When the will is there, it can be done – that is our point: there is hope yet … We will collate reports and legal challenges to the Nationality and Borders legislation here.
3 February 2023: Guardian: Alf Dubs: Braverman calling refugees ‘invaders’ was low point of my career
Alf Dubs, the veteran Labour peer who arrived in the UK as a child fleeing the Nazis, has described Suella Braveman’s likening of refugees to invaders as “deeply and personally upsetting”, and a low point of his half century in politics.
Dubs, who fled what was then Czechoslovakia unaccompanied in 1939 and came to the UK aged six as part of the Kindertransport system, condemned the home secretary for using language that painted those also fleeing persecution as “hostile people”.
Dubs’ comments, made in a new podcast series presented by the Lord Speaker, John McFall, follow criticism of Braverman by another survivor of the Holocaust last month.
In comments made in October, shortly after she was reappointed by Rishi Sunak, Braverman said in the Commons that refugees and migrants crossing the Channel in small boats were “the invasion on our southern coast”.
Asked by McFall to list the highs and lows of his political career, Dubs cited the comments alongside the experience of losing his Commons seat in 1987 and then being unemployed for a year.
“I have to say, when the home secretary talks about refugees as invaders, I find that deeply and personally upsetting. Upsetting because invaders are seen as an enemy,” he said.
“Invaders are hostile people, whereas what we’re talking about are people who are fleeing from war, persecution, threats to their safety and so on. And I think we owe them a bit of compassion.”
31 January 2023 Guardian: Rishi Sunak’s migration plan ‘would have left 45,000 in permanent limbo last year’
Refugee Council warns tens of thousands who crossed Channel to UK in 2022 would have been detained indefinitely under proposals
More than 45,000 people who have crossed the Channel in small boats this year would have been detained indefinitely in a “permanent limbo” under Rishi Sunak’s flagship migration policy, a leading refugee charity has calculated.
The prime minister announced proposals this month to ban anybody who comes to the UK irregularly from applying for asylum and then deporting them as soon as possible. A new immigration bill is expected to be introduced within weeks.
An analysis by the Refugee Council has found that, because of a lack of returns agreements with other countries, 45,237 men, women and children who arrived in 2022 would have been held in detention but would not have been deported.
“They would not be able to be removed, but neither would they be able to progress an asylum application, work or access support from statutory services,” a statement from the group said.
The calculation comes amid reports that the attorney general, Victorias Prentis, has warned Sunak that the proposed bill, one of the government’s priorities, will “never get through the courts” because the prolonged detention of migrants will be immediately challenged.
Sunak said on 4 January the legislation would make sure that “if you come to this country illegally, you are detained and swiftly removed”.
Home Office sources said anybody who crossed the Channel but had passed through another country would be in effect banned from applying for asylum, and their claim would automatically be deemed inadmissible.
However, according to the Refugee Council analysis, if ministers implemented this policy without additional returns agreements in place – and if the number of people making the crossing in small boats remained the same as in 2022 – then it would leave 45,237 people (98.9% of those making the crossing) in “a permanent limbo”.
The figure is based on the number of people the Home Office has been able to secure returns agreements for as part of the inadmissibility process introduced on 31 December 2020.
Between 1 January 2021 and 31 March 2022, the Home Office issued 12,286 notices of intent, where they believed someone’s claim may be inadmissible.
However, up to 30 September only 83 inadmissibility decisions, which can only be made once the Home Office has an agreement with a third country for the removal of the individual concerned, had been issued – just 0.7% of cases.
“Applying that same success rate to all those who crossed the Channel in 2022 would mean that 309 people were removed,” the charity’s analysis said. “Even if an additional 200 people were removed as a result of the Rwanda scheme becoming operational, this would still leave 98.9% – 45,237 people – unable to be removed.”
28 December 2022: Rishi Sunak Announces New New Plan For Asylum
Rishi Sunak has announced a number of measures to address the government’s self-made asylum backlog. The tone of Sunak’s statement was more measured than the sometimes rather unhinged rhetoric to which we have become accustomed, although he still introduced the topic as being about “illegal immigration”. There were no attacks on lawyers, for example. Or tofu. In that respect, it is welcome. The details of the new new plan for asylum do not seem likely to deliver, though, and the repeated singling out of Albanians is a very worrying development.
Morality not impact – Sunak began by saying that “any solution should be not just what works but what is right”. This is an interesting yardstick by which to measure government policy. It suggests that a policy which fails to achieve its purpose might still be ‘correct’ in some way. This is surely a reference to the Rwanda plan and other recent measures, which no-one now seems to think will actually deter people from coming to the United Kingdom. It can also be read as a reference to the hostile environment suite of laws. These have had no discernible impact on immigration. Indeed, voluntary departures actually fell considerably from 2016 onwards. But some consider it morally right to deny services to migrants, even if that just has the effect of leaving them destitute and vulnerable within our borders and it increases race discrimination against not just migrants but also black Britons.
Read more: Freemovement, https://rb.gy/iqzxr9
Freemovement: Home Office Bank Account Closure Plan Causing Havoc
One of the measures announced by Rishi Sunak in his asylum statement on 13 December 2022 was the re-starting of hostile environment immigration checks on bank accounts. These checks were introduced by the Immigration Act 2016 but were paused by Sajid Javid in 2018 when he was Home Secretary. There was no consultation on Sunak’s plan and it seems to herald government disengagement from the ongoing Windrush Lessons Learned Review process.
These banking checks are extremely controversial. The Immigration Act 2014 already required banks to conduct immigration checks before opening a new account. This already proves problematic for refugees and students in particular, but at least it does not involve losing something you already have. Having your existing bank account closed on you is a whole new level of catastrophe. Imagine it. With no notice, you suddenly cannot make or receive any payments. The only money you have now is whatever was in your wallet. You cannot buy food, travel or pay rent. Your phone will soon run out of credit. You cannot pay a lawyer to try and sort things out, either, because you have no money.
Some people will say this is fine if those affected are illegal immigrants with no right to be here. Personally, I disagree with this. These sorts of measures force people into destitution and leave them open to exploitation. There is no evidence that they actually persuade or force people out of the country, though. They make life hard and marginal, but not that hard and marginal. Voluntary departures from the UK have actually plummeted since 2016. I am not OK with a measure that is supposedly about immigration actually having no immigration impact, just a disastrous social and economic one.
Read more: Freemovement, https://rb.gy/fjwqtf
14 December 2022: UK Parliament/Hansard: Asylum Seeker Employment and the Cost of Living
Christian Wakeford I thank the hon. Lady for the intervention. I was just coming on to that point, but I completely and wholeheartedly agree.
As Mahmoud said, going hungry brings him some comfort. The money that could pay for his food has meant that his little son will not go to bed hungry. That is the only comfort that it brings him. He used to spend £10 on his weekly grocery shop, but now, increasing costs are making that impossible. These are not one-off instances; this is the life of an asylum seeker in a cost of living crisis.
Close to 18 months ago, I was in a debate on the Nationality and Borders Bill. In that debate, I said that asylum seekers travel through many safe countries, and that they essentially have a shopping trolley as to what they want as economic migrants. I want to go on record here and say that it is important to admit when you are wrong. My meetings with Mary and others have shown me that I was wrong, and I am sorry for that. Every week, the Government use scapegoats, and as we continued to see even yesterday in the Prime Minister’s statement, asylum seekers have been one for this Government for far too long. I am sorry for playing my part in that narrative as well.
These people are not arbitrary numbers for newspaper editors to froth at the mouth about, or to stoke the fire of intolerance. They are human beings, and we all need to remember that. They have had their hopes and dreams for themselves and their children dashed, but they still have hope. They want a good education; they want to live life without fear of persecution; and more importantly, they need our help and assistance. The persecution may be for a religious or political belief, due to war or because of the sexuality of the person they love, but when I have met asylum seekers, one thing has always been constant: the need for dignity after all they have been through. I am sure that we can all agree that having a purpose through work brings dignity.
People seeking asylum in the UK are in effect prohibited from working, and are forced to rely on just £5.84 a day while they wait for a decision to be reached on their asylum claim. During the cost of living crisis, that small sum makes it impossible to cover what is needed. As the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Margaret Ferrier) said, an increase of just 13p in a year seems miserly in the crisis that we face as a nation.
You have fled persecution, and you fear for your life. You have taken on a potentially near-death experience, crossing dangerous waters in an overflowing dinghy with both your children. You get to your destination, but all avenues are blocked. That £5.84 does not even buy two cups of coffee. It is not enough to feed or clothe yourself or your children, to travel to appointments, or to buy toiletries and sanitary products; that is not feasible. That just is not fair.
Immigration rules dictate that people can apply to work only after they have been waiting for a decision on their asylum claim for over a year. There are many reasons why lifting the ban on asylum seekers working in the UK is the right thing to do. Forcing people fleeing persecution to spend months of their lives in poverty is inhumane. It has a detrimental impact on their physical and, more importantly, mental health. Enabling people to work provides them with the human dignity of being able to support themselves and their families while they build a route out of poverty. There are moral and ethical reasons why that would be the right thing to do. Lifting the ban would also provide considerable fiscal benefits to the country.
Without the opportunity to work, many people seeking asylum are forced into unsafe and exploitative practices, including forced labour. Research by the OECD found that a lack of permission to work can lead some people seeking asylum to work unlawfully, and that type of work can lead to situations of exploitation and modern slavery, as they do not have recourse to health and safety measures, or even regulated employment practices.
The Lift the Ban coalition estimates that reform of the policy could save the UK economy more than £333 million a year. If 50% of people who have waited more than six months for a decision on their initial asylum application were able to work full time on the national average wage, the Government would receive almost £249 million from the tax and national insurance contributions alone. If they no longer required subsistence support but retained support for accommodation, the Government would save an additional £84 million.
By the end of 2022, the Treasury will have wasted nearly £1 billion over 10 years as a result of banning people seeking asylum from working. Lifting the ban would also bring us into line with other countries around the world. The restrictive approach that the UK takes on the right to work makes it an international outlier. In comparable countries across Europe and in Australia, people are given an opportunity to support themselves earlier, with fewer restrictions. In France and Spain, there is a six-month wait, and in Germany a three-month wait.
Employment figures continue to show tightness in the labour market; the CBI has identified that three quarters of businesses are being hit by labour shortages. The British Chambers of Commerce suggests that reform of the shortage occupation list is required to allow sectors facing an urgent demand for skills to get what they need. It makes no sense for business, or for this country, to prohibit thousands of people who have the necessary skills from filling vacancies in industries that are desperately in need of workers.
Members should not listen only to me; the Lift the Ban coalition brings together almost 270 members, including the TUC, Unison and Oxfam, as well as those famous lefties at the CBI, Bright Blue and the Adam Smith Institute. The Government’s own Migration Advisory Committee released its annual report on Monday. It found that banning asylum seekers from working results in their entering the informal economy on poorer wages and conditions, which leaves them open to exploitation. It states:
“We also recommended that the Government review their policy more generally on allowing asylum seekers to work.”
It is not only businesses but the public who support that. YouGov polling carried out in March 2022 found that 81% of the population support granting the right to work after someone has waited six months. According to Refugee Action, 97,717 people seeking asylum have waited more than six months for an initial decision on their application—a sixfold increase from five years ago.
We have heard many times about the asylum system being broken. The figures alone show that to be the case. Just over three quarters—77%—of asylum seekers will eventually have their asylum claim accepted. The cost of living crisis has illuminated the ongoing dangers and frustrations of the restrictive rules. Soaring food and energy prices have pushed inflation to a 40-year high, yet the rate of asylum support allowance has risen by just 13p since 2021. Without the option of supporting themselves and their families through work, many people seeking asylum experience poverty, destitution and homelessness, and develop serious physical and mental health issues. The Conservative mantra has always been that the best route out of poverty is through work, so why are asylum seekers left in destitution and not offered that route?
Labour supports granting asylum seekers the right to work after they have waited for six months. The Minister for Immigration admitted recently that although he did not think the policy should change due to pull-factor concerns, there are good arguments on both sides of the debate. The Government’s defence of the policy is that enabling asylum seekers to work would act as a pull factor, and that wider economic policy schemes could be seriously undermined if migrants were able to bypass work visa rules by lodging unfounded asylum claims in the UK, but that falls flat given that a leaked Home Office report showed that permission to work is not a pull factor. The report revealed that many people seeking asylum do not have a prior understanding of welfare policies or access to provisions before they come to a country, and they have little knowledge of economic conditions in destination countries.
Equally, the argument that economic migrants will make false claims in order to access the labour market is not a strong line of defence. A six-month waiting period would provide a strong safeguard against that. It is implausible that somebody would bring themselves to the attention of the authorities on the basis that there might be a chance that their asylum application will not be decided within six months. In reality, most people seeking asylum do not have a choice about the country to which they flee. Many of those who have come to the UK have done so because of cultural, family or community connections.
I pay particular thanks to Refugee Action for all the important work it does in supporting asylum seekers. It has been an invaluable source of information and, more importantly, education to me. I also thank World Jewish Relief; it set up its specialist training and employment programme in 2016, which helps refugees to gain language skills and qualifications, and to get training. It also provides one-to-one assistance in CV writing and interview skills.
We need an asylum system based on compassion. I hope the Minister has listened closely to the body of supportive evidence and takes heed of it. Human beings all need support at some point. Please do not leave these people behind.
UK Parliament/Hansard: Asylum Seekers (Removal to Safe Countries) debate [Lost]
I beg to move: That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide that certain provisions of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 relating to the removal of asylum seekers to safe countries shall have effect notwithstanding inconsistency or incompatibility with international or other domestic law; to require the Secretary of State to proceed with such removals regardless of any decision or judgment of any international court or body; and for connected purposes.
5 December 2022: UNHCR News Comment on UK Asylum Reform Proposals
This news comment is attributable to Vicky Tennant, UNHCR Representative to the United Kingdom
UNHCR notes with concern the proposals presented in a report issued today by the Centre for Policy Studies on UK asylum reform.
The report contains critical factual and legal errors regarding the international legal status of refugees and asylum-seekers.
Everybody has the right to seek asylum from persecution in another country, and there is no such thing as an “illegal asylum-seeker”. The indefinite detention of those seeking asylum, based solely on their mode of arrival, would punish people in need of help and protection and constitute a clear breach of the United Kingdom’s obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention.
The Home Office is blighted by delays in dealing with asylum claims, as inexperienced and low-paid staff are hired to handle applications, several insiders have told BBC Two’s Newsnight.
Staff said this was slowing down decisions, leading to long, expensive hotel stays for asylum seekers.
Nearly 130,000 people are waiting for a decision, latest official figures for June 2022 show.
The Home Office said it was boosting the number of claims processed.
It comes as Home Secretary Suella Braverman is set to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee later, where she will answer questions from MPs on asylum and immigration.
Three people who work in the department have spoken to Newsnight to warn about the impact on Home Office decisions being made about asylum seekers.
One person with several years of experience working in the department said: “To make and write decisions is more difficult than people think.
“They’re hiring large numbers of inexperienced staff who need to be trained to do this and that takes time, so the backlog grows.
“And it’s young staff facing these harrowing stories and earning low wages – so what’s the incentive to stay?
“There isn’t one… so they leave and then they hire someone else and so it continues.”
According to the latest Home Office figures, by the end of June this year 127,026 asylum applications were still to be decided upon.
That is nearly four times the number of cases that were awaiting a decision by the end of June 2018, when 33,035 asylum applications were in the backlog.
Another Home Office employee said they were working “long and gruelling” hours.
Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-63720698
Updated 18 November 2022: Human Rights Joint Select Committee
The Joint Committee on Human Rights consists of twelve members, appointed from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, to examine matters relating to human rights within the United Kingdom, as well as scrutinising every Government Bill for its compatibility with human rights.
Background: […] Asylum seekers often come from countries affected by violence, conflict, and human rights abuses, and a portion of those who leave come to the UK. In 2022, the number of new asylum applications rose to 63,089, from 48,540 in the previous year. As of June 2022, there were 122,213 asylum claims pending an initial decision, out of which 89,231 cases had been pending an initial decision for more than 6 months. Most asylum claims in the UK are successful – in 2021, the estimated overall grant rate where a final outcome has been reached was 77%.
The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 made significant amendments to the legislative framework for the asylum system. Changes include the introduction of new powers to remove asylum seekers, the creation of a two-tier system for asylum claims, and the inadmissibility of claims by persons with a connection to safe third States. The Government has also sought through the UK Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership to send certain asylum seekers to Rwanda to make claims for asylum in Rwanda.
You can read the transcripts of their sessions here: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/93/human-rights-joint-committee/events/
This inquiry is currently accepting evidence; the committee wants to hear your views. We welcome submissions from anyone with answers to the questions in the call for evidence.
You can submit evidence until Thursday 15 December 2022 https://committees.parliament.uk/work/6983/human-rights-of-asylum-seekers-in-the-uk/publications/
EIN: Refugee Council: FOI request reveals backlog of asylum seekers waiting for initial decision reaches 122,206 with hundreds waiting over 5 years
Asylum Seekers Backlog Reaches 122,206 – Hundreds Waiting Over 5 Years
The Refugee Council on Tuesday, published new Home Office data on the asylum backlog obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. As highlighted by the Refugee Council, the data shows that that total number of asylum seekers waiting for an initial decision on their asylum claim stood at 122,206 at the end of June 2022. This figure includes main applicants, adult dependents and children. The backlog when only counting adult main applicants was 93,969.
The asylum backlog has doubled in a year and a half (from 64,891 at the end of December 2020) and has quadrupled in just five years (up from 29,522 in December 2017). Over ten years, the backlog has increased almost tenfold (it stood at 12,808 in December 2012). Of those in the backlog at the end of June 2022, some 38,036 asylum seekers had been waiting between six months and a year, 40,913 between one and three years, 9,551 between three and five years, and 725 asylum seekers had been waiting for over five years. The Refugee Council said the latter statistic was shocking.
Read more: EIN, https://rb.gy/op8nwl
Updated 7 November 2022: Guardian: The Tories concocted the myth of the ‘migrant crisis’. Now their survival depends on it
Brexit is exposed, the economy is in shreds, the party has imploded – and the government is running out of people to blame
Britain exists in an imaginary state of crisis about immigration. Nothing soothes this anxiety – not facts, not real numbers of arrivals, not the distinction between migrants in general and asylum seekers in particular. In the past week alone, reports have emerged of illegally detained migrants at overcrowded centres falling ill, of underage sexual assault, and of others being dropped off in the middle of cities and promptly forgotten about. These appalling failures have occurred not because there are too many migrants, but because the government has broken its own asylum system.
This is a crisis by design, not of arrivals. The government is keen to stress the recent increase in Channel crossings, yet asylum applications are half what they were 20 years ago. The real and only cause of the debacle at Manston and other failing centres is this: the number of asylum applications processed within six months has fallen from almost 90% to about 4%. It’s not that more people are arriving than ever before, it’s that more of them aren’t being processed, and so are stuck in the asylum system for years. Efficiency has been dropping sharply since 2014, one year after Theresa May established the “hostile environment” and in the middle of George Osborne’s austerity programme. The intersection of those two forces created an underfunded, cruel Home Office, and with it Britain’s immigration “crisis”.
Jo Wilding (SOAS) finds continuing crisis in legal aid provision for asylum seekers is leaving half of main applicants without a legal representative. Based on a Freedom of Information (FOI) response received last month from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Jo Wilding estimates that the deficit between provision and need has now reached at least 25,000. This would mean that nearly half of the main applicants who claimed asylum in the year ending June 2022 did not have a legal aid representative.
Wilding said: “[C]lients are losing representation, either because of firms withdrawing from legal aid altogether or because their representatives will not do appeals work, and having to find new representation in a ‘market’ which already can accommodate only half of the demand from new applicants.”
She notes that one of the largest immigration legal aid firms in England and Wales has now informed clients it will not take on any new appeals work. A number of other firms are doing the same or are closing, with the blog post highlighting particular problems in Yorkshire and in Wales.
Read more: EIN, https://rb.gy/qq7ow7
Updated 6 November 2022: Observer: Revealed: supermarket staff recruited to make ‘life and death’ asylum decisions
‘It’s a total disaster,’ says whistleblower as Home Office brings in novice workers to clear backlog
The Home Office is hiring asylum decision-makers from customer service and sales positions at McDonald’s, Tesco and Aldi as part of a recruitment drive to clear its huge backlog of asylum applications, the Observer can reveal.
The new recruits, hired through online advertising and high street recruitment agencies, have no prior experience or knowledge of the asylum system. Many are placed on rolling, temporary contracts, typically for three months. Despite being promised comprehensive training, decision-makers report being “left to fend for themselves” after two days, and having to conduct complex interviews and make “life or death” decisions.
Senior lawyers had told home secretary about risks of inflammatory rhetoric long before she referred to asylum seekers as an ‘invasion’
The home secretary, Suella Braverman, who last week caused outrage by referring to asylum seekers entering the UK as an “invasion”, had been warned by government lawyers that inflammatory immigration rhetoric risked inspiring a far-right terror attack.
Braverman’s comments came just one day after a man with links to the far right threw firebombs at a Dover immigration centre. On Saturday, counter-terrorism police announced they had found evidence that the attack was motivated by an “extreme rightwing” terrorist ideology.
In October 2020, Braverman, then attorney general for England and Wales, was briefed in detail about how hate speech by senior politicians could lead to a terrorist risk. It followed an alleged terror plot against a law firm shortly after Priti Patel, then home secretary, had claimed that “activist lawyers” were frustrating the removal of failed asylum seekers.
After the alleged incident, senior legal figures contacted the attorney general’s office to make clear their concern that inflammatory political rhetoric inspired violence.
In late October 2020, Braverman met in person with government lawyers, the lord chancellor and lord chief justice to discuss the “worrying increase in use of ‘activist lawyers’ rhetoric” by the government, an internal Bar Council newsletter reveals.
At the time, Braverman was so concerned that she contacted Patel to ask her if she would consider toning down her language.
However, last week Braverman doubled down on her choice of language, also referring to “Albanian criminals” in parliament, prompting Edi Rama, the prime minister of the eastern European country, to accuse Braverman of using “purely xenophobic” words.
One prominent barrister with knowledge of the discussions during October 2020 said that Braverman was fully aware that her intervention last week in the immigration debate was incendiary.
2 November 2022: Gal-dem: Revealed: ‘Shocking’ number of asylum seeker infant deaths in Home Office housing
Data obtained by gal-dem and Liberty Investigates finds seven babies born to mothers provided with Home Office accommodation have died since 2020.
Content warning: This article contains mention of sexual assault, miscarriage and infant death.
Maria Wetu was heavily pregnant when she arrived at a residence for asylum seekers in London, in spring 2020. It had been a harrowing journey.
Fleeing an abusive relationship in Angola, the 24-year-old had arrived in the UK just weeks earlier – only, she alleges, to be sexually abused by a man. She claims she escaped with the help of hospital staff who called the police, then she filed an asylum claim and was placed in state-supported housing.
On 13 April, soon after her arrival at the residence managed by Clearsprings Ready Homes, Wetu began suffering abdominal pains and asked reception staff to call an ambulance. Under their contract with the Home Office, providers of asylum accommodation are required to help residents access medical care in urgent situations. They refused to make the call, she claims.
By then, Wetu was in so much pain she could barely talk. Reception staff agreed to dial 999 but insisted Wetu speak to the call handlers herself, she recalls. Her English is limited, and she couldn’t understand their questions. She began to bleed heavily, prompting reception staff to finally call for an ambulance on her behalf.
When she reached the hospital, she learned her baby daughter, her firstborn – delivered at 34 weeks – had died. “Nothing will ever replace the pain of not holding that child in my arms,” she says. “Losing a child is like a tattoo. It never leaves you.”
Wetu is speaking under her own name for the first time after disclosures obtained by gal-dem and Liberty Investigates reveal that between October 2017 and May 2022, eight babies born live to asylum seekers living in Home Office accommodation died before reaching their first birthday.
Seven of the deaths took place since May 2020. Around this time, the asylum seeker accommodation system was coming under strain from a backlog in asylum decisions. The Home Office also temporarily stopped withdrawing support from those whose claims were decided so that they wouldn’t be left homeless during the pandemic. The government started using hotels and military barracks as emergency housing, yet reports emerged that some of these were akin to ‘detention centres’ and sometimes unsafe.
A further disclosure released using the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) revealed a further two deaths of asylum seekers’ babies in August 2022, but their exact ages weren’t clear.
The numbers also reveal only part of the picture of infant tragedies among asylum seekers. Wetu’s stillborn daughter, for example, is missing from the disclosure because the Home Office doesn’t collect figures about the miscarriages or stillbirths of asylum seekers living in its accommodation.
The revelations are “hugely concerning” and “should set alarm bells ringing”, says Kirsty Kitchen, head of policy at the charity Birth Companions.
“It is shocking that asylum seekers and their babies appear to be being so neglected in a country which should be offering them a place of safety and sanctuary,” says Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central and the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Immigration Detention.
“Between October 2017 and May 2022, eight babies born live to asylum seekers living in Home Office accommodation died before reaching their first birthday”
The new data comes amid campaigners’ fears that apparent failures in the support of pregnant asylum seekers – especially since the start of the pandemic in early 2020 – may pose potential risks to their health, and that lives may be at risk in the accommodation run by private providers.
Updated 21 October 2022: Joint Committee on Human Rights (3:00pm, Room 16)
Human Rights of Asylum Seekers in the UK
Witnesses: Jonathan Ellis, Public Affairs and Policy Strategic Lead, Refugee Council; Mr James Fookes, Research and Advocacy Coordinator, Anti-slavery International; Zehrah Hasan, Advocacy Director, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
Updated 18 October 2022: Guardian: Concerns raised over due process in case of 11 Albanians flown out of UK
Migrants were put on a plane to Albania soon after they arrived in Britain in small boats
Concerns have been raised about a group of 11 Albanians flown out of the UK soon after arriving in small boats despite a government undertaking not to fast-track Albanian nationals.
Last month, the Home Office was forced to concede that it did not have the right to do so, after earlier claims from former home secretary Priti Patel that the UK could quickly return asylum seekers who arrived in the UK and made “spurious” claims.
The Albanians are thought to have arrived in the UK last week and were taken from Manston in Ramsgate where the Home Office processes small boat arrivals, to Stansted airport from where they were put on a plane back to Albania on Wednesday. It is thought to be the first time small boat arrivals have been put on a plane directly from Manston.
Critics have described the incident as a case of “zero notice removal”. While a Home Office spokesperson said they could not comment on the flight for operational reasons, government sources said nobody on the flight had an outstanding asylum claim.
But non-government sources have told the Guardian the 11 Albanians were not given an opportunity to have their asylum claims considered before they were put on the plane.
Mishka Pillay, campaigns consultant at Detention Action, said: “This removal of 11 people to Albania is an indication that people in Manston may be deprived of due process. We have had serious concerns about Manston. The most vulnerable people are being hidden away from vital support and access to justice.”
In August, Patel announced a scheme to expedite the removal of Albanians who arrive to the UK in small boats, saying that many make “spurious” asylum claims. However, following the threat of legal action from the charity Care4Calais, the Home Office conceded a few weeks ago that officials do not have the right to fast-track the deportation of Albanian asylum seekers after they arrive in the UK and gave an undertaking not to do this.
The incident involving the 11 Albanians is the latest to have caused concern over Manston, a temporary tented site at an airfield designed to hold 1,000 small boat arrivals that reportedly has 3,000 on site currently, giving rise to conditions described as “a nightmare” by one of those working at the site.Advertisement
Some people are being held for longer than the five-day time limit on the site, including unaccompanied children.
Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said: “The appalling inhumane conditions that we’re seeing across reception facilities for men, women and children seeking asylum highlight an unacceptable lack of contingency planning by this government, that is causing serious damage to vulnerable individuals. Many of the children we support who are stuck in hotels or have been placed in Manston as age-disputed adults are traumatised by the fact they are not getting enough food, feel unsafe and, in some cases, are getting scabies.”
Updated 15 September 2022: from Asylum Matters:
Updated 11 September 2022: Observer: Revealed: Suella Braverman sets Home Office ‘No boats crossing the Channel’ target
UK’s new home secretary upsets civil servants with speech on migrants, trashy TV and back-to-office call
The new home secretary has already prompted consternation among Home Office officials after telling them she wants to ban all small boats crossing the Channel, the Observer has learned. […]
Regarding boat crossings, immigration experts say it is practically impossible to halt them as long as the government refuses to offer sufficient alternative safe routes to the UK. Last weekend alone saw another 45 boats arriving in the UK carrying 2,120 asylum seekers, with 8,000 individuals crossing during August, the highest monthly total on record.
“Suggesting she can stop all boat crossings is pie in the sky – it doesn’t bode well,” said a civil service source.
Updated 28 August 2022: The Observer: There are lies, damn lies, and then there is Home Office propaganda about migrants
Priti Patel spreads Tory myths about Albanians but official statistics tell a very different story
There are Home Office statistics and then there are Home Office press releases. And the gap between the two is often so wide that even the most resourceful migrant would be unlikely to discover a way of navigating from the one to the other.
Last week, the latest set of immigration statistics arrived, a comprehensive data set for the year ending June 2022. It’s a goldmine for researchers, and a nightmare for Home Office propagandists.
Take, for instance, the latest panic over Albanians. It began with an article in the Daily Mail, drawing on a “secret military intelligence report”, claiming that 40% of cross-Channel migrants were Albanian. Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday claimed that “government officials believe the majority” of people arriving on small boats were from Albania, a claim presented without challenge as a fact. That same day, the Home Office unveiled an agreement with Tirana to “fast-track” the removal of Albanians, who apparently don’t require asylum because they come from a “safe and prosperous nation”.
The statistics tell a different story. The number of Albanians crossing the Channel has certainly increased, but in the first six months of this year stood at around 17% of the total. It is possible that the figures have dramatically changed since the end of June, but we have little evidence for that except for unverified Home Office sources and a secret document from military intelligence.
Updated 26 August 2022: Independent: Home Office: Only 21 ‘inadmissible’ asylum seekers deported from UK in 18 months as Rwanda scheme stalls
Government hopes to make Rwanda a ‘safe third country’ for asylum processing after losing EU deal in Brexit
Almost 16,000 asylum seekers were considered for removal because the government declared their claims “inadmissible” between 1 January 2021 and the end of June.
Statistics released by the Home Office showed that of those, only 21 people were removed from the UK, to countries including Ireland, Germany, Italy and Spain, after a key EU transfer deal in Brexit.
Updated 25 July 2022: Gov.uk Policy paper: New Plan for Immigration: legal migration and border control strategy
This strategy statement sets out our ambition for transformational change for everyone using our systems and crossing the UK border.
The document confirming the continuation of this hostile environment is here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1092488/CCS204_CCS0722436296-001_Plan_for_Immigration_E-Laying.pdf
Outrageous: Updated 1 July 2022: Morning Star: Charities refuse Home Office requests to participate in ‘anti-refugee propaganda campaign’
THE Home Office has sparked anger after trying to enlist the help of charities to inform communications campaigns aimed at deterring asylum-seekers from coming to Britain.
Several organisations, including the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), have declared that they will not engage with what they described as a “hostile propaganda campaign” against refugees.
JCWI said it was one of tens of organisations approached by the Home Office this week to “consult” on a social media campaign rolled out by the department in northern France and Belgium.
The campaign seeks to warn “potential irregular migrants” of the “risks and dangers of illegal migration — especially via small boat crossings,” a Home Office email sent to JCWI reveals.
It goes on to ask groups “to help us understand migrant perceptions of migrating to the UK” and “their awareness of current and future migration policies.”
But dozens of advocacy groups are understood to have vowed to boycott the consultation, run by think tank Britain Thinks.
JCWI advocacy director Zehrah Hasan said: “We’ve told this government time and again what will save lives — and that’s safe routes.
“But instead of taking the practical steps needed to introduce these routes, this government [is] showing themselves to be committed to cruelty, as it plans a hostile propaganda campaign that will only lead to more deaths.
“We won’t be complicit in this anti-refugee scare campaign, and we know that tens of other migrant and refugee rights groups are taking the same stance.”
Other groups refusing to participate in the consultation include Refugee Action, Asylum Matters, Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, No Accommodation Network, and the3million.
Refugee Action chief executive Tim Naor Hilton branded the plans “another sleazy PR exercise dressed up as a consultation.”
“This ‘information campaign’ sounds like an online ‘Go Home’ van and we remain seriously alarmed by any government plan with a racist design to keep people out, not keep people safe,” he said.
Head of advocacy and policy at the3million Luke Piper said: “There are insufficient safe routes for people to come to the UK and this requires urgent attention above a communications campaign designed to scare and push people further underground.”
A Home Office spokesperson expressed disappointment at the organisations’ refusals to engage with its “attempts to work together to improve communications to vulnerable people being sold a lie by inhumane smugglers.”
Updated 28 June 2022: Freemovement: Humanitarian protection is being downgraded from 28 June 2022
- Background to the changes
- The new humanitarian protection rules in more detail
- What will be the impact of the changes?
- Practical steps to take now
What will be the impact of the changes?
These changes mean that the grant of permission made to a person recognised as in need of humanitarian protection has been halved, and the amount of time that they need to spend in the UK before being able to settle here has been doubled. Instead of two applications until settlement, each person must now make up to five: the initial application, the extension from two and a half to five years, then to seven and a half, and then to ten years. Only then may they be eligible to apply for indefinite leave.
In the last year, humanitarian protection has been granted to people from Yemen, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and El Salvador, amongst others. In 2018 there were 1,296 grants of humanitarian protection, 1,235 in 2019, 1,005 in 2020 and 942 in 2021.
The human cost of this prolonged period of uncertainty and the need to continue to engage with the Home Office at such regular intervals will be huge. The department is already unable to process asylum-related applications in a timely manner.
Note: Please see our information about excessive fees, which the people affected by this change will now have to pay: https://qarn.org.uk/category/fees/: leaflets available here: https://qarn.org.uk/qarn-leaflets-download-them-here/
Updated 25 May 2022: Thank you Freemovement: When Does the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 Come Into Force?
The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 was signed into law on 28 April 2022. But there is a difference between a law being “on the statute books” after being passed by Parliament and it actually being “in force”. Most of the 2022 Act is not yet in force and will be phased in over time.
The commencement provisions are found in section 87 of the Act.
Section 87 provides that a handful of provisions came into force straight away, on 28 April: Some other sections of the Act also came into force on the day it became law, insofar as they allow the Secretary of the State to make or consult on regulations:
Then there are a bunch of provisions which, by virtue of section 87(5), come into force at a known date in the future. This is after “two months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed” — so 28 June 2022.
The rest of the Act will only come into force once a commencement order is made. In practice, there are likely to be multiple commencement orders bringing different sections into force at different times.
Read more: Freemovement, https://rb.gy/na6mr2
As of 27 April 2022 the Nationality & Borders Bill is now disgracefully on route to Royal Ascent and becoming an Act of Parliament:
Updated 28 April 2022: Fight The Anti-Refugee Laws
We’re going to get the anti-refugee laws repealed. Sign the Pledge to Fight the Anti-Refugee Laws
[…] Our pledge below lays out what this campaign and its supporters are committed to: a compassionate approach that welcomes and supports refugees.
Click on the link SIGN UP TO THE PLEDGE to access the form for organisations, faith groups, charities, community groups, businesses, trade unions and others to sign the pledge to fight the ‘anti-refugee’ laws contained in the Nationality and Borders Act 2022.
The pledge has been drafted by Asylum Matters and Refugee Action, in partnership with a number of organisations working on asylum and refugee issues across the UK. The statement and its signatories will be hosted on the website: FightTheAntiRefugeeLaws.org, and will be used to secure media coverage.
We may be in touch with signatories to the pledge periodically to update you on our plans to use the pledge for campaigning purposes and to invite you to opt into related initiatives.
The pledge can be read in full here:
“We believe that people seeking protection from war and persecution should be welcomed and that everyone’s claim for asylum should be treated equally and fairly. We believe that the UK should offer sanctuary to those who need it.
That’s why we’re taking a stand against the anti-refugee laws. We pledge to:
– Defend the right to seek safety from war and persecution in the UK;
– Speak out against attempts to make it harder to be recognised as a refugee, and criminalise and punish those who make their own way to safety;
– Challenge the anti-refugee laws which will risk the lives and well-being of people;
– Work towards a refugee protection system that treats all people with dignity and compassion.”
Read more here: https://fighttheantirefugeelaws.org/
EIN: Nationality and Borders Bill passes Parliament and will become law as Labour peers decide it would be inappropriate for the House of Lords to attempt a fourth defeat
Summary: Bill successfully passes through Parliament today and will shortly receive royal assent
The Nationality and Borders Bill has successfully concluded its passage through Parliament today (27 April 2022) and is now set to become law.
With time running short before the current session of Parliament is due to end, the Bill was back in the House of Lords today following yesterday’s continuation of ping pong with the Commons.
Lord Coaker said today, however, that the Labour Party had made the decision that it would not be appropriate for the Lords to send the Bill back to the Commons for a fourth time.
With the opposition deciding to abstain and defer to the elected house, the Government comfortably won the only vote held today by 212 votes to 157.
The Bill is now ready to receive Royal Assent and will shortly become law.
In the House of Lords today, a single vote was held on Baroness Chakrabarti’s amendment requiring that the Bill be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the Refugee Convention. The amendment also required courts and tribunals to make a declaration if they are determining a matter related to the Bill which cannot be interpreted in a way that is compatible with the Convention.
[…] In response to the passing of the Bill, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Twitter: “UNHCR regrets that final amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill were rejected. The Bill will now become law. The new law undermines established international refugee protection laws and practices and risks causing very real suffering to vulnerable people.”
UNHCR added: “The Refugee Convention is as relevant as ever and continues to uphold the rights of refugees. Even after the Nationality and Borders Bill becomes law, UNHCR will continue to advocate against this damaging legislation and to protect refugee rights in the UK and around the world. Refugees should not be criminalised for seeking sanctuary in the UK. UNHCR will continue to argue for the rights of asylum seekers, refugees and stateless people, regardless of how they arrive. Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right.”
Refugee Council: Nationality and Border Bill: cruel legislation becomes law
Thousands of people fleeing extreme situations of war and persecution will now find it harder to find safety in the UK and could face years in prison as a result of new legislation that has been voted through by MPs this week.
Nine months after it was first debated in Parliament, the Nationality and Borders Bill has now become law. Despite strong resistance in the House of Lords, which saw the Government defeated over thirty times on different votes, peers were eventually forced to concede and allow the Bill to pass before the end of the parliamentary session.
[…] Although the main parliamentary process is now complete, we are not defeated and the fight for better refugee protection in the UK is far from over. The measures in the Bill do not come into force overnight, and much of the detail remains unclear. Refugee Council will be seeking to limit the harm of the bill, as well as monitoring and evidencing its impact to highlight its failings. We will be closely monitoring the impact of the Bill on people seeking sanctuary in the UK and powerfully showing how it will fail to deliver the fixes to the broken asylum system that the Government says it will deliver.
We know that many measures in the Bill are deeply unpopular, and there will be future opportunities to stop them being implemented. Councils should consider refusing to allow accommodation centres to be set up in areas where they are in power, and we will continue to use every opportunity to put pressure on the Home Office on other elements of the bill.
Australian campaigners have had good success in stopping companies from participating in the offshore asylum process, and organisations in the UK are seeking to learn from them. In addition, there are certain to be legal challenges to the legislation, and people who specialise in refugee and asylum law are already preparing the ground for that.
The incredible efforts of refugee campaigners across the UK have demonstrated that the public want a fair and efficient asylum system, and the work to achieve that is not over.
The next step is to increase that support and make it louder and stronger, so that change becomes inevitable.
Debate in the Lords yesterday which shamefully allowed the Nationality & Borders Bill to pass
A single vote was held on Baroness Chakrabarti’s amendment requiring that the Bill be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the Refugee Convention. The amendment also required courts and tribunals to make a declaration if they are determining a matter related to the Bill which cannot be interpreted in a way that is compatible with the Convention. The motion was ‘disagreed’ and you can see voted for and against this motion here. As a result of this motion falling, the whole Bill was passed:: https://votes.parliament.uk/Votes/Lords/Division/2829
Updated 21 April 2022: Guardian: Priti Patel asylum plan ‘not racist or illegal’, civil servants told
[…] Home Office official seeks to reassure staff over refugees to Rwanda scheme as union considers action over ‘callous policy’
In a sign of the deep level of anger within the Home Office about the asylum plan, staff members suggested the policy was racist, unethical and would inevitably face scrutiny by an inquiry. Many submitted their thoughts anonymously ahead of the online meeting with Rycroft.
Among the questions posed were whether any lessons had been learned from the Windrush scandal, and if Ukrainian refugees would also be sent to Rwanda or was it “only people of colour?”
One read: “How can we seriously say in one breath that we are committed to righting the wrongs of Windrush, then in the next say that we are sending migrants thousands of miles to Rwanda for ‘processing’?”
Other comments suggested Home Office staff wanted to quit their job in protest.
One read: “As our CS [civil services] leaders, how are you planning to ensure the HO [Home Office] keeps its good people? Personally, this policy makes me want to move department or outside of government.”
Another asked: “How are we (HO staff) supposed to defend the organisation against the charge that this decision is/seems racist? (Both in terms of difference from Ukraine reaction, and in terms of colonial overtones).”
All the messages had more than 100 “thumbs up” notifications from colleagues.
The question with the highest number of thumbs up – 224 in total – came from a civil servant saying in a post: “Somewhere down the road, when the inevitable what went wrong with Rwandan outsourcing inquiry takes place, the Home Office cannot say that nobody spoke up at the time. We’re speaking up. This is a bad idea – don’t do it! I think a lot of staff feel this way. Can this be escalated?”
It emerged on Sunday that Rycroft had refused to sign off Patel’s plans, claiming that he could not be sure it would provide value for money to the taxpayer. However, sources said he was “fully supportive” of the policy in the online meeting while flanked by other officials. He criticised leaks of the questions posed by staff, saying it was a breach of the civil service code.
The debate of proposals from the Lords is written here – it goes back to the Lords on 26 April 2022 for consideration of Commons amendments
20 April 2022: Guardian: Tory MPs ignore celebrity entreaties and back immigration bill
Only handful of rebels vote against government to support Lords amendments
The actor Juliet Stevenson has made an 11th-hour plea to Conservative MPs voting on the government’s controversial immigration bill on Wednesday to “be brave and vote with your heart, not with your party membership card”.
Stevenson has urged MPs who are backing the nationality and borders bill to instead back Lords amendments in support of refugees.
However, on Wednesday night MPs backed plans to offshore asylum seekers and introduce a two-tier refugee system. Eleven Conservatives voted against the government and backed giving asylum seekers the right to work including Father of the House Sir Peter Bottomley, William Wragg, vice-chair of the 1922 committee, Steve Baker and former cabinet ministers Robert Buckland, David Davis and Andrew Mitchell.
19 April 2022: JPIT: Senior Church leaders write to MPs ahead of vote on the Nationality & Borders Bill
Senior Church leaders have written to all MPs ahead of Wednesday’s vote on the Nationality and Borders Bill, urging them to use their influence to make changes to the Bill.
The Nationality and Borders Bill is due to come before MPs on Wednesday 20th April, to allow them to vote on amendments proposed by the House of Lords. The Bill is in its final stages and continues to be backed by the government, despite having suffered multiple defeats in the House of Lords.
The Church leaders who have signed the letter represent a range of denominations and traditions in the UK, many of whom have been outspoken about the Bill over the past year. The letter has been sent to every MP currently elected to the House of Commons.
You can read the full text of the letter below.
We are writing as a group of Christian leaders, from denominations and traditions across the UK, ahead of the vote on the Nationality and Borders Bill in the House of Commons this week. We want to take this last opportunity to make it clear where we stand on the Nationality and Borders Bill. We urge you to use your influence to encourage concessions to the Bill ahead of the vote, and to support the changes made to the Bill in the House of Lords.
Faith groups have been outspoken on our concerns about the Bill since the start of the process. We have made it clear how we feel the Bill fails to uphold the principles and values of the UK by creating hostility and fostering discrimination against some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Only in the last few weeks we have witnessed the seemingly limitless compassion and commitment shown by UK citizens as they have welcomed Ukrainian refugees into their lives and homes. Yet the Nationality and Borders Bill directly contradicts this approach. We find it challenging to understand how the policies within the Bill will work in practice, except that they will cause hardship, criminalise innocent people and fracture families.
The amendments made in the House of Lords will improve the Bill as they seek to bring it in line with international convention, compassion and care for our common humanity. In particular, we support amendments made to expand and protect family reunion rights, to enable asylum seekers to work after waiting six months for their application outcome, to establish a target for resettlement and to amend the two-tier system proposed for asylum seekers. Each of these amendments recognises that the trauma and need of a person seeking asylum should be prioritised, and that we should do all we can to offer opportunities for people and families to restore their lives in a place of safety. In supporting these amendments, we urge you not to vote against the lives of vulnerable children, men, women and families who are in desperate need of our support.
At this time of Easter, as Christians we celebrate new life and new hope. Our faith tells us that our God-given hope in new life should influence the way we treat our neighbour, wherever they come from. As the Nationality and Borders Bill comes before you this week, we ask you to consider how your vote demonstrates how you care for those most vulnerable in our world.
Regardless of the outcome of this week’s vote, we will not stop advocating for love to be shown to our neighbour through the policies and practices in our asylum system. Churches across the UK will continue to come alongside those who remain in desperate need of our friendship and welcome.
We wish to encourage you in your role, and hold you in our prayers during this time.
Updated 13 April 2022: Joint Public Issues Team – JPIT: Home Office reply
In February, 1000+ faith leaders wrote to the Prime Minister raising their concerns about the Nationality and Borders Bill, urging him to make changes even at this late stage. At the beginning of April, we received a reply to the letter from Tom Pursglove MP, Minister for Justice and Tackling Illegal Migration. You can read the full reply here.
The letter was not substantially different from the statements and responses the Home Office have made regarding the Bill over recent months. It reaffirmed the government’s commitment to supporting the Bill, and to pushing through the changes to the asylum system it creates. It repeated claims about the effectiveness of measures in the Bill, despite widespread claims to the contrary.
On Wednesday 20th April, the Bill returns to the House of Commons as MPs are given the chance to vote on amendments made by the House of Lords once again. Ahead of this vote, we wanted to respond to some of the claims made in the Home Office’s response to the letter, and suggest what you could do next.
Home Office Reply
The Home Office Reply responds to a number of the points raised in the letter from faith leaders, which in itself is helpful. However, a number of them do little to directly address the concerns raised.
Motion text: That this House recognises the important campaigning work of the Status Now network on their two year anniversary; notes that there are currently an unknown number of persons in the UK who are not citizens and who do not at present have leave to remain in this country, who lack any entitlement to support from the state and are therefore entirely without funds to feed, clothe and house themselves and their families; considers it essential that the Government takes immediate action to ensure that Leave to Remain in the United Kingdom is granted to all such persons who are within the UK but are not citizens, irrespective of their nationality or immigration status, so that they can access healthcare, food, housing and other essential human rights; notes that asylum support allowance is a mere £39.63 per week which is a miserly and inadequate amount on which to be able to survive; laments the prohibition on asylum seekers being able to work while their claim is being processed, which leads to further impoverishment; welcomes the recent progress made in Ireland through the regularisation scheme for long-term undocumented people, launched in January 2022, which will offer an amnesty for 17,000 undocumented migrants; and calls on the Government to follow suit and ensure that all undocumented, destitute and migrant people in the legal process be granted status now, or indefinite leave to remain, to guarantee that every human being, irrespective of their nationality or citizenship can access the essentials to live. https://statusnow4all.org/status-now-campaign-edm-early…/
Updated 5 April 2022: Hansard: House of Lords: Nationality & Borders Bill
see 6.45pm Lord Dubs speaking: https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2022-04-04/debates/D26CD065-8F0A-4F98-9641-D2A7C7CA2AF5/NationalityAndBordersBill
Twitter: House of Lords @UKHouseofLords votes to require all refugees arriving in UK receive same rights under Refugee Convention and ability to maintain family unity. Members vote 191 for, 148 against motion D1 in #NationalityBordersBill, so the change is made https://votes.parliament.uk/Votes/Lords/Division/2778
Lords voted to remove the harshest elements of the Nationality and Borders Bill – which a Bishop branded ‘inhumane’, and an ex-Supreme Court justice said ‘flagrantly breaches’ our human rights requirements
Boris Johnson and Priti Patel were tonight dealt an avalanche of defeats in the House of Lords over their “inhumane” crackdown on refugees.
[…] Votes were still going past 10pm, but those which defeated the government at the time of writing included:
- Lords backed by 162 to 141, majority 21, a change which meant the offence of helping an asylum seeker to enter the UK could only be committed if it is carried out “without reasonable excuse”.
- Peers backed by 163 votes to 138, majority 25, removing a broad provision making it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission, limiting it to only those who breach a deportation order.
- A move to force the Government to publish a numerical target for the resettlement of refugees to the UK each year was backed by 159 to 150, majority nine.
- A demand for unaccompanied child asylum seekers in Europe to be allowed to join a family member legally in the UK was backed by 181 votes to 144, majority 37.
- Peers supported by 176 votes to 153, majority 23, a demand that the controversial proposal to offshore asylum claims should be subject to approval by both Houses of Parliament and a report prepared on the costs.
- Peers backed by 179 votes to 152, majority 27, a move that would ensure the UK could not deny asylum to refugees who passed through a “safe” third country until it had formal return agreements in place.
- Lords renewed their demand by 199 votes to 132, majority 67, that asylum seekers be allowed to work if no decision had been taken on their claim after six months.
- Peers inflicted a further Government defeat aimed at preventing asylum seekers being treated differently based on how they entered the UK. The Lords backed the changes by 191 to 148, majority 43.
- Peers backed by 189 votes to 151, majority 38, a move aimed at ensuring the measures are in line with existing international commitments to refugees.
- They also defeated the Government in demanding extra safeguards over a controversial measure that would allow people to be stripped of their British citizenship without warning. It was backed 209-165.
Peers find fault with many aspects of nationality and borders bill, in particular proposal to divide refugees into classes
[…] The government is expected to prorogue parliament later this month, but still has a number of major bills to take through both houses.
The usual convention is that the Lords is expected to give way if MPs make it plain they do not back amendments from peers. But the lack of remaining time means a miscalculation by the government could force concessions or cause the bill to fall.
Updated 4 April 2022: The Observer: The Observer view on Britain’s cruel and unfit refugee policy
[…] An independent report published last week by Wendy Williams, who conducted the independent review of Windrush, found the Home Office had resoundingly failed to improve its culture and was consequently at risk of another major crisis.
Making cruel, inhumane and inflexible bureaucracy an integral aspect of government policy in order to try to drive down immigration and asylum numbers has had dreadful consequences. It has led to people who are British by any meaningful measure being denied basic rights and young people who have spent the majority of their childhood in Britain finding on turning 18 that they are not eligible for the same educational support as their peers. It has rendered the state incapable of fulfilling its ethical obligations to people fleeing conflict and torture in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine. Incremental reform will not do: the UK’s immigration and asylum system needs to be dismantled and rebuilt from scratch.
22 March 2022: Day of shame: Hansard: Nationality and Borders Bill, debated on Tuesday 22 March 2022
Guardian: Minister admits Ukrainian refugees arriving in UK illegally would risk jail under nationality bill plan – as it happened
Boris Johnson has comfortably won a series of votes overturning Lords defeats on the nationality and borders bill. As of now, the divisions list show that only four Conservative MPs have voted against the government in one or more of the divisions. On the most contentious issue, the government plan to allow asylum seekers to be sent offshore while their applications are processed, David Davis, Simon Hoare and Andrew Mitchell were the only Tories voting against. The government had a majority of 70, and 57 Tories did not vote. (In the first division of the day, only 50 Tories did not vote.) In the division where the government rejected the Lords proposal to make it easier for asylum seekers to work while their claims are being processed, only Hoare and Tim Loughton voted with the opposition, with 69 Tories not voting. Davis was the sole Conservative voting against government plans to make it easier for the home secretary to deprive someone of their citizenship. As the debate wound up, Tom Pursglove, the minister for illegal migration, clarified comments made earlier about how the bill would allow Ukrainian refugees entering the UK illegally to be jailed. Pursglove said the bill did allow people entering the country illegally to be prosecuted, but he said this power was only intended to be used in “egregious cases”.
After the votes Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said:
Today, Tory MPs voted to make it a criminal offence for Ukrainian families to arrive in the UK without the right papers, with a penalty of up to four years in prison. At a time when the British people have made clear that we need to help Ukrainian refugees, this is deeply shameful.
The Conservatives also voted against the international Refugee Convention, which Britain helped to draft in the wake of the second world war, calling on all countries to do their bit to help those fleeing the horrors of war. This should be a source of pride and for the British government to reject it when war is raging in Europe once more is inexcusable.
More than 3 million people have left Ukraine since the Russian invasion, many of them children and elderly people. They need support and solidarity from all countries. The Home Office has already been far too slow to help. Today’s votes make that much worse. Britain is better than this.
London Economic: Full list of MPs who voted through Patel’s ‘unhinged’ plan to send asylum seekers abroad for processing
Just three Conservative MPs voted against the offshoring plan, while Edward Leigh urged the government to “hold the line”
MPs have voted through Priti Patel’s plans to send asylum seekers abroad for processing – despite warnings that it could cost more than putting them up in the Ritz Hotel.
House of Lords amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill returned to the Commons this evening as the bill neared its final stages.
Amendment 9, which called for a re-think on plans to “offshore” refugees passed with a majority of 70 after a small group of Conservative rebels joined Opposition parties in trying to defeat the controversial move.
Ascension Island was seen as the most likely location to send asylum seekers to make applications, but the Home Office ruled out the idea earlier in the day after a feasibility study, meaning possible sites for processing are still unknown.
In the Commons, Labour called the idea “unhinged” and “economically illiterate because it costs an eye-watering amount of taxpayers’ money”.
Andrew Mitchell, a former Tory Cabinet minister, has warned it would involve building a “British Guantanamo Bay” and cost £2 million per asylum seeker – more than putting them up in The Ritz hotel.
Mr Mitchell seized on the admission, telling The Independent: “The government has quite rightly now ruled out Ascension Island for offshoring.
“Offshoring is absurdly expensive and frankly the taxpayer would be less out of pocket if we accommodated all adults in the Ritz on three meals a day and sent those under 18 to school at Eton.”
Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said: “With this vote, Boris Johnson and Priti Patel have taken a wrecking ball to the home that we once offered to refugees.”
Just three Conservative MPs – Mr Mitchell, ex-Brexit secretary David Davis and Simon Hoare, chair of the Northern Ireland Committee – voted against the offshoring plan.
Edward Leigh, a veteran Tory MP, urged the government to “hold the line” against the criticism, because of the “overwhelming number of people who want to come here”.
“If we don’t, it would have a catastrophic effect on race relations, because people would be angry about it,” he told the Commons.
“They would think ‘why did I vote Brexit when I can’t even control my own borders? What is the government doing?’.”
Here’s the full list of MPs who voted in favour of Patel’s offshoring plans:
Monday 21 March 2022 is National Day of Action against the Nationality and Borders Bill
Updated 19 March 2022: : City of Sanctuary: National Day of action 21 March 2022
Nationality and Borders bill returns to the House of Commons on 21st March and MPs vote on if these appalling policies will become law. This bill will see people fleeing war and persecution – some of the world’s most vulnerable people – criminalised, detained and deported.
The compassion and support someone receives should be down to need, not nationality.
March 21st is the next big day of action.
City of Sanctuary UK is asking supporters to get in touch with your MP to push some key amendments that we want to see changed in the Bill:
● The removal of Clause 11 which would permit the Home Office to treat people differently based on how they arrived here.
● The introduction of a new and safe route by setting an ambitious but deliverable target to resettle 10,000 of the world’s most vulnerable refugees a year.
The House of Lords have already rejected much of this bill.
Now is the time to call on your MP to support refugee rights and let them know to vote WITH the Lords’ amendments.
Manchester World: Nationality and Borders Bill: groups in Manchester protest against refugee legislation
Community groups will stand together to express their opposition to legislation critics have dubbed the Anti-Refugee Bill.
Groups supporting asylum seekers and refugees will come together in Manchester city centre for a protest against the Government’s controversial Nationality and Borders Bill.
A Greater Manchester day of action against the legislation is being planned for Monday (21 March).
What is happening for the day of action against the Nationality and Borders Bill?
Groups wanting to show their opposition to the Nationality and Borders Bill will meet in Manchester city centre on Monday 21 March.
The protest takes place in St Peter’s Square and will begin at 1pm.
Updated 18 March 2022: Leigh Day: Home Office Refuses to Reveal Results of Consultation on Nationality and Borders Bill
Freedom from Torture has made an urgent appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to secure the release of vital consultation reports before the Nationalities and Borders Bill becomes law. The Bill, which implements aspects of the Government’s controversial New Plan for Immigration (NPI), is due to have its Third Reading in the House of Commons this week.
However, Freedom from Torture is extremely concerned that MPs will be voting on the Bill without having seen the results of a major consultation exercise into the NPI, because the Home Office has refused to release the results. The Home Office commissioned Britain Thinks, an “insight and strategy consultancy”, to run a six-week consultation into the NPI in Spring 2021, prompting 8,590 responses to an online questionnaire. Usually, the Home Office follows up such an exercise by sharing a “consultation grid” to explain which aspects of submissions will or will not be taken on board. However, in this case the Government published a 22-page document after the Bill had been introduced, setting out only its own broad brush response to the consultation. It did not provide any detail of other consultation responses or set out the basis for its own response.
Read more: Leigh Day, https://rb.gy/nhe78r
Updated 10 March 2022: Petition to remove Clause 11
You may already have signed other petitions about this, but if they’re not on the parliamentary website , this government will ignore them. Fortunately there is now this one:
Rethinking Security Physical Security: Borders, Movement and the Fear of Migrants
Migration is a physical process that is used by the government to evoke physical fears of insecurity. A decade into the Hostile Environment, Brian Dikoff argues that the physical reality for many migrants in the UK is being inside but excluded, needed but not wanted, a convenient threat.
When we think about the word or the concept of “security” we often think about the idea of physical security and boundaries: police officers, military power and high walls which keep the enemies and intruders away. Evidently, the concept of physical security is important. If COVID has shown us anything it is how easy it can be to take for granted the physical security that we enjoy: the simple ability to walk down the streets safely, to meet our friends and family and to not have to be in any state of alert.
Updated 8 March 2022: International Women’s Day: Metro – First Person: I’ve been waiting so long for asylum that I haven’t seen my family in 10 years
My wedding was the happiest day of my life.
But as I looked into the crowd of people while I was standing at the front, my family’s faces were absent.
I can’t tell you how much I wish they could have seen me get married – for them to see me that happy.
They couldn’t be there because I am claiming asylum in the UK, which means I haven’t seen my family back in my home country for 10 years. They have dreamed of my wedding day since I was young. So have I.
[…] The system is already incredibly hostile, but if the Nationality and Borders Bill is passed, it will be even more so – tearing up so many more love stories like mine.
Instead of seeing people like me as a threat, the Government needs to lead with compassion. All I ask for is the chance to finally live my life.
Let me use my skills to support myself. Let me live with my husband without fear that we will be separated.
I pray our love story can have a happy ending.
28 February 2022: JPTI: QARN and Paul Parker, Recording Clerk – Quakers in Britain, and 1000+ others have signed this letter:
Updated 19 February 2022:
Updated 15 February 2022: Behold the new ‘hostile environment’ – with the power to rob millions of British citizenship by Sayeeda Warsi
The government promised to learn from Windrush, but citizens trafficked to Syria by Islamic State have also been abandoned
The government’s proposed new powers to strip people of their citizenship without notice rang alarm bells in communities across Britain. Despite being the first Muslim woman in our country’s history to serve in the cabinet, my family and I could be deprived of our citizenship without being told about it, and cast out of our home country if the Home Office believed this would be conducive to the public good. Two in five people from ethnic minority backgrounds could be at risk.
Successive British governments have torn down the basic belief that all British citizens in this country are and should be equal. The consequences of this government’s unprecedentedly broad use of citizenship-stripping powers have become even more clear to me after hearing directly from the families of British citizens detained in north-east Syria.
Last week, the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on trafficked Britons in Syria, of which I’m a vice-chair, published the findings of its inquiry into the grooming and trafficking of British nationals by Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. What we found is devastating. Not only did UK authorities fail to protect vulnerable women and girls from being trafficked by IS, but the government has essentially punished some of those women for the crimes committed by their traffickers by stripping them of their citizenship.
Updated 9 February 2022: Hansard: Nationality and Borders Bill Volume 818: debated on Tuesday 8 February 2022: Clause 28
Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate: Clause 28, page 33, line 20, leave out paragraph (a)
Member’s explanatory statement: This amendment is linked to the amendment to leave out paragraphs 1 and 2 of Schedule 3.
My Lords, I hope that I will not bore you for long. I shall take careful note of the Chief Whip’s remarks but I am very pleased to introduce Amendments 100, 101 and 102. I thank those Lords spiritual and temporal who have added their names to these amendments and who are supportive of the contents.
These amendments seek to remove amendments to Section 77 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 from Schedule 3. The intention is to erase the proposal contained in the Bill to introduce powers to export offshore any person in the UK who is seeking asylum without first considering their claim. Few would disagree that protection and control of our borders, primary responsibilities of any Government, are noble and necessary objectives. A Home Secretary must be able to discharge her duties in this respect, which include expediting deportation swiftly and without delay where illegality has been determined under the rules. This was certainly my approach when I served as Immigration Minister in the 1990s.
Most would agree that the process by which we pursue these objectives matters no less than the solutions on the table. Indeed, solutions need to be effective, but they must also be pragmatic and practical, and enforceable under domestic and international law. They need to be imaginative but also financially viable. They must be firm but also fair. I am afraid that Clause 28 and Schedule 3 fail on these counts. In very literal terms, Clause 28 amends the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, which states that a person seeking asylum cannot be removed from the UK while their asylum claim is being processed—in other words, before a final decision is given on their refugee status, including access to an appeal. However, paragraph 1 of Schedule 3 to the Bill withdraws those rights by allowing the transfer of any asylum seeker to any country which will be listed in Section 77 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 as amended by Schedule 3.
Before Brexit, under the Dublin regulations, the UK Government could remove an asylum seeker from the UK while their claim was still pending but only to return them to the EU country of first entry and only after having issued a certificate under Schedule 3 to the Asylum and Immigration Act that permitted them a legal right to do so. With the end of the UK’s involvement in the Dublin regulations this option became inaccessible. However, Clause 28 would provide the Home Secretary with the legal power to forcibly remove any asylum seeker from the UK while their claim is still pending to another country which the Government have deemed safe. Clause 28 would allow them to do this without seeking and issuing a certificate under Schedule 3 to the 2004 Act. This goes against our legal and constitutional principles and surely should be repudiated.
All credible immigration systems must first acknowledge the distinction between immigration and asylum. A person who comes here for economic reasons is definitely not the same as a person who comes here to seek safety. The Bill’s failure to disentangle these definitions is significant because in the Government’s bid to control overall immigration, it will be vulnerable people—those fleeing conflict and persecution—who would be disproportionately and adversely affected.
Updated 4 February 2022: University of Nottingham: Anti-slavery sector urges government to make major changes to “dangerous” Nationality and Borders Bill
The government’s Nationality and Borders Bill risks causing damage to the survivors the government intends to protect, modern slavery experts warn in a new report.
Research undertaken by the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab to investigate the proposals set out in Part 5 (Modern Slavery) of the Bill being debated in the House of Lords has found that, in its current form, will have negative unintended consequences on victims of trafficking and slavery.
The work of the university’s world-renowned Rights Lab will serve as an evidence base to support amendments to Part 5 of the Bill.
The news comes after a letter, signed by more than 100 leaders in the anti-slavery sector, called for Part 5 (Modern Slavery) of the Bill to be completely removed.
The findings are summarised in a report, written in partnership with the Human Trafficking Foundation and with input from Catherine Meredith, of the Anti-Trafficking Team at Doughty Street Chambers, which details the potentially harmful consequences of the Bill, if it were to remain unchanged.
The report shows evidence that the Bill will:
- Create extra barriers to the identification of victims
- Exclude significant numbers of victims, including those who are children and/or British, from receiving protection and support
- Narrow the support victims will receive
- Risk damaging prosecutions by preventing victims’ access to protection and support, allowing dangerous criminals to evade justice.
Leaders from the entire anti-slavery sector attest that the Bill will reduce the number of criminal prosecutions for trafficking offences as, they say, there is no incentive for victims trapped in criminal exploitation, and conversely this Bill would make it risky and precarious to come forward.
Lead author Kate Garbers, Rights Lab Research Fellow in Policy Evidence and Survivor Support, said: “The Bill in its current form is woefully at odds with the government’s intention to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking. The Bill poses risks to victim protection, criminal justice, and the UK’s fulfilment of its obligations under international law.
Updated 27 January 2022: By Don Flynn, who is a member of the StatusNow Reference Group: Labour Hub: Borders and Nationality Bill: Return of the frightmare strategy
[…] The Borders and Nationality bill should properly be seen as a part of a Tory offensive which aims to rebuild the fear of migrants that was previously stoked by stories of low paid workers displacing native Brits in the labour market and taking their place in the queue for hospital appointments and other public services. Forget all you have learnt in the past few months about the heroic healthcare assistant or the farm workers filling supermarket shelves with fresh food products! Remember, they are out there in small boats, just waiting for their chance to come at you … and maybe some of them are claiming to be British citizens as well!
This doesn’t address the need for StatusNow – more about how to enable people to deal with the process:
Red Cross – Voices Network: 5 things women want to change about the asylum system
The ‘most significant’ overhaul of the UK’s asylum system is set to go ahead this year – with no proposals for how the government will ensure the needs of women and girls are met by a future asylum system
In 2020, three in 10 people who applied for asylum in the UK were women and girls.
Women and girls who seek asylum have fled war, persecution and violence and many are at additional risk of physical and sexual violence because of their gender.
That’s not only in their home country, but also in the place they seek safety.
The UK government recently set out its plans to overhaul the asylum system, yet our new research finds that the needs of women and girls have so far been left out of the equation. The New Plan for Immigration makes no mention of an asylum system that is sensitive to gender or trauma-related needs.
Carried out in partnership between the British Red Cross and the VOICES Network, our new report ‘We want to be strong, but we don’t have the chance’: Women’s experiences of seeking asylum in the UK seeks to bring the experiences of women to the forefront of asylum reform.
The project was led by women from the VOICES Network and involved 47 women with lived experience of seeking asylum in the UK.
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.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 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