UK illegal migration bill approved by parliament's lower house

Prime Minister's Questions at the House of Commons, in London

LONDON (Reuters) -A new British law which seeks to bar the entry of asylum seekers arriving in small boats across the Channel was approved by the lower house of parliament on Wednesday, after the government accepted several amendments from rebel Conservatives.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made stopping small boat arrivals one of his five key priorities and the Illegal Migration Bill will mean anyone who arrives on small boats will be prevented from claiming asylum and deported either back to their homeland or to so-called safe third countries.

The House of Commons approved the so-called third reading of the bill by 289 votes to 230. It now passes to the House of Lords, where it could be amended or delayed.

"Illegal migration undermines the integrity of our immigration system," immigration minister Robert Jenrick told parliament ahead of the vote.

"That's why we want to stop the boats and secure our borders, and this bill is dedicated to that goal."

Critics and some charities have said the proposals could be impractical and criminalise the efforts of thousands of genuine refugees.

The government tabled several amendments to its plans to appease some of its own lawmakers, including clarifying the limited circumstances in which unaccompanied children could be deported and a commitment to set out the "safe and legal routes" for asylum seekers to reach Britain.

But other government amendments toughened the law, making it harder for those who are deported to seek a waiver of their ban on re-entry or gaining British citizenship, and limiting the ability of individuals to delay their removal to a third country by citing the risk of "serious and irreversible harm".

Two amendments proposed by Conservative lawmakers - one to remove the power to deport children before they turn 18 altogether and one to exempt victims of unlawful exploitation in Britain from removal - were withdrawn after the government said it would look at ways to do more on the issues raised.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout and Kylie MacLellan, Editing by Paul Sandle and Alex Richardson)