Yesterday, the Nationality and Borders Bill returned to the House of Commons where MPs voted on amendments made during the Lords stage. Labour voted to defend protections for refugees and asylum-seekers which this government is trying to destroy.
Among the amendments proposed by Labour and Cross-bench Peers and successfully added in the Lords stage many of you wrote to me specifically about the following:
- Amendment 6 aimed to remove the differential treatment of refugees based on whether they had come directly from a country where their life was threatened or via a safe third country. The government wants to limit the entitlements of the second group.
- Amendment 10 proposed by Labour, sought to make it easier for those already in Europe to be reunited with family members lawfully residing in the UK
- Amendment 9 removed provisions relating to the offshore processing of asylum seekers from the Bill.
For a complete list of amendments proposed by the House of Lords, please refer to this explainer by the House of Commons Library.
Of course Labour supports these amendments, they were passed with Labour support in the Lords and we Labour MPs voted to keep them yesterday in the Commons.
Disgracefully, Tory MPs voted to scrap all these changes.
They even voted against the amendment which gave asylum seekers the right to work in the UK while awaiting the result of their application, even though it was backed by 66 Conservative politicians, including former cabinet ministers.
This is a government completely out of step with public opinion.
While more than 150,000 people have signed up to welcome a Ukrainian refugee into their home, Priti Patel wants to make it a criminal offence for refugee families to arrive in UK without the right papers. This would affect Ukrainian refugees arriving here.
Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper said “At a time when British people have made clear we must help Ukraine, this is truly shameful. Our country is better than this”. I cannot agree more.
Many international organisations have spoken against the Bill. UNHCR said that it undermines the Refugee Convention, which the UK helped to draft in the wake of the Second World War; and the Modern Slavery Commission has said this Bill will make it harder, not easier, to prosecute traffickers.
The UK has a proud history of granting sanctuary to those fleeing war and persecution. At a time when our neighbours are proudly doing their bit, this government’s rhetoric doesn’t match up with the reality. It is proposing unworkable solutions that will cost the taxpayer, while also failing to introduce any safe and legal routes.
The Nationality and Borders Bill is a disgrace to the values of human rights we in Bristol and the UK value so highly.