Key Facts about the Bill
The Nationality and Borders Bill is 87 pages and much has been written about it. Whilst we are strongly opposed to most of the measures contained within the bill we have attempted to outline some of the headline issues. More detailed information can be found in the briefings produced by our partners from across the refugee sector.
The Government says the proposed new legislation will put in place measures to ‘fix the broken asylum system’ which it set out in the New Plan for Immigration in April. Yet while it does little to address pressing problems in the system, such as the large and growing backlog of people waiting for decisions on their asylum claim, it contains measures which compound these and make it even harder for people fleeing war and persecution to find safety in the UK.
Key areas of concern in the Bill include:
- Differential treatment of refugees: Creating two classes of refugees based not on why they have come here (what forced them to flee their home) but on how they have come (for example, if they had no option to come here other than via irregular routes such as in lorries or boats). People arriving by irregular routes would get their claim for asylum deemed inadmissible (regardless of their need for protection). The inadmissibility rules have been in force since 1 Jan but will now be put into legislation. There will also be attempts made to rapidly return people who arrive irregularly to a safe third country (a country through which they passed on the way to the UK and is deemed to be safe), but this will require agreements with those countries to be in place. People who can’t be removed and found in need of protection, will be given temporary protection status which will be up to 30 months, they will have restricted family reunion rights, limited access to public funds and no automatic right to settlement. This could mean an estimated 9,000 to 21,600 people a year that the UK currently recognises as refugees being turned away in future.
- Preventing communities from welcoming people: A shift to putting people seeking sanctuary in institutional reception centres, rather than housing them in the community where they can receive more support and start to rebuild their lives. This is despite the scandal of the appalling conditions and Covid outbreaks suffered by asylum-seekers housed in disused army barracks over the last year. This can also endanger people who have struggled to find safety and make them vulnerable to attacks from the far right. Whilst unlikely to be achievable, the legislation also introduces powers to send people seeking asylum for ‘off-shore processing’ – similar to the deeply controversial approach used by Australia.
- Lack of safe routes: There are no firm commitments in the Bill on refugees coming to the UK through organised international resettlement programmes and other safe routes such as family reunion. This is despite the government’s supposed support for so called ‘legal’ (it is legal to enter the UK by any means possible in order to claim asylum) routes which it’s using to justify other measures to prevent people who arrive irregularly from getting protection.
- Criminalisation: The bill seeks to criminalise people helping people seeking sanctuary reach the UK via irregular routes – not just people smugglers but potentially refugees themselves, or others providing help by saving people from drowning, for example the RNLI.
If you like Podcasts then this one from the Coventry Asylum Seeker and Refugee Action group (CARAG) Still We Rise Podcast Series is well worth a listen and share: Sonya Sceats, Chief Executive of Freedom from Torture on the Borders & Nationality Bill
Asylum Welcome have a one and half minute film explaining key facts.