Camilla Alcini on the controversial Nationality and Border Bill, that many are calling the Anti-Refugee Bill.
As the Nationality and Borders Bill is about to reach its third reading in the House of Commons, the protests for what has been renamed the “Anti-Refugee Bill” do not seem to be going away. Two days of scrutiny in the Commons await the bill that remains extremely controversial.
Under the Bill, only refugees arriving through extraordinarily restricted â€œofficialâ€ routes, such as refugee resettlement programs, will be allowed to claim protection. This represents a far smaller number of people than all those that flee to this country to see asylum. This November alone more than 1000 people arrived in a single day, a record during the migration crisis, which the pandemic only briefly paused.
Ministers have described the bill as part of a new plan for immigration. Home Secretary Priti Patel has said that the Nationality and Borders Bill will make the asylum system ‘fairer’. Experts on immigration though have said this bill represents a dangerous breach of refugee rights, undermining the Refugee Convention and constitutes a legal assault to human rights (Freedom From Torture).
A representative from the KCL branch of Student Action for Refugees (STAR) had this to say about the bill: “This new law basically closes down many roads that are â€˜escaping routesâ€™ for refugees. As they are creating these â€˜safe routesâ€™, basically just many other extremely more dangerous roads are going to be opened. This whole bill would leave a lot of people behind without any help, people who would deserve a place here“.
In fact, the Borders Bill would deliver a long time promise of the Tories government: a tougher approach to migration. Specifically, the bill aims to prevent illegal entry to the UK, admitting only those who possess a visa. All the asylum claims made by undocumented people will therefore be invalidated, and to arrive in the UK without permission will be regarded as an official criminal offence punishable with up to four years. The sentence Â is currently maximum six months.
Crucially, the bill will also allow the government to remove people who do not have the right to be here. This controversy is contained in the Clause 9 of the bill, thanks to which approximately six million people with dual nationality or who were born outside the UK could be stripped of their British citizenship without fair warning. A petition to remove Clause 9 from the Nationality and Borders Bill was started,Â declaring that it is “unacceptable, and inconsistent with international human rights obligations“.Â 158,791 people signed already. According to Black Lives Matter UK, 2 of 5 people of colour in the UK would be affected by this bill.
Tom Sammons who volunteers for Refugease, a charitable organisation for refugees active in the UK as well and involving many students, described the bill as “devoid of morality” going on to sayÂ “it is completely illogical and not based on any actual evidence of stopping ‘irregular migration’. It reflects the epitome of British Exceptionalism and reinforces the racist aspects of our immigration and asylum system. It foreshadows something similar to what has been taking place on Europe’s borders for over 30 years, which attempts to deter asylum-seekers and humanitarians with the threat of harsh sentencing, also legitimising life-threatening push-backs that break international law“,
As a response against the bill, many peaceful protests took place this past autumn, involving great numbers of students.
“The mobilisation was so powerful because this bill is the most important and devastating one recently, at it breaches many international laws. On the protest we have seen amazing refugees coming for example from Afghanistan, being the same age as us performing incredible speeches. It was shocking and wonderful simultaneously to see”, said a member of KCL START whoÂ was present at the protest in London in October.
Indeed, there are many ways in which students can get involved now that the bill is reaching its crucial final stages.
“Their are hundreds of ngo’s, charities who provide asylum-seeker support who are in need of volunteers and supporters. Look for local campaigns, rallies, aid collections and fundraising events to help support these causes, as well as nationwide groups such. Utilise social media by following and sharing campaigns such as ‘Oppose the Anti-refugee bill’. Keep yourself educated on issues within immigration and asylum, read a variety of news sources and most importantly try to empower refugees and asylum-seekers by following groups, accounts or organisations run by refugees. Approach university societies, lecturers and SU reps to organise an event raising awareness of the bill at your uni, run petitions, educational stalls or your own small rallies”, explains Refugease.
Pictures of the protest by Asher Gibson.