I share Luton South constituents’ serious concerns with the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, and that’s why I voted against the Bill at Third Reading.
Constituents have contacted me about the draconian power the Bill will give to the Home Secretary to strip dual nationals of their citizenship without any warning. This is deeply worrying to millions of British dual nationals, including many in Luton, who could become eligible for deprivation of citizenship simply because of their heritage. The Windrush scandal demonstrated the government’s callous disregard for minority communities and dual citizens. I am deeply opposed to this power and have supported amendments to the Bill that would remove it.
The Bill also makes no provision for safe and legal routes for asylum seekers looking to reach the UK from Europe to reunite with loved ones. Without safe, legal routes, we are simply pushing people into the arms of criminal gangs and forcing them to undertake dangerous journeys across the channel in overcrowded and flimsy dinghies. I supported Labour’s amendments to the Bill that would have increased safe, legal routes for family reunions, unfortunately, the government chose to vote these down.
I am also opposed to measures in the Bill that give the Home Office sweeping new powers to decide asylum cases based on how someone arrived in the country rather than the merits and strengths of their case. This would be a clear breach of the 1951 Refugee Convention and has been condemned by various organisations, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Law Society of England. Asylum should be granted to those who need it, not denied based on their mode of transport, especially when legal routes have been restricted.
The government is also seeking to water down a number of crucial protections of victims of modern-day slavery. The government states that it wants to prevent people from falsely claiming to be a victim of modern-day slavery to stop their deportation. The government has been warned that the effect this will have is to make it harder to identify victims and for them to speak out and seek help. This will only further embolden people trafficking gangs.
What the country needed was a Bill that would have tackled the scourge of illegal people-smuggling gangs, opened new legal routes of immigration, and worked to increase the speed at which asylum applications are resolved to clear the current backlog. By rejecting Labour’s amendments, the government has chosen to push forward a Bill that will lead to further dangerous channel crossings, strike fear into existing migrant communities, and breach our obligations under International Law.
I wholeheartedly oppose this legislation and joined Labour colleagues in voting against the Bill at its Third Reading this afternoon.
You can find further details of some of the amendments I voted for below.
New Clause 8
Currently the government charges over £1000 to process a child citizenship application. This clause would have forced the government to only charge applicants the cost of processing and prevent the charging of excessive fees.
New Clause 2
New Clause 2 allows for anyone descended from a person born before 1983 on the British Indian Ocean Territory to register for British Overseas Territories and UK citizenship free of charge. This would respond to a longstanding grassroots campaign by the Chagos Islanders who were forced to leave their island by the British government, and their descendants.
New Clause 50
Many people smugglers are currently advertising their perilous journeys openly on Social media channels. This clause would have criminalised this practice.
New Clause 52
This amendment would exempt those who do not hold British citizenship and are serving or have in the past served in the UK armed forced for 5 years, and their dependents, from the payment of fees related to their Indefinite Leave to Remain.
New Clause 3
Would have created a new offence of human trafficking for sexual exploitation.
New Clause 6
This new clause would have protected child victims of modern slavery from the restrictions placed on adult victims elsewhere in the Bill.
This amendment would have ensured that maritime enforcement powers could not be used in a manner that would endanger lives at sea.
This would have prevented the criminalisation of the arrival and entry of asylum seekers and refugees.
Would have scrapped a clause in the Bill that introduces new restrictions on victims of modern-day slavery.