Southampton MP Royston Smith among those who voted for controversial Illegal Migration Bill

Southampton MP Royston Smith among those who voted for controversial Illegal Migration Bill

by Sally Churchward.

The Illegal Migration Bill, one of the most controversial pieces of legislation to come before Parliament in recent years, passed its second reading in the Commons last night.

The vote was passed by 312 votes to 250. No Conservative MPs voted against it, although 44 abstained.

Among the MPs to vote in favour of it were Royston Smith, Conservative MP for Southampton Itchen, Julian Lewis, Conservative MP for New Forest East, Desmond Swain, Conservative MP for New Forest West, Paul Holmes, Conservative MP for Eastleigh, Steve Brine, Conservative MP for Winchester, Bob Seeley Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight and Penny Mordaunt, Conservative MP for Portsmouth North.

No vote was recorded for Caroline Nokes, Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North, who has spoken out against the bill, saying  “I think we have an absolute duty to treat people humanely to keep people safe. I have absolute horror at the prospect,” adding that the previous nationality and borders bill did not succeed in its aim at reducing the number of people arriving in the UK by boat.

Southampton Test MP, Alan Whitehead, Labour, voted against the bill, as did Stephen Morgan, Labour MP for Portsmouth South.

Yesterday evening saw hundreds of people gather in Parliament Square to protest against the bill which would stop people entering the UK on small boats from claiming asylum as well as plans to ban them from returning once removed. Asylum seekers currently have the right to remain in the country to have their cases heard.

Many have argued that the plan is illegal and unworkable. 

Journalist and author Ian Dunt said on Twitter pf the Government’s catchphrase ‘Enough is enough: Stop the boats,’ “This line is, of course, the reason this bill exists. The legislation will not work. But it is not designed to work. It is designed to let ministers state that line over and over again.’

Kolbassia Haoussou MBE, co-founder of Survivors Speak Out which represents victims of torture, told protesters at Parliament Square. “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,” 

The Home Secretary Suella Braverman stated in letter to backbench MPs that “there is a more [than] 50% chance” that the bill may be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (

The Institute for Government also highlights that the UN Refugee Agency has said the bill breaches the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention by preventing people who arrive irregularly a chance to seek asylum in UK, amounting to an effective “asylum ban”.

Refugee and asylum specialist Louise Calvey told In Common: “The proposed legislation is illegal under the Refugee Convention, which specifically acknowledges that refugees may travel through irregular routes and requires government to cater for this within it’s protection systems. It also requires that refugees must not be returned to risk.

“The bill essentially proposes to close our asylum system, refusing a process to anyone who has been unable to obtain a visa for safe regularised travel – something which our government know is impossible for the vast majority of people forced to flee. It proposes to detain someone without a route to status, and being unable to return them those forced to flee will be trapped in endless immigration detention.

“Not content with closing our asylum system, they’re also supporting ceasing support for survivors of trafficking and slavery and detaining children.

“It is stomach churning cruelty, a moral abdication of our responsibilities as one of the founding Nations of the Refugee Convention, unworkable and hugely traumatising for the people involved. This legislation would make us an outlier Nation of the World & signal the end to end measure of human rights in the UK.”


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