We will collate reports of the Nationality & Borders Bill which has come out of the recent ‘New Plan for Immigration’; and reports related to Home Office practice.
When the will is there, it can be done – that is our point:
18 January 2022: Good Law Project: Nationality & Borders Bill: we asked the experts:
Today, we are publishing advice about the extension to the powers to strip Britons of their citizenship in the Nationality and Borders Bill. The advice was commissioned from some of the country’s leading immigration barristers, Raza Husain QC, Jason Pobjoy and Eleanor Mitchell, instructed by Leigh Day solicitors. We worked with Media Diversified and CAGE to commission it.
The advice is conclusive, and alarming:
- “Clause 9, as presently framed, confers upon the Secretary of State an exorbitant, ill-defined and unconstitutional power to make a deprivation order without notice.”
- The new powers are “identified in terms so broad and vague that, and on their face, they do very little to constrain the exercise of the Secretary of State’s discretion”.
- “Exercise of the deprivation power has a disproportionate impact on non-white British citizens”.
- Even without Clause 9, “the United Kingdom already has significantly more power to deprive an individual of their citizenship than any other G20 country.”
- It describes the Clause 9 removal of the right to notice, by analogy, as “astonishingly unjust.”
We share the concerns expressed by a wide range of civil society groups about what Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill means. The provisions will affect the citizenship of almost half of all Asian British people and two in five Black Britons.
Media Diversified told us: “Up to six million people will live in fear that one wrong move, even just one unforced error or car accident could see us arrested, judged in secret and deported. This targeted, racist legislation is an existential threat to all our loved ones, neighbours, and colleagues.”
Muhammad Rabbani, CAGE Managing Director, said: “The legal opinion outlines that citizenship deprivation overwhelmingly and disproportionately impacts minorities. This is two tier citizenship in action, and why the Bill must be challenged. Citizenship is a right we must all enjoy equally.”
We hope this legal analysis informs the debate in the House of Lords and the House of Commons. It notes Hannah Arendt’s oft-quoted observation that citizenship is “the right to have rights”, and contrasts it with the troubling rhetoric recently adopted by the Home Office that “British citizenship is a privilege not a right”.
Whatever the Government’s intent, provisions which make it easier to remove the contingent citizenship held by large numbers of black and brown people are racist in effect. We are inviting the Government to reflect on whether it wishes to embed racism in our legislation.
You can read the full legal advice from Raza Husain, Jason Pobjoy and Eleanor Mitchell here.
Good Law Project only exists thanks to donations from people across the UK. If you’re in a position to support our work, you can do so here.
Media Diversified is a non-profit working to enrich, engage and improve the UK’s media landscape. The organisation was founded in 2013 with a mission to challenge the homogeneity of voices in UK news media, through addressing the under-representation of BAME communities.
CAGE is an independent grassroots organisation striving for a world free of injustice and oppression. They campaign against discriminatory state policies and advocate for due process and the rule of law.
Updated 15 January 2022: In addition to the Nationality & Borders Bill, this Government is pushing through the draconian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which reaches the ‘Report Stage on its journey through Parliament on 17 January 2022.
Today there were many people demonstrating despite the freezing temperatures in London, Bristol, Coventry, Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Plymouth, against the freedoms this new Bill will erode.
Quakers express deep concerns about this Bill: Overview of our concerns
Quakers in Britain object to bill for three main reasons:
• It strikes at the heart of our human right to freedom of assembly. Quakers put their faith into action by trying to bring about positive change through nonviolent means. Protest is one of the ways in which we do this.
• It will have disproportionately negative effect on groups who are already marginalised in our society, including Black people and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
• It increases the punitive nature of our policing and criminal justice system by increasing fines, prison sentences and ‘stop and search’. We do not believe this makes for a safer or happier society. We encourage MPs to listen to the Criminal Justice Alliance and Liberty on these issues.’
Read more here: https://www.quaker.org.uk/blog/crunch-time-for-policing-bill
Criminal Justice Alliance: How the PCSC Bill will deepen racial inequality in the criminal justice system 20th October 2021
Since the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was first introduced into Parliament in March, charities, GPs, social workers, nurses, teachers and members of the general public have sounded the alarm over its impact on minority groups. […
Pulling up the Drawbridge on Fortress Britain by Libby Ruffle from QARN Steering Group
Government policy and practice consistently treat asylum and migration as security issues to be tackled via hard borders and military enforcement. Libby Ruffle describes how, in its Nationality and Borders Bill, the government is closing the door on those risking their lives in dangerous channel crossings in a desperate search for safety from war and repression.
Members speaking : Baroness Williams of Trafford (Conservative), Minister of State at the Home Office, will open the debate and respond on behalf of the government.
- Lord Dubs (Labour), former chief Executive, Refugee Council and former trustee, Immigration Advisory Service
- Baroness Hamwee (Liberal Democrat), Liberal Democrat spokesperson on immigration
- Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (Crossbench), trustee, Refugee Council
- Baroness Warsi (Conservative), adviser, Tracks of Peace (UK charity promoting human, racial and religious tolerance among communities and nations in conflict).
From today’s debate:
Re Clause 9: 5.03: Baroness Fox of Buckley
What really worries me is the Home Office’s response to all this on Clause 9. It is constantly quoted as saying:
“British citizenship is a privilege, not a right.”
Excuse me? Actually, British citizenship is a right for all British citizens. It worries me that the Home Office considers it its gift to hand down or snatch away. It suggests a two-tier citizenship atmosphere. Frances Webber,** vice-chair of the Institute of Race Relations, spells out the consequences when she says that it
“sends the message that certain citizens, despite being born and brought up in the UK, and having no other home, remain migrants in this country. Their citizenship, and therefore all their rights, are precarious and contingent.”
If this Government want to encourage new migrants to integrate into British society and make them feel welcome, they should drop Clause 9.
**Frances Webber – see the article below dated 17 December 2021 – Institute of Race Relations
Read a transcript of the debate here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2022-01-05/debates/5565C246-FDC7-4A38-86E8-52825DE21125/NationalityAndBordersBill
Exclusive: Equalities campaigner Lord Woolley says controversial legislation has echoes of Windrush scandal
The controversial Nationality and Borders Bill will make Black and Asian Britons second-class citizens as they face the possibility of having their UK citizenship revoked without notice, a peer has warned.
Lord Woolley, an equalities activist, said he would also face being stripped of citizenship under Clause 9 of the bill in this way as his mother was born in the Caribbean.
Under the proposed legislation, which is being debated in the House of Lords on Wednesday, those who are eligible for citizenship of another country could be quietly stripped of UK status if it were deemed to be in the “national interest”.
“This will further exacerbate the reality that millions of British people, many of African, Caribbean and Asian descent, are second class citizens,” Lord Woolley told The Independent.
“I’m a lord of this realm and yet I’d be rendered as such because my mother was born in Barbados.
1 January 2022: Guardian: UK ministers eager to ease immigration rules for Indian citizens
Offer could be on table in upcoming trade talks in Delhi in bid to access to country’s growing economy
Ministers are keen to ease immigration restrictions in a bid to make it easier for thousands of Indian citizens to live and work in the UK as part of forthcoming trade talks.
The potential offer will be under discussion when the international trade secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, travels to Delhi this month, reports the Times. Relaxing immigration rules for Indian citizens is a key demand from Delhi.
and … 24 December 2021: BBC: Social care: Immigration rules to be relaxed to recruit staff
Immigration rules are to be temporarily relaxed for overseas care workers in a bid to recruit and keep staff, the government has announced.
Social care workers, care assistants and home care workers are to become eligible for a health and care visa for a 12-month period.
The government said this would make it easier to fill gaps in workforces.
It followed warnings the sector faced “severe and increasing” problems with hiring and keeping staff after Brexit.
Care workers are to be added to the shortage occupation list, which is designed to help migrants get work visas to fill jobs where there are shortages.
The temporary measures are expected to come into effect early next year, the Department of Health and Social Care said, and will be in place for a minimum of 12 months.
After this, the arrangement will be reviewed, the department added.
Since the UK left the EU, social care workers from EU countries are no longer automatically eligible to work in the UK and instead have to apply for a visa.
This month, the Migration Advisory Committee, the government’s official immigration advisers, recommended that care workers should be added to the shortage occupation list.
Inclusion on the list will require carers to be given a minimum annual salary of £20,480.
Care workers and carers from overseas will be able to move to the UK with dependents, including partners and children, and the visa offers a path to settlement, the DHSC said.
There will also be fast-track processing of applications, the department said, and reduced visa fees.
The standard application fee for a health and care worker visa is £232 per person for those who stay in the UK for up to three years and £464 per person for more than three years.
Visas can last for up to five years before they need to be extended.
17 December 2021: Institute of Race Relations: Clause 9: Of all the abhorrent clauses in the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, which passed its Commons stages last week, it is clause 9 – which would allow ministers to revoke the citizenship of British nationals without notice on ‘public interest’ grounds, which has caused the most outrage. When the New Statesman reported that the clause could affect up to six million citizens who have or have access to a second citizenship, most from ethnic minorities, fear and anger erupted on social media, in the press, in parliament and in MPs’ constituency surgeries. Activists and community groups have responded with alacrity to raise the alarm, with almost a quarter of a million people signing a parliamentary petition to remove the clause from the bill. The IRR is working with several organisations including Reprieve, Muslim Association of Britain, Rights and Security International, and Status Now for All to oppose clause 9.
Although the clause doesn’t change the law on who can lose citizenship and on what grounds, with the Home Office now openly declaring that ‘citizenship is a privilege, not a right’, it has brought home to a wider public what Black and Muslim communities have long since known; namely the precarious nature of British citizenship as a result of changes brought in since 2002, and the ‘deportation logic’ on which they are based. This logic – ship ‘em out, regardless of family ties, or how long they have lived here, if they cause trouble, or can’t prove their right to be here – deprived the Windrush generation of their livelihoods, their homes, and in some cases their freedom and their country. Now, this deportation logic, which is inherently expansive, is applied to British-born citizens too – and this fact drives public anger. But it has been internalised to the extent that some of the Bill’s opponents have fallen into the trap of calling for the deportation of its architects. While some may think it is obvious that their comments are ironic, sarcasm if it is not used carefully can end up cutting us.
Anti-racists need to seize this moment, to build on the anger and revulsion to make connections. We should reflect that this latest assault is not exceptional, but the intended expansion of a violent system that dehumanises the most vulnerable, excludes ‘undeserving’ others and entrenches hierarchies of belonging. Our ambition should be wider than simply getting rid of clause 9 – we should have in our sights the exclusionary logic of citizenship deprivation and its expansion since 2002, and also the parallel exclusionary logic which will see refugees pushed back, denied sanctuary and offshored by this Bill.
As ever, policies that create hierarchies of belonging and campaigns that push back against dehumanisation are further touched upon in our regular calendar of racism and resistance. The last two weeks have been marked by the sheer number of legal challenges, whistleblower revelations and investigations into government asylum and border policies in the UK, Denmark and Greece. But there are other ways too to counter hierarchies of belonging, as students at Durham University well know. They simply walked out of a Christmas event because they objected to guest speaker Rod Liddle’s ‘transphobic and racist’ views, prompting a formal investigation by the university.
15 December 2021: The Conversation: Stripping British citizenship: the government’s new bill explained
A restrictive new immigration law being debated in parliament has huge implications, not only for people seeking asylum in Britain but also for British citizens.
The nationality and borders bill is now in the House of Lords for readings after passing through the House of Commons. The bill makes it a criminal offence to arrive in the UK without permission, with a maximum sentence of up to four years. The bill lets the UK send asylum seekers to a “safe third country”, and can allow for offshore processing centres overseas instead of considering their asylum claims in the UK.
15 December 2021: Gov.Wales: Wales and Scotland unite to call for talks on concerns with UK asylum policy
In a wide ranging letter, Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt, and Scottish Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison have written to the Home Office asking for urgent talks on the significant concerns with the Nationality and Borders Bill and asked for discussions to help prevent further loss of life in the English Channel.
The Scottish and Welsh governments also raised significant concerns with the National Transfer Scheme for unaccompanied asylum seeking children and issues around asylum dispersal.
The International Organisation for Migration report that 166 people have been recorded as dead or missing since 2014 after undertaking the dangerous journey across the Channel, including 27 who perished in November.
The full text of the letter is included here:
Updated 14 December 2021: **Petition to sign** National Scot: Borders Bill: 145,000 people sign petition urging rethink on citizenship clause
Kashif Iqbal hopes the petition he started will lead to changes to the Nationality and Borders Bill in the House of Lords .
ONE of the clauses in the controversial new Nationality and Borders Bill seeks to revoke the British citizenship of members of ethnic minority communities without notice under the guise of national security.
Now a British Pakistani whose home is in Glasgow has launched a petition on Change.org against Clause 9, saying it is against international law and would be especially problematic for British Asian Muslims.
Kashif Iqbal, who manages a men’s grooming salon in the city, started the petition before MPs passed the Bill, and so far it has gathered around 145,000 signatures. [Sign here]
He said the UK Government had “quietly” made the changes to Clause 9, to allow the removal of citizenship should an individual be deemed a security threat.
“The changes are draconian and offer an individual little to no chance to appeal,” he said.
“It is against international law to deprive a person of citizenship and inhumane not to allow one to appeal a decision made in their absence or knowledge. This practise is alien and frowned upon even by the UK’s closest allies.
How did MPs vote on 8 December 2021 : you can toggle between MPs by name and by Party:https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-12-08/division/F5657738-02C5-4128-896F-150DC871BCF4/NationalityAndBordersBill?outputType=Party
9 December 2021 update: Status Now Network Editorial – An exponential expansion of the number of people in the UK with precarious status: one potential implication of Clause 9 of the current Nationality and Borders Bill.
‘“It’s a horrible Clause”. Frances Webber, Institute of Race Relations, London.
The idea that ‘an uncommunicated decision can bind an individual’ is ‘an astonishing proposition’.
In August of this year Sky News published analysis of the last three years of ‘complete’ Home Office data relating to migration. Demonstrating that the people who arrive in the UK in small boats and who generally claim asylum are only a small fraction of the number of migrants arriving in the UK each year, it admitted that ‘These numbers are based on estimates. The real number of unauthorised people in the UK is not known as official figures cannot capture the true reality.’ Sky News then fell back onto the much-cited Pew Research figure dating from 2019 that describes there being between 0.8-1.2 million migrant people in the UK who are ‘unauthorised’. The Status Now Network favours the term ‘precarious’ to describe everyone in the UK without secure status.
Read more here: https://statusnow4all.org/an-exponential-expansion-of-the-number-of-people-in-the-uk-with-precarious-status-one-potential-implication-of-clause-9-of-the-current-nationality-and-borders-bill/
8 December 2021: The New Statesman: What does the Nationality and Borders Bill mean for you?
Under the legislation, the home secretary would be able to deprive British people of citizenship without telling them first.
8 December 2021 update: Migrant Voice Deeply disappointing to see the inhumane and draconian Nationality & #BordersBill pass Commons 298 to 231 today. The bill violates and undermines international protection laws, puts lives at risk and criminalises seeking protection. #HostileEnvironment
From SNN signatory JCWI: Toolkit link below: Under the Hostile Environment, borders are everywhere. We might be questioned about our immigration status at a job interview, at the doctor’s office, in our faith community or even just in the street.
The Hostile Environment affects us all, migrant and non-migrant. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be dismantled – in fact, it means that all of us, no matter where we’re from or how we got here, can have the power to bring it down.
There are lots of things you can do to build your power and be part of the movement to dismantle the Hostile Environment – but it can be hard to know where to start.
That’s why we’ve put together this toolkit of information and resources, to put the power back in your hands. Maybe you want to build your knowledge about the Hostile Environment. Maybe you want to grow your community and get other people active, too. Or maybe you want to stand in solidarity with people affected by the Hostile Environment.
Knowledge is power. Community is power. Solidarity is power.
2 December 2021: Immigration Advisory Service briefing : Committee’s report finds Patel’s immigration plan to be illegal:
A report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights has found that Priti Patel’s new
immigration plans contained in the Nationality and Borders Bill could be illegal.
The report comes as part of the committees ongoing legislative scrutiny of the Nationality and Borders Bill and is focused on part 3 of the bill which sets out changes to immigration law and new powers for enforcement.
The home secretary has claimed that the Nationality and Borders bill will fix the “fundamentally broken asylum system”. One of the tactics that the Home Office has suggested includes pushback methods that would see small boats turned back towards France. In their report, the committee said that this is “likely to see the UK act in contravention of its international obligations.”
The committee has called for the government to instead prioritise measures to protect asylum seekers. They have also asked for reassurance that border force officials wouldn’t be granted immunity if they commit a crime that leads to a loss of life at sea, which is another provision the home secretary is attempting to introduce as part of the Nationality and Borders Bill.
The report said:
“If a criminal offence has been committed whilst undertaking pushbacks or other maritime enforcement operations, it is difficult to understand why there should be a specific defence or immunity from prosecution for immigration officers or enforcement officers.”
Priti Patel faces three legal challenges
Priti Patel is already facing three legal challenges over her plans to push back asylum seekers who are crossing the Channel in an attempt to reach the UK.
The charities Care4Calais, Channel Rescue and Freedom from Torture are involved
in the legal challenges that argue that the home secretary’s plans are unlawful under
human rights and maritime law.
The first challenge from Care4Calais is focused on whether the Home Office has actually created a policy on pushbacks and argues that any policy should be published so that it can be scrutinized.
The second challenge from Channel Rescue argues that the pushback policy breaches maritime law which is a requirement under the UN convention for vessels to provide assistance to those in danger or distress at sea.
The third challenge from Freedom from Torture argues that the pushback policy has no legal basis, is forbidden by the Refugee Convention and allows unlawful conduct by UK officials.
Clare Moseley, the founder of Care4Calais, said:
“Pushbacks prioritise politics over people’s lives. Refugees are innocent people who were simply unfortunate enough to be born in the wrong place. They are asking for our help. It is inhumane to punish them for this.”
What is the Home Secretary’s plan for immigration?
As part of her new plan for immigration, Priti Patel is seeking to introduce the Nationality and Borders Bill which would see an overhaul of the UK asylum system.
The Bill features many controversial policies, just a few of which include:
● Plans to pushback asylum seekers crossing the English Channel via small boats
● The criminalization of asylum seekers who use irregular means to get to the UK
● Immunity for border force officials who commit a crime that leads to a death at sea
The new plans have come under intense scrutiny by charities, human rights activists and lawyers who claim that the plans are unlawful and undermine human rights law.
- Read the full report (HTML)
- Read the full report (PDF)
- Read the report summary
- Read the report’s conclusions and recommendations
- Find all publications related to this inquiry, including oral and written evidence
Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church.: Nationality and Borders Bill
We’re calling on churches and groups locally to take action
In 2021, the UK Government introduced the Nationality and Borders Bill to parliament. This followed a consultation on the Home Office ‘New Plan for Immigration’ earlier this year.
The bill could have a major effect on the way this country responds to those in need of sanctuary. It seeks to introduce new policies which differentiate between the way asylum seekers are treated depending on how they reach the UK, among others.
Key points of the bill include:
- Making it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission
- Reforming the asylum system so that the route via which someone arrives in the UK will determine the way a claim for asylum is processed. People arriving in the UK via an ‘irregular’ route (e.g. a channel crossing) will be sent back to a ‘safe’ country they passed through on their way to the UK, or granted only temporary permission to stay in the UK, with limited family reunion rights and limited access to benefits.
- Increasing the punishment for people smugglers and gangs who facilitate entry to the UK
- Introducing “reception centres” for asylum seekers and those whose claims have been rejected, providing “simple, safe and secure accommodation” while claims and returns are being processed
- Streamlining and integrating the legal and asylum claim processes
- Strengthening the safe and legal ways in which people can enter the UK, including through the new UK Resettlement Scheme which started in February 2021, and granting resettled refugees indefinite leave to remain when they get to the UK.
Campaign on the Nationality and Borders Bill
Many Church leaders and Christian organisations have expressed concern about these proposals. Many of the measures risk creating more injustices in the system which will increase the trauma and pain experienced by asylum seekers attempting to reach safety in the UK.
We’re calling on churches and groups locally to take action, to Show Your Heart for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.
Send us you Show Your Heart selfie
Join with us to ‘Show Your Heart’ for refugees and asylum seekers.
Send us a selfie of you with an orange heart before 7 December 2021, and join with thousands of others across the UK to say we stand Together With Refugees.
Download our new campaign pack, which helps you Prepare, Pray, Participate and Persuade around the bill.
What have Churches said about the bill?
In May 2021, more than 80 Church organisations issued an Open Statement to the Home Secretary, which you can read here.
JPIT’s denominations have joined Together With Refugees, a coalition of charities, faith groups and international development groups who believe in standing up for people’s ability to seek safety in the UK no matter how they came here.
Updated 28 November 2021: Lord Kerr of Kinlochard brilliantly eviscerates government claims about refugees in the House of Lords. The facts, stark and clear. #RefugeesWelcome #Migrants
It really is not a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Desai, because he raises the bar far too high. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, for this appallingly well-timed debate, to which I would just like to contribute three sets of facts. First, overall refugee numbers are currently running at about half of where they were 20 years ago. We are not the preferred destination in Europe. We are, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, well down the list of preferred destinations.
Secondly, yes, small boat numbers are up, partly for the reason the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, adduced—the fences, patrols and heat sensors around the train tracks and marshalling yards mean that people are now driven to the even more dangerous sea route. But the principal reason clandestine numbers are up is that official resettlement routes are shut. Our schemes, in practice, no longer exist. We have closed the Syrian scheme, we have scrapped the Dubs scheme, we have left Dublin III and we have not got an Afghan scheme up and running. The largest group crossing the channel in the last 18 months, by nationality, were Iranians. In the last 18 months, 3,187 Iranians came. In the same period, one got in by the official route. How many came from Yemen in these 18 months? Yemen is riven by civil war and famine. None came by the official route — not one
My third set of facts is as in the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. The Home Secretary says that 70% of channel crossers are
“economic migrants … not genuine asylum seekers”.
That is plainly not true. Her own department’s data show that, of the top 10 nationalities arriving in small boats, virtually all seek asylum—61% are granted it at the initial stage and 59% of the rest on appeal. The facts suggest that well over 70% of asylum seekers coming across the channel in small boats are genuine asylum seekers, not economic migrants.
That is hardly surprising because the top four countries they come from are Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria—not Ghana, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Lilley. These people are fleeing persecution and destitution, and the sea route from France is the only one open to many of them. Why not have a humanitarian visa, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said? The noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, gave the answer to the objection of the noble Lord, Lord Lilley. Those who had a valid claim for asylum would not be at peril on the sea.
Unless we provide a safe route, we are complicit with the people smugglers. Yes, we can condemn their case and we mourn yesterday’s dead, but that does not seem to stop us planning to break with the refugee convention. Our compassion is well controlled because it does not stop us planning, in the borders Bill, to criminalise those who survive the peril of the seas and those at Dover who try to help them. Of course, we can go down that road. But if we do, let us at least be honest enough to admit that what drives us down that road is sheer political prejudice, not the facts, because the facts do not support the case for cruelty.
Watch Lord Kerr here: https://twitter.com/natalieben/status/1464262672699043850
[…] That has not stopped Patel putting new measures to parliament in the nationality and borders bill. They include the forcible return of boats to France, removing the £38 a week for those who arrive by any other route other than a government settlement scheme, housing asylum seekers in large reception centres, scrapping the appeals system, despite the Home Office’s dire track record on decision-making and offshoring the processing of asylum seekers in the same way that Australia has done, to international condemnation. Many of these measures break international maritime law and the 1951 refugee convention and would be subject to legal challenge. Patel just last week claimed to be negotiating with Albania regarding the offshoring and processing of asylum seekers who are Britain’s responsibility; Albanian government officials have dismissed this as “fake news”.
Read the whole article here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/nov/21/observer-view-migrant-crisis-priti-patel
20 November 2021: Observer: Home Office ‘covering up’ its own study of why refugees come to the UK
Ministers argue that accepting asylum seekers creates a ‘pull factor’, but are refusing to release their evidence
The Home Office is covering up its own research into why refugees and asylum seekers travel to the UK because ministers “know their arguments don’t stand up,” charities claim.
Officials are refusing to release its evidence on whether so-called “pull factors” play a part in asylum seekers making journeys to the UK.
Home Office minister Chris Philp has claimed that accepting asylum seekers who have travelled through Europe “creates a pull factor where migrants are incentivised to undertake dangerous and illegal journeys”.Advertisement
Yet when the Home Office was asked for evidence to support its claims, it refused. A freedom of information response dated 28 October says the material could not be disclosed because it was “likely to inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation”.
Sophie McCann, advocacy officer at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) UK accused ministers of knowing their arguments were ill-founded. McCann said: “Ministers are covering up evidence which is central to their case for the need to target refugees and asylum seekers with inhumane ‘deterrence’ measures.
“Ministers are refusing to release the evidence they hold on whether or not such a pull factor even exists.
McCann added: “The reality is that ‘pull factors’ are a myth – people who are fleeing persecution or conflict don’t need any further incentive to look for safety. It is hard to see why the government would refuse to share evidence which supports its plans – the only conclusion to draw is that they know their arguments don’t stand up.”
18 November 2021: From ICIBI – Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration: An inspection of asylum casework (August 2020 – May 2021) published 18 November 2021
‘New Plan for Immigration’ and inadmissibility
13.20 The Home Secretary announced the Government’s ‘New Plan for Immigration’ (the Plan) policy statement in an oral statement to Parliament on 25 March 2021.249 An accompanying online public consultation ran until 6 May 2021.250
13.21 The Plan states that the reason for AO’s inability to make timely decisions on asylum claims is due to the “rapid intake of asylum claims into the outdated system”.251 It did not explain how the Plan’s proposals would assist AO in assessing asylum claims in a timely manner, or help to modernise its caseworking system to allow for more efficient and effective processing and decision making.
13.22 The policy proposals focus on addressing the Government’s concerns around abuse of the asylum system, deterring asylum seekers from entering the UK ‘illegally’, and on strengthening enforcement of removal decisions. Many of the measures will require new primary legislation. The proposals include, but are not limited to: ending the use of hotels as contingency asylum accommodation, establishing reception centres, raising the standard of proof and allowing for the processing of asylum claims overseas. Those who arrived ‘illegally’ would also be restricted from accessing refugee status (five years) and after that, Indefinite Leave to Remain. They would instead be given a ‘temporary protection status’ that would expire after 30 months, after which they would be reassessed for return to their country of origin, removal to another safe country or re-granted 30 further months’ of leave if they still require protection.
13.23 The Plan has received widespread condemnation from MPs, NGOs, academics, and faith groups.252 A total of 192 organisations signed a joint letter in April 2021,253 in which proposals in the Plan were considered as being “vague, unworkable, cruel and potentially unlawful”. On 10 May 2021, the UNHCR, while welcoming the UK’s continued commitment to legal pathways and better integration support offered to resettled and reunited refugee families, raised concerns that the Plan could lead to a “discriminatory two-tier asylum system” and potentially undermine the 1951 Refugee Convention.
13.24 None of those whose cases have been referred to TCU for inadmissible consideration have been removed as at June 2021. In the absence of return agreements, the process as is will likely add a further six months’ delay to all asylum claims and is simply acting as a barrier to case progression.
17 November 2021: Guardian: New bill quietly gives powers to remove British citizenship without notice
Clause added to nationality and borders bill also appears to allow Home Office to act retrospectively in some cases
Individuals could be stripped of their British citizenship without warning under a proposed rule change quietly added to the nationality and borders bill.
Clause 9 – “Notice of decision to deprive a person of citizenship” – of the bill, which was updated earlier this month, exempts the government from having to give notice if it is not “reasonably practicable” to do so, or in the interests of national security, diplomatic relations or otherwise in the public interest.
Critics say removing citizenship, as in the case of Shamima Begum, who fled Britain as a schoolgirl to join Islamic State in Syria, is already a contentious power, and scrapping the requirement for notice would make the home secretary’s powers even more draconian.
For more information click here
The rally is being organised by people with experience of the asylum system with support from Solidarity With Refugees, Women for Refugee Women and IMIX, but we want it to belong to us all.
For more details on the Nationality and Borders Bill, this from the JCWI is excellent: https://bit.ly/3z6uMNc
Updated 15 October 2021: Guardian: Priti Patel threatening to use X-rays to verify asylum seekers’ ages
Nationality and borders bill would allow for ‘scientific’ measuring of bones or taking of DNA samples
Priti Patel is threatening to X-ray migrants suspected of lying about their age and impose visa penalties on countries that do not cooperate with deportations of their own citizens, under newly announced plans.
[…] But previous proposals to use dental X-rays to verify the age of migrants have provoked an outcry from doctors and dentists who say they are inaccurate and that it is unethical to take radiographs of people without a health benefit.
Updated 13 October 2021: Inter Faith Network: A CALL FOR SAFE, HUMANE AND DIGNIFIED TREATMENT OF REFUGEES AND THOSE SEEKING ASYLUM
Faith Communities Forum statement on response to refugees and asylum seekers
“Our globe is increasingly criss-crossed by journeys of people in often desperate pursuit of safety and sanctuary: adults and children in flight from war, tyranny, persecution and other evils or seeking a life free from extreme poverty, hunger and deprivation.
In a context where the UK and a number of other countries are looking at tightening borders and immigration laws, we call attention to the importance of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol and to observance of this. There will be differing views on particular policies and their implementation and the factors that have to be taken into account. In all cases, however, the response should aim to reflect the best of our humanity.
It is, at this time, for example, a matter of deep concern to us that a policy of ‘push back’ of boats in the channel has been adopted. Regardless of care taken in exercise of the policy, there would be significant dangers both to those ‘pushed back’ and to the Border Force personnel called upon to implement it. We call upon the Government to seek alternative approaches to deal with the crossings.
The Inter Faith Network for the UK has, since its inception, worked to promote good inter faith relations, including through raising awareness of the common ground of the different faith communities, such as fundamental values that are shared. Among these values are those such as justice and compassion and the fundamental principle of treating others as we would ourselves be treated: the ‘golden rule’.
Drawing on the common values at the heart of our different and distinct faith traditions we call for safe, humane and dignified treatment of refugees and those seeking asylum.”
THE FAITH COMMUNITIES FORUM OF THE INTER FAITH NETWORK FOR THE UK
11 October 2021
- Media queries to the Inter Faith Network: email email@example.com.
- This statement can be found at http://interfaith.org.uk/resources/statements-and-messages and a copy of IFN’s statement making policy at https://www.interfaith.org.uk/uploads/Policy_on_making_of_statements.pdf.
- The Inter Faith Network for the UK www.interfaith.org.uk was founded in 1987 to advance public knowledge and mutual understanding of the teachings, traditions and practices of the different faith communities in Britain and to promote good relations between people of different faiths in this country. It works with its member bodies and others to carry out these aims.
- Member bodies of the Inter Faith Network include: national faith community representative bodies; national, regional and local inter faith bodies; and academic institutions and educational bodies concerned with inter faith issues. A list of member bodies can be found at www.interfaith.org.uk/members.
- IFN member National Faith Community Representative Bodies meet together as the Faith Communities Forum of IFN. More information can be found at https://www.interfaith.org.uk/about/faith-communities-forum.
- The Act of Commitment, developed by the UK’s faith communities with IFN at the time of the Millennium, is one expression of key values held in common: https://www.interfaith.org.uk/resources/act-of-commitment.
- Information about the 1951 UN Convention and its 1967 Protocol can be found at https://www.unhcr.org/uk/1951-refugee-convention.html.
- The definition of a ‘refugee’ according to The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is: “A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”
- In 2020 there were 29,815 applications for asylum in the UK (not including dependants). In the UK, a person becomes a refugee when government agrees that an individual who has applied for asylum meets the definition in the Refugee Convention.
Updated 12 October 2021: Guardian: Priti Patel’s borders bill ‘breaches international and domestic law’
Lawyers’ report says bill will lead to multiple challenges under international human rights
Priti Patel’s controversial new borders bill breaches international and domestic law in at least 10 different ways, a report from a team of leading immigration lawyers has concluded.
Four barristers led by the human rights QC Raza Husain claim that the nationality and borders bill, which is moving through parliament, will lead to challenges under international human rights and refugee treaties.
Following 95 pages of legal opinion commissioned by the human rights group Freedom From Torture, they conclude: “This bill represents the biggest legal assault on international refugee law ever seen in the UK.
“The principle at the heart of the bill is the penalisation, both criminally and administratively, of those who arrive by irregular means in the UK to claim asylum and the bill seeks to reverse a number of important decisions of the UK courts, including at the House of Lords and court of appeal level, given over the last 20 years.”
The legal opinion draws up battle lines between the government and human rights lawyers that are likely to be tested in courts if, as expected, the bill passes through parliament and becomes law in the spring.
Updated 8 October 2021: (thanks to No Deportations) Crimes of Arrival in the Nationality and Borders Bill
The Nationality and Borders Bill further criminalises people coming to the UK to seek asylum. It does so by switching the emphasis from ‘entering’ the UK to ‘arriving’ in the UK. The difference is significant. Together with a combination of other powers, it means that people can be stopped from crossing the English Channel in small boats and turned away for criminal behaviour. If by luck they land on the English coastline, they can be prosecuted. But many such people will be asylum seekers, with a right to come to the UK and seek asylum. The proposal ignores the provision of the Refugee Convention (Article 31) that prohibits penalties being imposed on Refugees who enter or are present in a country without authorisation. The result is incompatible with UK international commitments.
Crimes of Arrival: The Nationality and Bill makes several important changes to immigration-related criminal offences. First, it introduces a new provision so that a person who requires entry clearance (such as a visa) under the Immigration Rules and who knowingly arrives in the United Kingdom without a valid entry clearance will commit an offence (clause 37 of the Bill amending section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971). This expands the power to prosecute a person. Currently, immigration offences focus ion ‘entry’ to the UK. But ‘entry’ has a special meaning and presenting yourself on arrival or subsequent temporary admission to the UK does not count as ‘entry’. Further, in reshaping this offence, the Bill makes no provision for a defence under Article 31 of the Refugee Convention.
Read more: Adrian Berry, Cosmopolis, https://is.gd/glBXwm
From European Network on Statelessness: As many of you know, recently, ENS provided evidence to Parliament on the Nationality & Borders Bill, focusing on Part 1, Clause 9 that concerns stateless minors. A recording of the evidence session is available here https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/362b3398-a90f-4715-9c44-835798a6d83e?in=16:13:12
We have serious concerns that the changes proposed in Clause 9 of the NBB will lead to an increase in childhood statelessness in the UK, unnecessarily leaving more children in limbo and exposed to the detrimental impacts of growing up without a nationality. We therefore submitted that Clause 9 should be dropped.
In addition, we and the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC) and Amnesty International UK, provided a submission to the JCHR Public Bill Committee (you can find a copy here Joint submission to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee https://www.statelessness.eu/updates/publications/joint-submission-uk-house-commons-public-bill-committee-nationality-borders
- The Nationality and Borders Bill1 follows almost to the letter the Government’s New Plan
for Immigration Policy Statement,2 issued on 24 March 2021, in some cases adding
further restrictions on the right to claim asylum and on the rights of refugees. UNHCR
must therefore regretfully reiterate its considered view that the Bill is fundamentally at
odds with the Government’s avowed commitment to upholding the United Kingdom’s
international obligations under the Refugee Convention3 and with the country’s longstanding role as a global champion for the refugee cause.
- We set out below our main areas of concern, reflecting our supervisory role with regard
to the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol (together, “the Refugee Convention”).4
Due to the length and complexity of the Bill, it has not been possible to respond to all of
its clauses in the limited time available. Our lack of comment on any particular clause of
the Bill should not be construed as expressing tacit endorsement of it.
- Read more: https://www.unhcr.org/615ff04d4/unhcr-legal-observations-nationality-and-borders-bill-oct-2021
Updated 23 September 2021: [Thanks No Deportations – Residence Papers for All] IAS: Home Office Admits That Their Immigration Plan Might Not Work
The Home Office has admitted that there is “limited evidence” to suggest that its new plans for the immigration system will reduce the number of migrant Channel crossings. The Home Secretary has made promises to reduce the number of immigrants crossing the English Channel as part of the New Plan for Immigration which she hopes to introduce under the Nationality and Borders Bill, which is currently under review in parliament. But in an impact equality assessment recently released by the Home Office stated that the reforms to the immigration and asylum system carry “significant scope for indirect discrimination” and “potential for direct discrimination on the basis of race”.
Home Office’s Justification: As part of the impact assessment the Home Office responded to the concerns of human rights organisations and admitted that there “may be circumstances where someone faces immediate danger in their country of origin but is not eligible for our refugee resettlement programmes”. In these circumstances the department said that the Home Secretary “may consider such cases, by virtue of their challenging circumstances, to merit the use of discretion to allow individuals to come to the UK”, however it did not make it clear how this would be done.
Read more: Immigration Advisory Service, https://is.gd/hXmE5X
LONDON – As it stands, the UK Nationality and Borders Bill would penalise most refugees seeking asylum in the country via damaging and unjustified penalties, creating an asylum model that undermines established international refugee protection rules and practices, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said Wednesday.
At the heart of the Bill is the creation of a new, lower class of status to be assigned to the majority refugees – those arriving spontaneously. The Bill would make it a criminal offence for an asylum-seeker who requires entry clearance to arrive in the UK without it; the maximum sentence would be four years’ imprisonment.
“Those arriving irregularly will be stigmatised as unworthy and unwelcome, kept in a precarious status for ten years, denied access to public funds unless destitute. Family reunion will be restricted,” said Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, UNHCR’s UK Representative. “This is likely to damage mental health and hamper integration for those recognised as refugees. The costs – financial, personal and social — will be high.”
As the Bill moves through Committee stage in the House of Commons, UNHCR urged lawmakers to re-assess parts that would create an unfair two-tier asylum system and cause unnecessary suffering to asylum-seekers. For most asylum-seekers, attempts to transfer to other safe third countries would be made. If that is impossible, access to asylum would be provided but with temporary status, regularly reviewed, with fewer rights and benefits and a constant threat of removal. A minority of refugees – primarily those being resettled – would have more security, and stronger rights and entitlements.
Ms. Pagliuchi-Lor will address the House of Commons Bill Committee on Thursday, outlining a UNHCR legal analysis of the Bill, a summary of which can be seen here.
“This Bill would undermine, not promote, the Government’s stated goal of improving protection for those at risk of persecution. It seems to be aimed at deterring refugees, but there’s no evidence that would be the result,” said Ms. Pagliuchi-Lor. “There’s scope for improving the efficiency of the asylum system. We want to support the UK with that and are heartened that the Home Office is working on it.”
The Bill is based on the premise that people should claim asylum in the “first safe country” they arrive in. But this principle is not found in the 1951 Refugee Convention and there is no such requirement under international law, where primary responsibility for protecting refugees is with the State in which an asylum-seeker arrives.
Requiring all refugees to claim in the first safe country reached would be unworkable and undermine global humanitarian and cooperative principles. Of the world’s 34.4 million refugees and asylum-seekers, 86% are in less wealthy countries. The policy would put even more pressure on such countries and undermine solutions. It might also encourage further refugee movements.
“There are no quick fixes to what is a global problem,” she added. “The humane solution lies in working with neighbours on refugee transfers — and with countries of origin on returns of those who are not refugees and have no right to remain – and improving the UK system.”
“This differentiation of treatment has no basis in international law,” Ms. Pagliuchi-Lor added. “The Convention’s definition of a refugee doesn’t vary according to the route of travel, choice of country of asylum, or the timing of a claim. Are we saying that an Afghan refugee is less deserving in the UK than when in Iran or Pakistan?”
Updated 2 September 2021: Evening Standard: Public’s ‘positive’ response to Afghan refugees impresses UK charities
“Reminder that when you get past the fear-mongering, scapegoating & misinformation, there’s a wealth of goodwill, energy & capacity for welcoming people & respecting their human rights & dignity. How sad some prefer to stir former rather than tap latter.” – Steve Valdez-Symonds https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/charities-people-taliban-uk-government-walsall-b953311.html
Updated 27 August 2021: from signatory organisation Migrant Voice: Channel crossings: time to change course
It’s time to change course. The ill-thought-out strategy of trying to deter asylum seekers from crossing the Channel, pursued by this and previous governments over the past many years, doesn’t work.
The many restrictions introduced – measures to try to deter asylum seekers from reaching the UK at any cost – are fundamentally wrong and merely add further risk to already dangerous journeys.
The new Nationality and Borders Bill which sets out to indefinitely penalise those who make their own journey to the UK is a continuation of this misdirected strategy. The recent revelation of a website set up by the Home Office giving misleading information to asylum seekers is another evidence of their negligent approach to human lives.
The government needs to change course and stop patrolling the sea in an attempt to deter desperate people and instead set up facilities to help people apply for asylum and provide more legal routes.
It is time to adopt a policy that takes into consideration the events in our world today whether political repression or environmental disaster and the reality of the situations from which people are fleeing.
UK and Europe are going about this the wrong way: we cannot go on building walls in the face of desperate people.
You don’t resolve any of these issues by building walls. If people in danger are at your door, you should treat them like the human beings they are and give them sanctuary. We can’t pretend any more that the countries we are deporting people back to are safe when they aren’t.
Throughout history people have moved from place to place in search of safety. This isn’t just happening in the UK or Europe – in fact it’s not happening very much in UK or Europe as most people flee to neighbouring countries and the vast majority are in the global south.
It’s time to change course and welcome those in need of safety.
Updated 24 August 2021: Refugee Action – Crisis in Afghanistan – the anti-refugee bill must be thrown out
It is difficult to imagine how many people’s lives are now at risk as a result of the Taliban swiftly regaining control of Afghanistan. There are reports of violent reprisals, a return to the appalling subjugation of women and well-founded fears of worse to come.
Thousands of people have tried to escape on flights out of the country and millions more are terrified. Our thoughts and hopes are with them. But in a situation unfolding so quickly, we can waste no time in turning from thoughts to concrete action.
The Government has announced the new ‘Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme’ which aims to resettle 5,000 people from Afghanistan in its first year – 20,000 in the longer term.
However, this commitment cannot act as a mask to hide the Government’s real intentions to effectively end the asylum system through its anti-refugee bill (Nationality and Borders Bill).
The UK’s new Nationality and Borders Bill being introduced in Parliament on Tuesday will see thousands more refugees blocked from entering Britain if allowed to move forward, immigration advocates have warned.
Under the new bill, people confirmed to have fled war or persecution would face strengthened checks that could see them blocked from entering the UK based on how they arrived in the country.
Sky News (via Yahoo News) – Activist brands new govt bill ‘anti-refugee’
Bridget Chapman of Kent Refugee Action Network has branded Priti Patel’s new Nationality and Borders Bill an “anti-refugee bill”.
Updated 20 August 2021: with thanks to signatory John O: Afghan Asylum Seekers Who Enter UK Without Permission Would be Criminalised Under Nationality and Borders Bill
A new Home Office factsheet on resettlement routes for Afghan nationals published today on the Home Office media blog has given some further details about the new Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme. The scheme was announced by the Government in response to the Taliban taking effective control of Kabul and most of Afghanistan.
Notably, the factsheet suggests that the Nationality and Borders Bill’s proposals to criminalise people who knowingly enter the UK without permission to seek asylum would also apply to Afghans fleeing the current crisis.
Today’s Home Office factsheet confirms, however, that the Nationality and Borders Bill will make it a criminal offence to knowingly enter the UK without permission, and there is no suggestion of any exception being made for Afghans fleeing the current crisis to seek asylum.
Read more: Electronic Immigratin Network, https://is.gd/ax4jXv
UK Proposal for Offshore Processing of Asylum Seekers, Ineffective, Costly and Cruel
With the British government’s new Nationality and Borders Bill proposing legislation to allow the UK to offshore asylum seekers in a similar way, the Kaldor Centre’s report is a timely and important read. The report finds that the Australian model of offshore processing is cruel, costly and ineffective. In particular, the policy:
– Does not deter irregular maritime migration, ‘stop the boats’ or ‘break the business model’ of people smuggling networks;
– Does not ‘save lives at sea’ or achieve any other humanitarian objective; and
– Suffers from other policy failures, including enormous financial costs for Australian taxpayers, violations of fundamental rules of international law, numerous legal challenges and systemic cruelty.
Kaldor Centre stresses that the Australian offshore processing model cannot be implemented in accordance with international law and basic human rights standards. As the driving principle behind the policy is deterrence, this means that the conditions offshore must be as bad as, or worse than, those from which people have fled.
Read more: Electronic Immigration Network, https://is.gd/9YJIDG
Updated 30 July 2021: from Detention Forum: Please find briefings attached from Women for Refugee Women; Detention Action, Jesuit Refugee Service, and Amnesty/ Migrant Voice.
The following links are also well worth a look:
- UNHCR guide to asylum reform in the UK
- Blog from Lucy Mayblin, University of Sheffield
- Blog from Free Movement
- Cross-Party Parliamentarians’ statement from RAMP
- Blog from Ban Ki-Moon
Updated 27 July 2021: Evening Standard: Majority opposed to asylum reforms, according to Government consultation
It has been dubbed the anti-refugee Bill by campaigners critical of the plans.
The majority of people who took part in the Government’s consultation on sweeping asylum reforms opposed “many of the policies”, according to the Home Office
Around three quarters of those who took part in the survey on Home Secretary Priti Patel’s new plan for immigration disagreed with a lot of the ideas.
But the process showed there is “some support for these broad ambitions, more so from members of the public”, according to her department.
Ms Patel’s pledge for a “fair but firm” system, brought forward earlier this month under the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, intends to make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission, with tougher sentences for those found doing so and for people smugglers.
Updated 20 July 2021: This lays out Priti Patel’s view of what should come, as the debate on the Bill begins in Parliament: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/home-secretary-opening-speech-for-nationality-borders-bill
This was the debate in Parliament: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-07-19/debates/FC19E458-F75D-480D-A20D-CD1E7ADC937E/NationalityAndBordersBill
You can follow the passage of this Bill here: https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3023
Updated 19 July 2021: Migrant Voice/Amnesty: Shutting down the UK asylum system: the new immigration bill
Migrant Voice and Amnesty International have released a joint briefing for MPs for the second reading of the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill on 19 July.
The vast majority of this Bill seems to have the purpose of shutting down the asylum system. We therefore strongly oppose most of this Bill, which will undermine the human rights of people affected by our immigration laws. The only element of the Bill we support is Part 1, which seeks to dismantle historical inequalities which have deprived some people of the British nationality that ought to be theirs.
If the Bill is passed in its present form, it will have a devastating impact on people seeking asylum. It will renege on this country’s international law commitments and significantly reduce the already modest contribution made by the UK to provide a place of safety to people forced to flee conflict and persecution.
Its harmful impacts will go much further in at least 3 ways:
- By repudiating its international obligations the UK will provide license and encouragement for others to do the same.
- What is proposed will add complexity, delay, inequality, dysfunction and cost to the asylum system and to the wider immigration system.
- Far from truly tackling the scourge of human exploitation, including by organised crime, the Bill will further empower and enable abusers by rendering the women, men and children on whom they prey ever more vulnerable to that predation.
The second reading of the Bill comes as we prepare to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Refugee Convention on 28 July. This Convention set out a shared responsibility for the nations who are party to it, including the UK, to ensure that the right to seek asylum is available to everyone fleeing conflict or persecution.
This Bill completely undermines the UK’s obligations under the Convention in two interlinked ways.
Firstly, the Bill attempts to unilaterally redraw what are jointly agreed and universally applicable human rights standards affecting both whom the Convention applies to and how such a person is to be treated. This is wrong in principle. If enacted, it is an open invitation to other nations to set their own interpretations of not only this Convention but of international agreements more generally.
Secondly, the Bill penalises refugees who exercise their right to seek asylum in the UK through travelling here on their own. This disadvantages some refugees from others by diminishing, delaying or denying them altogether certain of the rights and opportunities that are provided to others.
The aim of this Bill is to end asylum as we know it. This is despite the UK already receiving relatively few people seeking asylum, and providing sanctuary to very few refugees, compared to its nearest neighbours – let alone several far poorer and less stable countries further afield.
The impact of this legislation will be horrific. Many people will be forced to take significantly more dangerous journeys and fall victim to punishing uncertainty and extreme vulnerability to exploitation. This is to nobody’s advantage but that of those who will abuse, exploit and enslave women, men and children who are too afraid to claim asylum.
You can read Migrant Voice and Amnesty International’s joint briefing by clicking here.
Updated 11 July 2021: Guardian: Home Office ‘acting unlawfully’ in rush to deport asylum seekers
Hundreds of people arriving in England in small boats are being immediately detained in immigration removal centres, raising fears of a new, secret Home Office policy to deport them without their asylum claims being properly considered.
Among the detainees are apparent trafficking and torture victims from countries including Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, who would normally be allowed asylum accommodation in the community while their claims are processed but instead are effectively imprisoned.
Children are also among those who have crossed the Channel and have been sent directly to immigration removal centres, with solicitors claiming the Home Office has classed minors as adults despite not age-assessing them in person.
Some small-boat asylum seekers have been denied access to a lawyer since early May after landing and being immediately detained in a removal centre.
Campaigners said the development was “not the act of a civilised and compassionate nation”.
The outcry follows the publication of home secretary Priti Patel’s nationality and borders bill on Tuesday. It claims to reform the asylum system but has been described by the UN as having an “almost neocolonial approach” in allowing the UK to shirk its international responsibilities to refugees.
Immigration lawyers say the apparent undisclosed policy change, which appears to have been introduced over the past two months, is unlawful and they are preparing to challenge it.
Toufique Hossain, director of public law and immigration at Duncan Lewis, described it as a potentially “grave abuse of power”.
10 July 2021: One Strong Voice: a petition from people with lived experience of the asylum system, with a vision for how that system could be based on welcome and compassion:
This government’s Anti Refugee Bill would be the most destructive reforms to an already broken asylum system in a generation.
This is our 7-point plan for a UK that welcomes refugees:
Read more here: https://www.onestrongvoice.org.uk/petition
10 July 2021: The Times: CPS blows hole in Priti Patel’s asylum seeker bill
Priti Patel’s laws to crack down on asylum seekers crossing the Channel were dealt a blow yesterday when the Crown Prosecution Service said that it would no longer prosecute migrants.
An agreement struck between police, prosecutors, the National Crime Agency, Border Force and the Home Office over cases involving “illegal entry” will also apply to those arriving by lorry.
7 July 2021: Westminster Hall debate: Debate: Delays in the asylum system
I beg to move,
That this House has considered delays in the asylum system.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mr Mundell. I thank the many Members attending the debate for their ongoing efforts to push the Government to address the delays in the asylum system. It is shocking that not a single Conservative Member thought it necessary to take part in a debate on such an important issue.
I pay tribute to the many organisations and charities that campaign tirelessly to raise awareness of the issue, as well as those—including the Refugee Council, Detention Action, the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, and Lift the Ban, to name just a few—that provide vital support to some of the most vulnerable people on our planet. So many people are worthy of recognition for their incredible work, such as Councillor Wilson Nkurunziza, Councillor Irfan Syed and Stockport’s own Mrs Sandy Broadhurst. There are also those who do so much at national level to keep the issue at the forefront of everyone’s minds, such as Lord Alf Dubs.
In my region, Refugee Action Manchester and the Refugee Council provide life-saving and life-changing support to asylum seekers, while Stockport Baptist church in my constituency has done so much over the years to help to raise funds to provide accommodation, food, pocket money and transport to those in need. I am grateful to the volunteers from the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, who support the incredibly vulnerable people who are subject to immigration control. Significantly, they have worked with local authorities across Greater Manchester, and seven of the 10 councils have signed up to remote asylum interviewing for looked-after children: Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford and Wigan.
Our country has a proud history of standing up for and protecting refugees, who are among the most vulnerable people on earth, having undertaken perilous journeys to reach our shores to seek sanctuary from the very worst of humanity. We are the fifth richest country in the world and that is absolutely the right thing to do. It is also right that our country provides shelter to people—not excluding them, but enabling them to earn a living to support themselves and their family.
I am proud that my part of the world, the north-west, is the largest asylum dispersal conurbation in the UK, housing 25% of our country’s applicants, with 70% of those living in Greater Manchester. Data provided by the House of Commons Library reveals that 138 asylum seekers are based in Stockport and more than 6,000 in Greater Manchester as a whole, which is two thirds of the total in the north-west region. It is heart-warming to see how my community has embraced those people and helped them to integrate into our community. I have long been an admirer of the work of Stockport Baptist church, whose congregation and supporters have raised funds to support refugees with food, pocket money, accommodation and transport costs.
It cannot be right, however, that so many are simply stuck in the system for long periods, unsure of what their fate will be. Detention Action revealed that more than half of the almost 40,000 people in detention centres have been waiting for a decision for more than a year. A similar number have been waiting for up to five years, with almost 25,000 people indefinitely detained last year.
Greater Manchester Immigration Aid provides urgent assistance to more than 50 young people who have been waiting the best part of a year for an asylum decision, despite half already having had a remote interview. Even when the asylum system is functioning marginally more efficiently, the average wait for those handled by my local unit is 51 days, with the longest wait being 82 days—almost three months. That is completely unacceptable, and it involves the livelihoods of some of the poorest people in our society, including young people.
It is vital that the Government look again at how those in the system are treated. One issue that must be addressed is the Aspen card handover debacle. I focus on that issue because it reflects many of the problems in the system. Aspen is a debit payment card given to UK asylum seekers by the Home Office to provide basic subsistence support via a chip-and-pin system. However, purchases made using the card are closely monitored by the Home Office, making it an insidious surveillance tool. Recently, the Home Office switched providers, which proved nothing short of disastrous owing to the 48-hour period between the old card being deactivated and the new one going live, forcing people to live off what little means they had.
That is just one of myriad problems, from claimants not receiving their cards to their receiving cards carrying the wrong name, cards without money on them or cards that do not work, or people being unable to activate their cards. When cards were not working, asylum seekers could apply for emergency cash payments from accommodation providers, but those have been inconsistently applied and people could not access any more payments. There are stories from the Refugee Council of such people having to survive for days without food.
That is an absolute disgrace, and it can never be allowed to happen again. Why was it even allowed to happen in the first place? Perhaps the Minister will answer that question today. However, well before the card changeover took place, multiple organisations forewarned the Home Office that there could be problems, and it is clear they were simply not listened to. When the matter was raised in Parliament, the Government attempted to give the impression that it was a minor issue, rather than one that had gone on for weeks. Their claims could not be further from the truth, with many asylum experts describing the Government’s handling of the issue as the worst failure they have seen in the system. That is why the likes of Asylum Matters are continuing to raise awareness of it—they want the Home Office not only to acknowledge its failings, but to learn from them so that we never again put the neediest people in society in this desperate situation.
There are also well documented and widespread concerns about the way women are dealt with in the asylum process, particularly whether that process is sensitive to specific issues faced by women. The expectation that a woman has been the victim of domestic abuse or rape, and will be able to disclose that during her interview with a UK visa and immigration caseworker, has been pointed to as a serious problem.
There cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. We must acknowledge that these are incredibly vulnerable people in the most desperate of circumstances and act accordingly. That means shining a light on the failings of the system, rather than demonising those within it. Just last month, asylum seekers held at the Home Office’s widely criticised Napier military barracks claimed they would be blacklisted if they spoke out following the High Court ruling that to use the site was unlawful. That included them being told that their asylum application would be at risk if they talked to the media about conditions at the camp. Instead of attacking those in the barracks who are in conditions described as “squalid” during the successful legal challenge, the Government should have acted immediately to close the camp.
The failures in our system cause untold distress and are a considerable factor in the high levels of mental health problems among asylum seekers. Refugees are five times more likely to have mental health needs than people in the general UK population, while 61% report that they have suffered serious mental distress as a result of their ordeal, including higher rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety disorders.
The way the Government treat asylum seekers in this country—the fifth richest in the world—is truly shameful. That lack of humanity was exposed during the 2015 migrant crisis when our European counterparts, such as Germany, showed benevolence, true compassion and leadership by giving asylum to more than 1 million people fleeing war in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. In stark contrast, the UK allowed a paltry 25,000 the safety and sanctuary of our shores.
I am sure Members on both sides of the House agree that on this issue language is important. Asylum seekers are people—fellow human beings who deserve to be treated with respect and in a fair manner—and following a decade when we have experienced the hostile environment orchestrated by the Home Office under this Government, I urge the Minister to do the right thing and offer those people a route out of poverty and destitution.
We do not need more distressing words and scenes from the Home Secretary. Sadly, just yesterday, we bore witness to the Home Secretary’s latest demonisation of migrants, with her shamefully describing those vulnerable people as “vile criminals”, smearing the vast majority of honest, law-abiding citizens who seek sanctuary in our country. As HOPE not hate made clear in its response, the Home Secretary’s words were disgraceful.
The Home Secretary also set out callous plans with proposals revealed for new legislation that will pave the way for offshore centres for asylum seekers, and criminal charges for migrants arriving in the UK without permission. The new laws will likely see thousands of refugees turned away and vulnerable migrants criminalised for seeking a better life. Furthermore, a Refugee Council analysis of Home Office data suggests that 9,000 people who would be accepted as refugees under the current rules—those confirmed by official checks to have left war and persecution—might no longer be given safety in the UK because of how they arrived. That really would be an all-time low for this Government.
The Government must do more to enable those seeking asylum to have the right to work. Last year, the Lift the Ban campaign—a coalition of more than 240 charities and trade unions, including Unison, the National Education Union and the NASUWT, as well as businesses, faith groups and think-tanks—presented the Home Office with a petition signed by more than 180,000 people, which called on the Government to lift the ban. They are still waiting for that ban to be overturned, which is why I recently tabled an early-day motion, which has been signed by 42 MPs to date. It calls on the Government to
“recognise the injustice of preventing people seeking asylum from working”,
particularly when they are forced to live on a derisory £5.66 a day. After all, that is in the Government’s own interest: if those seeking asylum had the right to work, that would lead to fewer support payments and increased income tax and national insurance receipts of up to £100 million for the public purse.
The bottom line is that the pandemic has exposed the harsh reality that asylum seekers cannot be safe under such restrictive rules. Far from being looked after, they are forced to depend on tiny handouts each day and to choose between food, medicine and hygiene products, while being prevented from having the dignity of work.
The Government must do far more to address their unfair dispersal system. The majority of asylum seekers are housed in disadvantaged local authority areas while dozens of councils support none at all. Figures show that more than half of those who seek asylum or who have been brought to Britain for resettlement are accommodated by just 6% of local councils, all of which have household incomes that are below average.
Finally, the Government must heed the United Nations Human Rights Council proposal to reform the registration, screening and decision making process, including introducing an effective triaging and prioritisation system, as well as simplified asylum case processing and front-loading the asylum system to enable more information to be gathered earlier in the process.
It is time our Government stopped their gunboat diplomacy and treated asylum seekers with the dignity and humanity that they deserve. When most are fleeing war-torn countries that the UK helped to play a role in devastating, that is surely the very least we can do.
[…] read the full debate
I am incredibly grateful to all hon. Members who contributed to the debate and brought many powerful stories from constituency casework. I thank the Minister for his contribution, although I must highlight that he did not comment on the Aspen card disaster and people being left without food or hygiene products, or on my remarks on the special requirements for women asylum seekers fleeing domestic abuse and rape. The one-size-fits-all approach simply does not work. Asylum seekers and refugees are five times more likely than British nationals to have serious mental health issues.
Clearly, there is a lot of appetite among MPs for the Government to lift the ban on people working. Just over £5 a day is simply unacceptable. We also want to see an end to the toxic and divisive language from the Home Office, the Home Secretary and some MPs on the Government Benches. Treating people like insects is not acceptable; everyone deserves decency and respect. We also want proper financial support for local authorities that support asylum seekers. We have a system whereby some local authorities support asylum seekers and will accept them, while others do not—that needs to be changed. We need reform to the system.
Update 7 July 2021: Guardian: UK to block visas for countries refusing to take back asylum seekers
Bill would give home secretary power to take action against citizens of countries deemed not to be cooperating …
Sonya Sceats, chief executive of Freedom from Torture, described the plans as “dripping with cruelty” and an “affront to the caring people in this country who want a kinder, fairer approach to refugees”.
Update 6 July 2021: Free Movement: The Nationality and Borders Bill 2021: first impressions
The much-hyped Nationality and Borders Bill is here. It mainly addresses asylum issues but there are some nationality provisions included as well, which we have already covered and will return to in another article soon.
My first impressions, reading through the Bill, are that
- A lot of it is already law so it isn’t actually very new at all.
- The bits that are new are likely to lead to a lot of uncertainty and litigation, which is good for lawyers but bad for refugees and the public purse.
- There is some genuine nastiness included.
- The Bill will only worsen the problems with the United Kingdom’s current asylum system.
The major problem with that system is that it takes far too long for the Home Office to decide an asylum claim. The number of people waiting more than 12 months for an initial decision was over 33,000 last year (ten times the number in 2010), according to recent research by the Refugee Council. This is bad for genuine refugees. It is, arguably, good for those whose cases ultimately fail.
Next steps and how we fight back
The publication of the bill marks the start of its journey through Parliament, and MPs will debate the proposoals in the near future. This is the first opportunity to show the strength of opposition to these changes, and you can call on your MP to stand up for refugees here.
However, the campaign for a fair asylum system, with refugee protection at its heart, does not begin or end in Parliament. We want to build a mass campaign of people that won’t stand by while the Government turns its back on those who need protection. Please keep an eye out for more on this in the coming months from us.
Priti Patel’s statement can be found here: https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2021-07-06/hcws151
Update 6 July 2021: Guardian: Judge tells Priti Patel to bring asylum seeker back to UK
High court says home secretary should use her ‘best endeavours’ to bring back Sudanese man so his trafficking and torture claims can be investigated
Priti Patel should bring back to the UK a small boat asylum seeker who was removed to France in the next 14 days, the high court has ruled.
In a ruling published on Tuesday, the day that Patel launched her nationality and borders bill, which she hopes will make it easier to remove asylum seekers who arrive in small boats, Mr Justice Wall ordered that the home secretary use her “best endeavours” to bring back a 38-year-old Sudanese asylum seeker from Darfur who can only be identified by the initials AA.
Update 4 July 2021: Today’s suggestions from Priti Patel: the proposed legislation intends to make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission, with the maximum sentence for those entering the country unlawfully rising from six months’ imprisonment to four years.
The Government also plans to also increase the tariff for people smugglers, with those found guilty facing life behind bars – up from the current maximum of 14 years.
Migrants caught arriving in the UK without permission could face up to four years in prison under legislation, but charities say asylum-seekers are forced to risk lives due to lack of safe routes
The home secretary has announced that migrants seeking to cross the English Channel on small boats, and the people-smugglers enabling them, are to face more severe prison sentence in a bid to deter illegal crossings.
The move is part of the Nationality and Borders Bill, and is intended to fix the UK’s “broken asylum system” Priti Patel said.
Migrants seeking to make their way to the UK on small boats, and their people-smuggling enablers, will face heavier prison sentences in a bid to prevent “asylum shopping”, the Home Office has announced.
The stricter enforcements form part of the Nationality and Borders Bill, which is due for its first reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday, as part of Home Secretary Priti Patel’s pledge to “fix” the UK’s “broken asylum system”.
The proposed legislation intends to make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission, with the maximum sentence for those entering the country unlawfully rising from six months’ imprisonment to four years.
The Government also plans to also increase the tariff for people smugglers, with those found guilty facing life behind bars – up from the current maximum of 14 years.
The Home Office said the sterner punishments were a bid to prevent “asylum shopping”, claiming that some migrants are allegedly “picking the UK as a preferred destination over others” when asylum could have been claimed earlier in their journey through Europe.
A clause contained in the legislation will broaden the offence of arriving unlawfully so that it encompasses arrival, as well as entry into the UK.
The moves is designed allow those who are intercepted in UK territorial seas to be brought into the country to be prosecuted, aides said.
Updated 13 May 2021: Quakers reject New Plan for Immigration
Quakers in Britain and the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network (QARN) have criticised the government’s immigration plans.
Quakers in Britain and the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network (QARN) have criticised the government’s immigration plans.
Believing in the sanctity of all human life, Quakers believe that the current immigration and asylum system should be replaced by a compassionate, human rights-based approach. But the the government’s New Plan for Immigration is designed to increase hostility rather than create a fair system.
Quakers are particularly concerned about the unjust proposal to discriminate against people on the basis of how they arrive in the UK. It would punish those who are fleeing persecution but who cannot access safe and legal routes.
As a church, Quakers belong to the Detention Forum and are campaigning against the plans to detain more migrants indefinitely without trial in ‘reception’ and ‘removal’ centres. Quakers in Britain and QARN submitted a joint response to the consultation on the plans, which closed on 6 May. Read their full response (PDF).
Quakers in Britain and Quakers in Scotland have signed joint letters with other charities and faith groups who are united in their opposition to the proposals. Today, they stand alongside a coalition of representatives from many faiths, writing to the Home Secretary, expressing deep opposition to the New Plan for Immigration. Their letter is here:
Open statement to Home Secretary Priti Patel on the government’s New Plan for Immigration
“On 24 March 2021, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, announced the government’s New Plan for Immigration (NPFI), which was launched alongside a consultation on the proposals. Following the closure of the consultation on 6 May 2021, the government is planning to introduce a bill to enshrine the proposals into UK law.
“As a coalition of Christian faith groups and faith leaders brought together by the St Vincent de Paul Society (England & Wales), we believe these proposals lack humanity and respect for human dignity. We believe it would be wrong to create a system in which the way people enter the UK will impact how their asylum claim is processed and the status they might receive.
“Many people who are forced to flee their homes in desperate circumstances simply have no choice but to cross borders informally to reach a safe haven; to penalise them for this is to abandon the very principle of international protection. Moves to criminalise and penalise undocumented entry to the UK set out in the NPFI mean it will effectively be impossible for most people to claim asylum in the UK because safe and legal routes for claiming asylum in the UK are extremely limited, and could never feasibly be made available to all who need them. We cannot ignore their plight and reduce it to a statistical act of bureaucracy.
“This nation has a long history of welcoming people from all over the world. People who have arrived in our communities through the asylum system are our neighbours, members of our congregations and valued members of our neighbourhoods. We should recognise our common interests of family, community and faith, and embrace the diversity which makes our communities dynamic and vibrant. We call for a rejection of hostility towards people seeking asylum and an end to punitive measures aimed at people who are seeking sanctuary in our country.
“We welcome the government’s commitment to resettlement through the new UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS) and look forward to the announcement of resettlement targets for the years to come, but this must not be at the expense of an asylum system that strives to offer protection to those who need it.
“We urge the Home Secretary to embed principles of welcome, protection and integration into the government’s policies. We must treat individuals and families seeking sanctuary on our shores as our brothers and sisters and valued members of our communities. How we respond to those in need has profound implications for who we are as a society. Recognising our obligations to those who seek sanctuary is fundamental to building a just and flourishing nation.”
11 May 2021 Migrant Help: Our response to the New Plan for Immigration
Migrant Help strongly opposes the proposals set out in the New Plan for Immigration. We are very concerned that the proposals are unworkable, will serve to create increased trauma for asylum seekers, establish a chaotic and complex system and hamper the ability of NGOs and civil society to adequately support asylum seekers.
We believe that the UK’s reputation as a world leader in our approach to human rights will be damaged by the changes set out in this proposal. We feel the proposal creates an adverse environment toward those who are seeking asylum and will foster a culture of intolerance and mistrust.
The reality of the drivers of asylum forces people into making choices in desperation and there should not be penalties based on routes of arrival. We have concerns about applying ‘illegal’ or ‘legal’ status based on how people enter the country. The mode of entry to the UK should not determine someone’s rights to claim asylum. We note that Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention sets out that states should not impose penalties on illegal entry.
Updated 10 May 2021: Guardian: EU countries snub Priti Patel’s plans to return asylum seekers
UN criticises the proposals as so damaging they risked Britain’s ‘global credibility’
Not a single European country has decided to support the UK government’s controversial asylum plans, with the UN on Saturday night criticising the proposals as so damaging they risked Britain’s “global credibility”.
Six weeks after the home secretary, Priti Patel, unveiled a sweeping immigration overhaul that included deporting migrants who enter the UK illegally to safe countries such as “France and other EU countries”, sources have said the Home Office has been unable to persuade any European state to sign up to the scheme.
The UN’s refugee agency will soon publish its detailed legal opinion into Patel’s asylum proposals that is likely to conclude her plans infringe international legislation and are unworkable. Despite this, Patel’s asylum proposals are to feature in the Queen’s speech on Tuesday, which lays out the government’s legislative agenda for the next year.
In damning indictment of Home Office’s proposed immigration overhaul, solicitors body warns reforms would ‘make a mockery of British fair play’ and risk ‘overturning’ principle that everyone is equal
In an 81-page consultation response to the plans, Law Society president I Stephanie Boyce warned that penalising asylum seekers who reach UK shores by “so-called irregular routes”, such as by boat, risked breaching international law by creating a “two-tier asylum system”. “The proposals seek to push asylum-seekers who reach the UK by irregular routes into destitution or homelessness as a way of coercing them to leave the country. Extremely vulnerable people seeking asylum are exercising their legal right to escape human rights abuses – to penalise them in this way could constitute a further abuse. Punishing victims of crime is not acceptable in a civilised, democratic country which upholds the rule of law.
Read more: Independent, https://is.gd/Ni2K8y
8 April 2021: Update: See also: https://www.quaker.org.uk/blog/how-quakers-can-respond-to-the-government-s-new-immigration-plan
We posted various questions, thoughts, information, ideas here in the run up to 6 May 2021 when the New Immigration Plan consultation ends, see here: Government Consultation process announced – responses to be filed by 6 May 2021 11.45pm: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/new-plan-for-immigration
3 April 2021: David Forbes looks at The Immigration Plan and the “Sovereign Borders” Bill:
We have all, individually and severally, been invited to respond to a Consultation about Priti Patel’s immigration plan over the next few weeks. But we are not invited to challenge the title “Sovereign Borders” attached to the Bill which will emerge after the Consultation. Nor are we invited to question whether “sovereign borders” is an appropriate concept to apply to complex issues of migration and asylum which are defined in customary international law.
Sovereign Borders, as some will remember, is the title of the Australian initiative to turn back boat people from its territorial waters starting in 2014. It is perhaps no accident that Tony Abbot, the Australian Prime Minister of that day, has been invited to be a special adviser on post-BREXIT trade arrangements. It is also no coincidence that a similarly-structured (but much less inclusive) Consultation was held last year on the 2025 UK Border Strategy. This was in relation principally to trade and customs arrangements, but not excluding migration. There, in his foreword as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove prefaced his strategy with the words, “now that Britain has regained full sovereignty over its borders”.
At least the much broader inclusiveness of this year’s Immigration Consultation is welcome. This openness reflects the government’s Section 23 agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to ensure, in the light of the Windrush debacle and the recommentations of the Wendy Williams Report, that all relevant Stakeholders are properly engaged in the development of new immigration policy. We all need to take advantage of this largesse.
But we should challenge the Sovereign Borders label as misleading because it implies that somehow Britain has acquired powers it lacked before Brexit and has shed supposedly burdensome human rights responsibilities. This is surely questionable and misleading. After all, Britain did have sovereign borders between 1973 and 2020; Brexit did not create or establish the borders freshly in 2020. Under the EU we had taken advantage of a right to opt out of the Schengen free movement area and opt in to its Information System. Meanwhile, progress towards the objective of “ever closer union”, to which Brexiteers objected, will not deprive EU member states of sovereignty over their borders, even while they share sovereignty increasingly in other areas of policy. Viewed in the coldlight of day the final Withdrawal Agreement is far from facilitating the UK’s pursuit of increased sovereignty over its borders. A panoply of committees exists to resolve disputes and promote compromises and adaptations in a strictly multilateral framework. The UK will not be able to duck this process or, indeed, its ongoing involvement with the Council of Europe’s Commission and Court of Human Rights under the European Convention in Strasbourg.
In short, sovereignty will turn out to be, as it always has been since The Peace of Westphalia in 1648, a multilateral, not a unilateral, concept. Within this framework of multilateralism and collective human rights responsibilities, it is clear that solutions to arrivals via the Channel remain largely dependent at present on continuing bilateral agreements with France, the progenitor of the Human Rights concept. And, as Peter Rickets, former UK Ambassador to France and National Security adviser has pointed out, the sub-text of Anglo-French cooperation on Defence and Security is France’s strong influence on the EU’s Political and Security Committee. It will be in Britain’s interest not to upset France or the European Union as a quid pro quo for France’s acquiescence in “protecting” England’s southern shores from the Channel arrivals.
This limitation to autonomous action is also the lesson learned from Australia’s ”Sovereign Borders” initiative. Following its instigation, hot pursuit of people smugglers into Indonesia’s waters caused huge resentment in that country and a need for Australia to make a strategic climb-down. Meanwhile Papua New Guinea’s High court declared unlawful the treatment of rejected asyum seekers pushed back on to its territory. Australia did “solve” its problem of “boat people”, but only at the cost of good relations with its neighbours and deep distress for thousands of former boat people who are still in limbo seven years on. Australia’s international image as a signatory of the Refugee Convention and other international human rights instruments has been tarnished in the process.
Against the background of all this “realpolitik” the fact is that since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the individual – providing he or she is not a criminal – has shared sovereignty with the State. His or her rights have been enshrined within the Refugee Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and many other examples of customary international law. The government, which is still digesting the Lessons of Windrush Learned, needs to acknowledge this explicitly in its Immigration Plan. It should favour maximising security for all, including the unfortunate boat people, over a false concept of sovereignty. Respecting Human Rights will do more for Britain’s image in the world than a quixotic pursuit of sovereign borders.
3 April 2021