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How Will The ” Stop the Boats Act ” Affect Nigeria, A Country With A Long History Of Migration To The United Kingdom. 

Abdulrahman Oyedeni


April 1, 2023

Yesterday, the government of the United Kingdom unveiled its new “Illegal Migration Bill” in parliament, which aims to stop illegal immigration and crack down on criminal organisations involved. Immigration reform was one of Rishi Sunak’s five pre-election pledges to the citizens of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom experienced a record net increase of 504,000 legal migrants in the year ending in June 2022, up 331,000 from the previous year. In the same year, 45,756 illegal immigrants successfully crossed the English Channel, another record-breaking number. Together with France, 33,000 border crossings were prevented.

These numbers, coupled with the economic difficulties facing the United Kingdom, have exhausted the populace and the government, prompting Prime Minister Sunak to declare, “Enough is enough.” The government of the United Kingdom spends £6.2 million per day to house illegal immigrants in hotels.

The following points summarise the key provisions of the bill, as published on the website of the British government:

Legal obligation to make arrangements for removal – The Home Secretary will have a legal obligation to remove illegal immigrants from the United Kingdom.

Detention and bail – strengthen detention powers so that individuals can only apply for bail after 28 days from the Courts (First-tier Tribunal) (although habeas corpus will remain).

Except in limited circumstances, unaccompanied children who illegally enter the United Kingdom will not be returned to a safe third country until they reach adulthood.

Entry, citizenship, and settlement – those who illegally enter the United Kingdom will be prohibited from settling in the country and will be permanently barred from returning.

Asylum – the asylum claims of illegal immigrants will be deemed inadmissible and will be evaluated in a safe third country.

Modern enslavement – Under the international anti-trafficking treaty ECAT, modern enslavement referrals for those who enter the United Kingdom illegally will be disqualified on public order grounds.

Legal proceedings – limiting the circumstances in which legal challenges can halt a person’s removal from the United Kingdom. When an individual has been successfully removed from the UK, the majority of legal challenges will be considered.

Expanding the list of legally safe countries will make it unmistakably clear when someone does not require our protection because they are obviously not at risk of persecution in their home country.

Nigeria, a country with a long history of migration to the United Kingdom, will undoubtedly be affected by this new bill. There are approximately 178,000 Nigerians legally residing in the United Kingdom in 2021, an increase of nearly 100 per cent since 2008. The number is likely higher because it does not include illegal immigrants. Illegal migrants include those who overstay their visas and are no longer authorised to reside in the United Kingdom.

According to UNESCO, Nigerian youth, defined as those between the ages of 15 and 35, constitute one of the largest populations of migrants from Global South countries to Europe. However, a significant proportion of these individuals lack a valid passport, a prerequisite for legal migration, and are unfamiliar with legal migration channels. They are aware that illegal travel is possible, or as they say in Nigeria, “travelling to Europe by road.”

Last year, the United Kingdom and Nigeria signed an agreement to deport Foreign National Offenders (FNO) back to their home country. If passed, this agreement and the new migration bill will eliminate all benefits of illegal immigration. Illegal migrants who successfully traverse a treacherous route, where boats capsize and drown their passengers or human traffickers exploit vulnerable migrants, will be deported and permanently barred from entering the United Kingdom. Illegal migration will take precedence over all other migration statuses. This leaves those who risked everything worse off than when they began.

Overstaying a visa, such as an education visa, constitutes illegal migration and carries the same consequences. The UK Home Office immigration statistics revealed a disparity between nationalities that bring dependents while studying or working in the country. Despite comprising only seven per cent of those granted a study visa, Nigerian students brought forty per cent of the registered dependents. 34,000 Nigerians were granted study visas in the year leading up to June 2022, accompanied by 31,898 dependents. When these visas expire and the students have completed their studies, they must obtain a new visa to extend their stay or return home. If they overstay their visa, they will be considered illegal migrants and face deportation and a permanent ban from the United Kingdom.

Based on the preceding analysis, it is likely that the number of illegal entry attempts will decrease in the United Kingdom. However, it is important to note that similar policies have been implemented globally in countries such as France and Israel, which have yet to experience the benefits of such legislation. In France, there were widespread demonstrations and outrage from the local populace and international community. The difficult questions that must be asked are. Does the United Kingdom have the necessary resources and coordination to accurately track entry into the country from all access points, or will this policy affect those who attempt to enter legally but fail to leave before visa expiration or fail to renew their visas, as opposed to those who enter illegally with the sole intention of claiming asylum and remaining in the United Kingdom? However, Nigerians should be aware of this policy and act accordingly when processing visas and resident permits for the United Kingdom.

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