Nationality and Borders Bill (Second Reading)

My Monthly Newsletter for April

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The UK Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill has its Second Reading today.

The Government has proposed that the Bill has three underlying objectives:

  • To increase the fairness and efficacy of our system so that we can better protect and support those in genuine need of asylum;
  • To deter illegal entry into the UK, thereby breaking the business model of criminal trafficking networks and protecting the lives of those they endanger;
  • To remove more easily from the UK those with no right to be here.

This Bill is fundamentally flawed and means the Government will turn their backs some of the most vulnerable people in the world. I will be voting against it.

The Bill risks breaching international law and undermines global efforts to support victims of war and persecution.  The UN Refugee Agency has warned that these plans “will cause great suffering and undermine the 1951 (Refugee) Convention and international protection system, not just in the UK, but globally”.

The legislation even risks criminalising the RNLI for saving people at sea – and had this been in place when Sir Nicholas Winton was rescuing hundreds of children from the Holocaust on the Kindertransport it would have risked him being criminalised for his life-saving actions.

Core elements of the Bill are fatally flawed, the Government has made no proposal for replacing the Dublin III regulation and has no bilateral agreements with other countries. Without having any agreements in places, they will be unable to return of people with failed cases to other countries. This means the Bill will not work even on its own terms.

The Legislation seeks to allow the Government to deliver on plans to process people’s cases in so called ‘third countries’. In the lead up to the Bill, Conservatives have briefed to the media that this could include taking people to west Africa or oil rigs to have their cases heard.  These plans are immoral and wildly impractical.

The proposed two-tier refugee system will grant the Home Secretary sweeping powers to decide on asylum cases based on how someone arrives in the country and on their mode of transport, not on the strength of their claim.  Which is a clear concern of the UN Refugee Agency.

Rather than offering genuine proposals to fix the broken asylum system, which the Conservatives have been responsible for over 11 years, this dangerous Bill will make the situation even worse.

Despite extensive rhetoric about ‘safe and legal routes’, no new commitments on refugee resettlement or family reunion have been made.  The U.K. Government have refused to re-open many safe routes.  The new U.K. resettlement scheme, in its first month March 2021, resettled just 25 refugees. The Government also closed the Dubs scheme, having settled just a fraction of the 3,000 children initially envisaged.

Jo Stevens is the Member of Parliament for Cardiff Central, representing the Labour Party in Parliament since 2015.
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Jo Stevens is the Member of Parliament for Cardiff Central, representing the Labour Party in Parliament since 2015.

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