Nationalities & Borders Bill and Rwanda offshore detention centre plans

I support the right of all people to claim asylum; there is a moral obligation upon every one of us to ensure there are always safe and legal routes for refugees seeking sanctuary in the UK. This imminent deportation flight to Rwanda is quite the opposite, and along with so many others, I object it in the strongest possible terms.

I share the significant concerns raised about the Bill by numerous campaigners and international human rights organisations.

This Bill produces a two-tier system of refugee protection based not on need, but on a refugee’s method of travel. Their case would be decided on their means of entry to the UK rather than on the merits of their right to asylum or refugee status.

It is the height of hypocrisy to send refugees to Rwanda, a country whose citizens have previously been given asylum here in the UK.

It’s quite clear that desperate attempts by people to seek a better life can often be traced back to wars and colonialism that have established and entrenched global inequality.

Many groups including Liberty had previously raised concerns about how the Bill appears to favour the development of more detention centres, and to follow the models of Australia and Greece in having offshore detention centres.  These systems are costly and abusive – with impacts on the mental and physical health of people who have often already experienced trauma.

For these reasons, I voted against the Nationality and Borders Bill when it was heard in Parliament on 8 December 2021.  Unfortunately, it was passed on a vote of 298 to 231 with the support of Government MPs.

Then in early March, during scrutiny in the House of Lords, the Government was defeated on a series of amendments to the Bill to remove some of what I regard as the worst aspects of this legislation. On 22 March, those amendments then came to the House of Commons to be voted on by MPs.

I voted in favour of the Lord’s amendments to remove the most harmful elements of the Bill.  That included voting for the amendment made by Lord Dubs to provide a safe route for unaccompanied children to be reunited with family in this country. I also voted in favour of an amendment to remove the Government’s power to strip dual nationals of their British citizenship without notice, and for an amendment to remove the Government’s plan to create a two-tier system for asylum seekers and deny rights to those who had arrived here in ways the Government did not approve of. Unfortunately, the Government opposed all of these amendments and Government MPs voted them down.

I  voted against the Bill in its final stage in the Commons in April.

I will continue to advocate in Parliament and beyond that all migrants have automatic access to resources without fear of detention or deportation. This includes ensuring a legal route to family reunion for child refugees, the scrapping of the healthcare surcharge, an end to the No Recourse to Public Funds policy and the closure of detention centres.