Parts of migration act ‘should not apply in NI’

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By Rick Faragher
BBC News NI

A judge has ruled that large parts of the government’s Illegal Migration Act should not apply in Northern Ireland because they breach human rights laws.

He ruled some elements of the act are in breach of the Windsor Framework.

This is the revised post-Brexit deal agreed between the UK and European Union last year.

Mr Justice Humphreys also declared parts of the act to be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Illegal Migration Act provides new powers for the UK government to detain and remove asylum seekers it deems to have arrived illegally in the UK.

Central to the new laws is the scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Teenage asylum seeker

The Windsor Framework deals mostly with trade issues but also includes a human rights element.It commits the UK not to water down the human rights provisions that flow from the Good Friday Agreement, the 1998 deal which brought an end to 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland, known as the Troubles.

The judge found that several elements of the act do cause a “significant” diminution of the rights enjoyed by asylum seekers residing in Northern Ireland under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

“I have found that there is a relevant diminution of right in each of the areas relied upon by the applicants,” he said.

Dr Tony McGleenan KC, representing the government, indicated that an appeal may be considered.

“We’ll be taking our instructions on the judgment and the position in terms of any further litigation will become clear,” he said.

The legal challenge was brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and a 16-year-old asylum seeker from Iran who is residing in Northern Ireland.

The commission has welcomed the judgement.

It said it issued the legal challenge in “its own name due to the significant concerns it has with the Illegal Migration Act and the effect on asylum seekers in Northern Ireland”.

It said it would now be “considering the judgment in full and its implications”.

‘Beacon of protections’

The teenage asylum seeker was represented by Phoenix Law.Its head of immigration and asylum, Sinead Marmion, welcomed the ruling.”The Good Friday Agreement has always been a beacon of human rights protections and hope.

“Today, the court through the Northern Ireland Protocol, has ensured those rights apply to the whole community – including asylum seekers.”

The government has been contacted for a response to the ruling.

A government spokesperson previously told the BBC: “Tackling illegal migration is a top priority for the government, and there are an unacceptable number of people risking their lives, making dangerous crossings on small boats.

“The Illegal Migration Act will play an important part in our collective effort to break the cycle, end exploitation by gangs and prevent further loss of life.”

3 October 202318 July 2023

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