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Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission Responds to Illegal Migration Act Judgment

13 May 2024

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission welcomes today’s judgment.

The High Court found that a number of provisions in the Illegal Migration Act breached the UK’s obligations under Article 2(1) of the Windsor Framework and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Windsor Framework guarantees that following Brexit there will be no diminution of rights protected by the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. The Court has disapplied in Northern Ireland those provisions of the Illegal Migration Act which breach the Windsor Framework. It has also declared a number of the provisions incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Commission issued this 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.

We will now be considering the judgment in full and its implications.

Notes to editors

  1. In September 2023, the Northern Ireland Human Commission issued a legal challenge against the Illegal Migration Act (IMA) 2023 in the form of a judicial review at the High Court in Belfast. This challenge was against the Secretary of State for the Home Department and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
  2. The Commission issued legal proceedings as a last resort. It argued that once the IMA provisions come into force, they will have a very harmful effect on most asylum seekers who seek refuge in Northern Ireland, removing the ability to claim asylum except in very limited circumstances. In particular there would be a failure to protect some of the most vulnerable people including children and victims of human trafficking and exploitation.
  3. The Commission decided to issue the challenge due to the significant human rights implications the IMA will have for asylum seekers in Northern Ireland, in particular the barriers created for individual legal challenges removing the ability to appeal and judicially review decisions in most circumstances.
  4. The Commission had raised concerns about the compatibility of the legislation with the UK Government’s human rights obligations during its passage through Parliament. The Commission made recommendations to the UK Home Office, which were not followed, and the Bill received Royal Assent on 20 July 2023.
  5. Summary of judgment here.
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