Activism

Illegal Immigration Bill: Protest to take place outside parliament as Conservative MPs set to rebel over controversial law

Protesters and MPs will oppose the Illegal Immigration Bill as parliament votes on the second reading on Monday evening.

Rishi Sunak

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak holds a press conference on the small boats bill at No.9 Downing Street. Picture by Rory Arnold / No 10 Downing Street

Voting on the new Illegal Immigration Bill will be set against a backdrop of protest and rebellion on Monday evening as thousands are expected to gather outside parliament in opposition and the government faces open dissent — albeit small — from its own MPs.

Organisers say thousands are expected to turn out to Parliament Square for the protest, supported by the Fire Brigades Union, the Muslim Association of Britain, human rights charities and opposition MPs.

“We’re standing up in Westminster today alongside countless others to show our solidarity with people seeking safety here, and demonstrate the widespread and growing resistance to this government’s deplorable new anti-refugee bill,” said a spokesperson from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. 

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“Sunak’s latest headline-chasing asylum plans will effectively bulldoze people’s right to seek refuge here, pushing people who’ve fled danger into prison-like asylum camps for indefinite amounts of time and stripping protections away from children, pregnant people and victims of trafficking. 

“No caring, compassionate person wants to see fellow human beings treated like this – that’s why so many of us are protesting the bill today, and demanding safe routes and community welcome instead.”

Prime minister Rishi Sunak and home secretary Suella Braverman have insisted the bill is delivering on “the people’s priority” of stopping small boat crossings to the UK. Recent polls have shown the cost of living crisis is consistently the biggest concern for UK voters, followed by immigration and the NHS crisis.

The bill, designed to stop people crossing the Channel in small boats to claim asylum and praised by far-right groups at home and abroad, would stop anybody arriving through this route from making a claim, and make them liable for deportation to a third country such as Rwanda.

“This Government’s Refugee Ban Bill is a rotten divide and rule tactic and a stain on the UK’s reputation. It’s no surprise that people are taking to the streets and I back them in doing so,” said Green Party MP Caroline Lucas. 

“When we have a government that’s willing to break international law, and a national broadcaster that’s bending to their will, it’s essential that the voice or humanity and compassion is heard.”

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Inside parliament on Monday, MPs will vote on the second reading of the bill. However, former minister Chris Skidmore and Conservative MP Caroline Nokes have both said they would not be voting with their party.

“I am not prepared to break international law or the human rights conventions that the UK has had a proud history of playing a leading role in establishing,” Skidmore said on Twitter.

“I will not be voting for the bill tonight.”

This followed fellow Tory MP, and former immigration minister, Caroline Nokes saying she would not vote for the bill, expressing “absolute horror at the prospect”.

Zoe Gardner, a migration policy expert and one of the organisers of the protest, said she would be among those demanding the bill be scrapped.

“The Refugee Ban Bill threatens to lock up refugee children and criminalise people wanting to rebuild their lives and be reunited with loved ones. It’s a cruel, vindictive piece of legislation that’s losing support fast,” Gardner said.

“The suspension of Gary Lineker from Match of the Day, and the solidarity shown by his fellow pundits, has really drawn a clear divide. On the one side is the Conservative party and their friends in the media, and on the other the many millions of us who see this nasty piece of legislation for the divide and rule tactic that it is.”

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