The Illegal Migration Act: where are we now?

Legal Updates

This blog was updated on 10 October 2023 to reflect the enforcement of section 12 of the Illegal Migration Act, and again on 17 November 2023 to reflect on the enforcement of sections 15, 59–62 of the Act, and on Supreme Court’s judgment on the Rwanda plan.

In May of this year, we published a deep delve into our opinion of the Act and the potential it has to create wider systemic collapse. You can read this in our previous article, The so-called “Illegal” Migration Bill, so far.

Since then, unfortunately, the Bill progressed into an Act, which was enforced on 20 July 2023. This blog is a summary of our full article, and will outline the sections that have been enforced, those that have not, and what we at Right to Remain are doing in order to brace ourselves for the legal and non-legal consequences of the Illegal Migration Act (‘IMA’) as a whole. 

We’d like to start by re-affirming our well-known belief that #NoOneIsIllegal. If you believe this too, join our movement of radical solidarity. 

Sections in force

The following sections of the IMA have been commenced:

  • Section 12 — ‘Period for which persons may be detained’
  • Section 15 — ‘Seizing and retaining electronic devices’
  • Sections 30-37 – ‘Entry, Settlement, and Citizenship’
  • Sections 52 -‘Judges of First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal’
  • Section 59 — ‘Inadmissibility of certain asylum and human rights claims’
  • Sections 60–61 — ‘Safe and legal routes’
  • Section 62 — ‘Credibility of claimant: concealment of information etc’
  • Sections 63-69 – General provisions (including definitions, and also sets out which sections of the Act have been commenced, etc)

Although the Act as whole was passed as law in July 2023, the majority of its sections – including the key sections relating to removal, detention, disapplication of modern slavery provisions, age assessments, and unaccompanied children – have not been implemented.

First, many of the provisions of the IMA are contingent upon the existence of (currently non-existent) agreements with ‘safe third countries’. In the Act, detention is linked to removal. Removal is linked to notices of removal to third countries. The UK Government does not have any active removal agreements with any countries (bar Albania, unfortunately), let alone ‘safe’ third countries.

In light of this, on 14 April 2022 the UK attempted to enter into an agreement with the Rwandan government to make arrangements to remove people seeking asylum who fulfilled the ‘inadmissibility’ definition (this means they had been present in or had a connection to a safe third country) to Rwanda as another ‘safe third country’ to have their asylum claim processed there instead.

The intention was that if a person’s asylum claim was accepted in Rwanda, they would be offered what the agreement between the two governments called ‘pathways to legal residence’ in Rwanda. This agreement between the UK and Rwandan governments is called the Migration and Economic Development Partnership (MEDP).

On 15 November 2023, after over a year of litigation in the courts, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled that the Rwanda policy was unlawful, and could not be enforced by the UK government. The policy will not be going ahead, and no one subjected to the Inadmissibility Rules will be sent to Rwanda. You can learn more about the implications of this victory in our Legal Update here.

Clearly, every unwilling removal is an injustice. However, when juxtaposed against the number of people who seek asylum in the UK (the current backlog of decisions yet to be made by the Home Office stands at over 170,000), this so-called ‘solution’ to the problem of irregular migration is a drop in the ocean — particularly when the fiscal and time costs of detention and removal are considered.

The second reason behind the lack of implementation is that much of what the IMA proposes turns upon the existence of regulations published by the Secretary of State for the Home Department (the Home Secretary). Regulations are a form of secondary legislation which, put simply, means that where Acts (primary legislation) outline general law, secondary legislation outlines how that law is meant to be enforced in practice; like instructions.

For an understanding of the sections in force, the sections not in force, and where we go from here, have a read of our Medium article.

Where do we go from here?

Though the majority of the IMA remains dormant at this time, we recognise that the sections that have been commenced are enough to wreak havoc and create immense fear. 

At Right to Remain are doing to brace ourselves for these imminent effects through the publication of regulations, or de facto through the uncertainty that is already rippling through our communities in real time. Now, more than ever, is the time for radical solidarity and a unified front. 

As such, some initial steps we are taking include – 

  • Keeping up to date with the areas we think our community is most exposed to as a result of the IMA. Namely, detention, destitution, and exploitation. We have taken steps to connect with groups that have expertise in these topics, to expand our resources and keep our community informed of the rights they have and the actions they can take. 
  • In the coming months, our resources on destitution/homelessness, trafficking, healthcare, and migrant workers’ rights will be expanded, improved, and disseminated widely. For instance, our Toolkit page on Detention and Reporting has recently been updated. 
  • Hosting and attending discussions, safe spaces, and knowledge sharing events. These will not be one-off events, but rather a continuing series where we build upon and share our increasing knowledge as time goes on. 
  • Keeping up to date with changes related to the IMA, understanding them, communicating them clearly and simply with our community through newsletters, blogs, articles, seminars and workshops. 

As always, 

Migration is life. 

No one is illegal. 

These walls must fall. 


On reaching the UK, people face a hostile environment. Without help, many will be forcibly sent back to the wars, persecution and misery they have fled.

Your donation will help us to help people in their struggle for the right to remain in the UK, and to campaign for migration justice


Leave a Reply

Please note Right to Remain cannot provide immigration legal advice that is specific to your individual asylum and immigration application.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.