conduct Upon Arrival
It does appear likely that any refugees who do enter the UK won’t be motivated to get in touch with the Home Office and apply for asylum. There will be no purpose because future asylum requests won’t be taken into consideration. Alternatively, there would be no need to follow up with the Home Office if the person did come into contact with the authorities and applied for asylum to prevent deportation to their home country.
The sole perk would be continuing to be eligible for £8 per week and a motel bed somewhere. Forever. Alternatively, if the government follows through on such intentions, in an abandoned summer camp or former military barracks.
The possibility of being sent to Rwanda at some point exists. Yet, one peculiarity of the Illegal Migration Bill is that only Albanians will be allowed to return to their place of origin. With that one exemption, the law forbids the UK government from deporting anyone who requests asylum back to their place of origin. The government is placing all of its eggs in one basket by deporting everyone seeking asylum (aside from Albanians) to secure third world nations.
So, it is conceivable that refugees will blend in and try to survive in the underground economy. They’ll be homeless, penniless, and in grave danger of being used cruelly by terrible individuals. This is already occurring with kids who are purportedly in the “care” of the Home Office. Some would even flee that way through the common transit area to seek asylum there rather than trying to enter Ireland. That might not make the Irish too happy.
This Will Seem Like ‘Success’ For The Government
Hence, the diplomatic, ethical, and societal repercussions could be disastrous. There might be more fatalities. Inevitably, there will be more exploited, homeless, and impoverished refugees in the United Kingdom. It appears that the UK’s relations with its neighbours will suffer.
But, based on the government’s primary criteria of “stop the boats,” this will appear to be a success. Because some people who arrive by boat in the future will do so covertly and won’t appear in government statistics. And others will come through various channels, as covertly as they can. Since there would be fewer people who enter the nation undetected, fewer people will apply for asylum because there won’t be any more justification for doing so.
There’s a chance that the actual arrivals have decreased. Yet, there will undoubtedly be a sharp decline in the number of documented arrivals and recorded asylum requests. There are many different estimates of the amount of the undocumented population in the United Kingdom, but the Illegal Migration Bill is likely to result in an increase.
Let’s only speculate as to what might transpire if removals to Rwanda actually begin. Until this starts to happen, the Illegal Migration Bill is unlikely to have much of a deterrent effect. Although Braverman suggested this weekend that flights would begin this summer, this appears unlikely given the pending legal issues. If the government prevails in the ongoing legal battle, a flight might depart as early as 2024, according to prior estimates. There would only be a small number of unfortunates on the initial flight. Initial refugee-receiving capacity in Rwanda is constrained. Perhaps only a few hundred, at least until further accommodations and facilities are built. This will be scaled up quickly, as was said in the weekend announcement.
In the meanwhile, unless they are Albanian, no asylum applicant who came after 7 March 2023 will ever receive a verdict on their application and cannot be sent back to their place of origin. How many people will have arrived between March 7 and the first flight from Rwanda, whenever that may be? Whilst we are unsure, it is possible that there are tens of thousands. After all, during the course of 2022, little under 90,000 people arrived. On a weekly assistance of £8, they will likely be confined to hotels. Some may already have made the decision to vanish into the neighbourhood. Everyone will likely disappear once flights to Rwanda begin to depart.
It is likely that new detention facilities will be constructed in the UK. Any newcomers will be brought there. If the police or immigration authorities come across any of the previously detained missing asylum applicants, they will likely detain them as well.
After that, they will be compelled to board a plane for Rwanda. This will be a bloody, brutal event. Removing individuals to their home country after a thorough investigation of their asylum petition has determined they are not refugees is difficult enough. It will be far tougher to relocate them to a foreign nation where they have no connections, no common language or culture, and where their future is grim. Extreme resistance to removal is probably present. Self harm will probably occur, and some will likely suffer severe injuries as a result.
As a result, there may be fewer small boats arriving and fewer people requesting refuge. But the unauthorised population will grow. And relocations will be bloody, grim events. Also, our neighbours will be unimpressed and unhelpful.
The Illegal Migration Bill will usher in a world like that.
Here at Law Lane Solicitors, we have the experience and expertise to advise you on Immigration and Asylum. If you would like to speak to one of our specialists, then please call us on 0207 870 4870 today.
Tahir Shahab Khan