A triumph of sensationalism over virtue, Braverman’s ‘Illegal’ Migration Act will cost lives

The Illegal Migration Bill is now on Britain’s statute book. A total of 289 MPs voted in favour of the bill, giving the Home Secretary unprecedented powers to make arrangements for the detention and deportation of migrants, while 230 MPs voted against. Sensationalism rather than ‘virtue’, in Aristotle’s use of the term, has won again.

Aristotle defined ‘virtue’ as an essential quality for political action. According to this ancient Greek philosopher, ‘virtue’ is above personal interest; it is above party politics and above political gains.

This new law effectively blows up the right to asylum in Britain and puts a huge crack in the post-war consensus on refugee rights.

It is sadistic to the degree of sacrificing the most vulnerable people on the planet, including traumatised pregnant women and their unborn children who flee their war-torn countries, purely for votes.

Doubtless, the UK has real problems. Some of these are a direct result of the Brexit economic fallout. We need only look at supermarket shelves to determine that leaving the European Union hasn’t turned the UK into the Garden of Eden.

Like Don Juan, the Tories invent problems to grab the headlines and divert attention away from the real issues facing ordinary people. Problems such as the impact of higher inflation, unemployment, homelessness, and the collapse of the health service and Britain’s once exemplary welfare system. We also see an increased dependence on charity and foodbanks for people to get through the week.

Instead of tackling these major societal challenges head on, the Conservative Party, which has been in power for over 13 years, prefers to home in on populist topics and blow them up in the media. These distraction tactics aim to divert the public’s attention away from the Tories’ inability to govern ethically, effectively and with ‘virtue’.

The Tories constantly turn the political spotlight on exaggerated problems such as excess migration, the small boats crossing the Channel, voter fraud, sex education in schools, and now ‘fraudulent lawyers’, who are dragged over the coals by government minsters. The same ministers who themselves make unimaginable daily blunders.

Ministers regularly make false claims they cannot substantiate, and negative comments that lump all migrants together, regardless of their individual circumstances or that they are fleeing for their lives.

“the venom directed at Channel migrants is as bad as, if not worse than the infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech by Enoch Powel back in 1968”

We are regularly told by the Home Secretary Suella Braverman that the values of migrants are “at odds” with those of British people. Such arguments about migrants are not new – historically, immigrants have faced similar prejudice – but the venom directed at Channel migrants is as bad as, if not worse than the infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech by Enoch Powel back in 1968, who preached repatriation of the very people who emigrated to Britain to work in factories, in hospitals and in a host of undesirable jobs that no one else would care to take on.

Enoch Powell, who made the infamous Rivers of Blood speech in 1968, pictured here in 1987. Photo © Allan Warren / Wikipedia, CC By SA 3-0


Some right-wing political commentators and media have linked the current wave of migrants to criminal gangs operating in the UK and the growing problems with prostitution and drug dealing. The Home Secretary went further by claiming that migrants crossing the English Channel were creating “heightened levels of criminality” in Britain.

Only a few Conservatives including Baroness Warsi, the former Conservative Party chairman, have rejected these damaging public comments about migrants, calling them “deeply divisive”.

Even so, it’s hard to escape the view that when it comes to ‘virtue’, honesty, and integrity, the Tories appear to have hit rock bottom. Many would go further and say the party is morally bankrupt.

Without a doubt, the new Illegal Migration Act will cost lives. It will magnify modern slavery, and endanger the wellbeing of unaccompanied minors, pregnant women, and their unborn babies.

According to the Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, “Tens of thousands of people could be detained indefinitely, at extensive cost to the UK taxpayer” because of the terms of this new piece of legislation. As the Law Society rightly argues, the new act also diminishes migrants’ access to justice while “fundamentally” reducing the oversight of these cases in British courts.

Migrants crossing the English Channel heading for Dover, England

Embed from Getty Images

There is also the threat of the UK leaving the European Convention on Human Rights, with Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick stating ministers would do ‘whatever is necessary ultimately to defend our borders’, while controversial Conservative Deputy Chairman Lee Anderson adding that his party had “failed” to fix illegal migration.

These issues and the rhetoric used to address them should be the concern of every politician who sits in Parliament and every voter who must weigh up what has happened in the last few years before they cast their vote.

According to the UN Refugee Convention, asylum seekers cannot be returned to their home country unless they were tried in a court of law. The new Act, however, empowers the Home Secretary to refuse the application of refugees and pack them off to a ‘safe’ country because they have arrived ‘illegally’. It’s a dichotomy refugees should not have to face as most arrive at the borders of ‘safer’ countries ‘illegally’ having had to leave home without identity documents to escape persecution.

Despite major efforts by the government to deport refugees to Rwanda, this country has been deleted from the destination map for now because the Court of Appeal ruled in June that it is not ‘safe’. Unfortunately, the Home Office hasn’t fully given up on its plans even though a high proportion of migrants whose applications have been processed are genuine seekers of a safe place to live. Instead, it has redirected its focus to the Ascension Island!

The Bibby Stockholm barge from above, docked on land day after it arrived in Portland, Dorset, 20 July 2023. The barge will be used to house 500 UK asylum seekers. Photo © FatManPhotoUK / iStock


Regretfully, we often see the weakest governments seek to divert attention from their failures by whipping up a frenzy about non-issues to cover up their inept actions. The latest of these for the British government are “fraudulent” lawyers. For once though, they may have met their match as lawyers have no intention of taking such outrageous claims lying down.

The populist rhetoric being plied through pro-Conservative media is that ‘This government is committed to stopping the boats – that means breaking the business model of criminal gangs and holding to account unscrupulous lawyers who aid and abet them by abusing the legal system.’

Suddenly immigration law specialists, who are simply applying the law, are seen as ‘public enemy number 1’, which has led the government to set up a new — and costly — task force.

Yet, as Richard Atkinson, the Deputy Vice-President of the Law Society, noted: “The new ‘task force’ is actually not very new. It has been around for months now, so it is not clear what, if anything, the Government is announcing today.”

Mr Atkinson also stated that, “The Government, regulators and law enforcement agencies already have the powers they need to deal with immigration advisers engaged in misconduct. The overwhelming majority of immigration lawyers continue to support the rule of law through their adherence to the Law and professional standards set by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and provide an essential service to clients. The focus of the Home Office on a tiny minority to which they are apparently applying considerable resources should not deflect from the fact that there remain significant backlogs in asylum claims or from the unworkability of the Illegal Migration Act.”

This Conservative Government’s art of deflection lacks ‘virtue’; instead of a moderate response to the needs of a group of vulnerable people seeking a safe haven, as the Convention demands, we see orchestrated mass hysteria.

Asylum seekers, refugees and the British public deserve far better than political leaders on ego trips!


Main image, top, an official Cabinet portrait of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Rt Hon Suella Braverman QC MP as she poses for a photo in 10 Downing Street London, 06 /09 / 2022. Cropped photo © Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street, CC by SA 2.0