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Press Release: Project Play / Europe Must Act

20th March 2023

The UK's "Illegal Migration Bill" exposes children-on-the-move, and denies their right to seek asylum

Safe routes to the UK, already limited and inaccessible for the majority of those who need them, are declining. Between 2019 and 2022, the number of people accessing the two main ‘safe routes’ to the United Kingdom - family reunion and resettlement schemes - fell by 40% and 75% respectively (1).


The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, acknowledged that, for anyone unable to access these schemes, the only ‘safe route’ available was to arrive on British soil and seek asylum (2). Without documentation, the only way to do this is to undertake the life-threatening journey across the channel. In 2021, the UK resettled only 22 Afghans fleeing war - leaving 8,633 forced to cross the channel (3).


​If the Illegal Migration Bill becomes law, all people who are forced to make this journey will be stripped of their right to seek asylum. People on the move will be denied safety, the chance to reunite with family and friends, and the chance to establish a new life for themselves as part of UK communities. Instead, they will be detained without the possibility of appeal and banished.

For children and young people seeking safety, the effects of this Bill are unclear - and deeply concerning. Alongside the removal of the right to seek asylum, these plans deny those forced to cross the channel the right to access anti-slavery protections. The Illegal Migration Bill will also reintroduce powers to detain young people, threaten them with removal at 18 years old, and deny children of asylum seekers the right to citizenship - even if they are born on UK soil. These plans have been widely condemned as posing a threat to safeguarding and child protection. The Children’s Commissioner for England has warned that they will incentivise children against seeking essential support, and heighten their risk of exploitation (4).

Katie Hall, Advocacy Coordinator, Project Play: “The Government’s proposals are devastating and terrifying in equal measures, and a shameful refusal of our legal and moral responsibility to offer safety to those fleeing war, conflict and persecution. Deterrence policies have been tirelessly pursued, and proven to achieve nothing more than to make the journeys of those seeking safety more dangerous (5)."

Paula Llopis, Communications Co-Coordinator, Europe Must Act: “The proposed Illegal Migration Bill will not “stop the boats” – but the creation of safe routes and a fair asylum system would. The UK Government must change its trajectory.”

Added to this, the Prime Minister’s announcement that he will invest £480m of taxpayer money to foot the bill of a new detention centre in northern France is not only inhumane but an insult to the British people. The Government’s own research shows that deterrence policies are ineffective.5 In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, with a crumbling NHS, investing half a billion pounds into a detention centre is not in the interests of the public, nor does it reflect our values of compassion and justice, let alone solve the ‘problem’ it purports to.

In pursuing these plans, the UK Government shows contempt for the rights created to protect us from state misconduct. Human rights are universal by nature – and a threat to the rights of one person is a threat to the rights of all. A government that admits a desire to shirk human rights is not a government acting in the interests of its people – and the exorbitant investment of vast sums of taxpayer money to fund their immoral, unworkable plans is evidence of this.

We are deeply concerned about the UK Government’s proposed ‘Illegal Migration Bill’. A bill that aims to strip the right to seek asylum from those fleeing war, conflict, and persecution and introduce draconian powers of detention. These plans are immoral, inhumane and unworkable – and the UK Government knows it. Project Play and Europe Must Act call on the Government to:

  • Ensure that safe routes are made accessible to all those who need them.

  • Respect the right to claim asylum, and invest in creating a fair and effective asylum system.

  • End indefinite detention, and ensure that powers to detain children are not reinstated.



Notes for Editors

Project Play France (PP) is a grassroots organisation that supports displaced children in northern France by providing safe spaces to play, learn and build self-esteem. PP is a group of volunteer teachers and play workers who believe in the power of play, and are mobilising for children on the move. For more information about PP, please visit


Europe Must Act (EMA) is a growing grassroots movement that brings together volunteers, people on the move, and NGOs, campaigning to end human rights abuses at our borders and increase relocation within Europe. Through local action in cities across Europe and grassroots advocacy at our borders, Europe Must Act aims to influence European migration policy. To connect with EMA, please contact


Further comments available.











Katie Hall, Advocacy Coordinator, Project Play France |

Elsa Beau, Communications Co-Coordinator and Raising Voices Coordinator, Europe Must Act |


Paula Llopis, Communications Co-Coordinator, Europe Must Act |

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