I spoke against the Nationality and Border Bill in Parliament, which puts the Home Secretary’s ‘New Plan for Immigration’ into law. I spoke out about the dangers of the Home Secretary’s New Plan for Immigration when it was published, highlighting the ‘cynical’ nature of an announcement of a new system predicated on safe and legal routes, without providing any details on such pathways to asylum.
So I was particularly disappointed, although not surprised, to see that in all the many pages of the Borders Bill, there’s no new detail on additional safe and legal routes, a point that I highlighted in my speech.
The Bill cynically claims to support refugees by cracking down on criminal gangs, but in fact it makes pathways to refuge more difficult and dangerous for the most desperate.
It proposes to criminalise irregular entry, flouting our obligations under article 31 of the 1951 refugee convention, according to the UN Refugee Agency. That refugee convention was signed by Attlee’s Government as we responded to lessons from the second world war, and to lessons from pre-war hostility in the media and among politicians to those fleeing Nazi persecution in Germany. The Convention prevents states from imposing penalties on account of mode of entry, but the Bill disregards that duty altogether by creating a two-tier system.
As stated by the Refugee Council and others, the provisions in the Bill which differentiate between asylum seekers who arrive through safe and legal routes and those who arrive irregularly are deeply worrying, and could lead to different treatment on length of leave being granted, No Recourse to Public Funds orders, rules on family reunion and others.
This discriminating treatment particularly impacts women and the most vulnerable, who have had to flee irregularly or who do not have access to documentation.
Additionally, Clause 24 proposes that the appeals process be fast-tracked, while Cclause 23 proposes that judges be told to give “minimal weight” to evidence raised by an asylum seeker later in the process, unless there are exceptional circumstances. This ignores the reality of how asylum claims are made and how those seeking asylum can gather and provide evidence.
I recently met refugee women in a meeting facilitated by the charity Women for Refugee Women. They explained how a one-stop process would force traumatised women to raise all the reasons that they need protection at the outset or risk being penalised. Those who have experienced extreme trauma may simply be unable to do that and must not be discriminated against for the very circumstances that have led them to seek asylum in our country.
You can read my full speech here and watch a clip below: