Refugee rights groups have warned that the Nationality and Borders Bill proposed by the Boris Johnson-led government in the UK is likely to worsen the conditions of refugees and asylum seekers. On Wednesday January 5, various groups including Refugee Action, Care4Calais, Refugee Council, and Stand Up To Racism protested in front of Parliament while the House of Lords discussed the bill, demanding that the government instead provide a safe way for people to claim asylum.
The Nationality and Borders Bill, introduced by Home Secretary Priti Patel in July 2021, has passed the three rounds of reading in the House of Commons, and is currently going through its second reading in the House of Lords. According to reports, the bill calls for the creation of an offshore immigration processing center for refugee and migrant asylum claims, while the notorious clause 9 of the bill states that individuals could be stripped of their British citizenship without warning.
Last year, the number of refugees attempting to reach the UK by making the dangerous trip across the English Channel spiked to 28,300 people, three times the number for 2020. Many have drowned in this perilous pursuit, as shown by the tragedy of last November 24, in which 27 people died attempting to cross the Channel when an overcrowded raft sank. The Nationality and Borders Bill outlines the Tory solution to the issue of migrant deaths: criminalizing “illegal” entry to Britain and “strengthening the powers of Border Force to stop vessels.”
As highlighted by Refugee Action: “People would continue to suffer unless ministers opened up more routes for refugees to claim asylum in Britain. In November, we saw the deadly result of their strategy and yet the government wants to legalize this dangerous and callous policy in its anti-refugee bill. It must wake up and scrap this Bill now.”
The Labor Party has already opposed and voted against the bill in several sessions, denouncing it as “unconscionable”. While addressing the protest demonstration in front of the UK Parliament on Wednesday, Sabby Dhalu, co-convenor of Stand Up To Racism, said that the Nationality and Borders Bill is a “racist crime against humanity.”
As of January 6, 2021, a petition seeking to remove the notorious Clause 9 had been endorsed by 315,434 people guaranteeing that parliament must consider it for a debate. However on January 5, the UK government gave its official response to the petition stating: “The Government will not remove Clause 9. It is necessary to ensure deprivation powers can be used effectively and will only apply in very limited circumstances. It does not affect the right to appeal.”