Nationality and Borders Bill

Today, the House of Commons considered the Lord’s Amendments to the Conservative Government’s callous Nationality and Borders Bill.

The Bill is completely out of step with public opinion. It would criminalise refugees fleeing war and make it harder to prosecute traffickers and modern-day slavers. The United Nations Council on Human Rights has criticised the Bill as it undermines the refugee convention that the UK helped to draft in the wake of the Second World War. As countries across Europe step up to support refugees displaced by the Ukraine crisis, the Conservative Government puts up barriers in their way. This Government may be lacking in heart and morality, but this country isn’t.

I have been contacted by many constituents who are concerned about the Bill and asked me to support a series of amendments. I voted with my Labour colleagues to support the amendments listed below:

Amendment 4

This would have removed Clause 9 of the Bill that gives the Home Secretary the power to strip someone of their citizenship without notice. This Government cannot be trusted with such powers as has been demonstrated by the Windrush Scandal.

Amendments 5 and 6

Amendment 5 sought to ensure nothing in the Bill contravened the Refugee Convention of 1951, which this Bill does, by creating differential treatment of refugees based on the method of arrival and requiring that people should claim asylum in the ‘first safe country’ they reach. Amendment 6 would have removed the clause that introduces this differential treatment entirely. As the Bill currently exists, Ukrainian refugees who travelled through Europe to reach the UK would be considered second-tier refugees and have their rights restricted.

Amendment 7

Would have provided asylum seekers with a right to work while they are waiting for a decision on their case after 6 months.

Amendment 10

Commonly known as the ‘Dubs amendment’, Amendment 10 tried to restore legal pathways for unaccompanied children to reunite with their families in the UK. Currently, there is no such provision, pushing children into the arms of smuggling gangs and dangerous channel crossings.

Amendment 11

Amendment 11 committed the Government to resettle at least 10,000 people per year, including creating a dedicated scheme for Afghan Refugees.

Amendment 13

This amendment removed the proposed new offence of ‘arriving’ into the UK without clearance. This new offence effectively criminalises the act of seeking asylum in the UK. The Crown Prosecution Service has stated that this clause is not in the public interest.

As well as those raised by constituents, I also supported amendments 24, 25, 26 and 27 that tried to ensure the safety of people travelling in small boats on dangerous channel crossings, enhance the rights and support for victims of trafficking and protect children from the worst provisions of the Bill.

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