This week, just as parliament started back after Christmas, the Nationality and Borders Bill had its second reading in the House of Lords. Once again, as legislators considered a Bill that would destroy the very principle of asylum and with it, the lives of many people desperate for sanctuary, I found myself praying for wisdom among those making decisions.
Over 60 peers took part in the second reading. This was a chance for the lords to debate the Bill’s contents, set forth their own perspective positions, and thrash out issues. Many posed questions to the government. The Bill’s dubious premise that refugees should claim asylum in the first ‘safe’ country was a recurring theme in the discussion. For instance, while some members defended this idea, others noted that this assumed poor countries next to refugee producing countries would bear a huge burden on their own, or pointed out that it contravened the Refugee Convention. Modern slavery was also an important theme: Bishop Sarah Mullally, Anglican Bishop of London, raised concerns that the Bill was likely to perpetuate rather than reduce it. Overall, we got a picture of a divided House.
So what happens next?
The Bill will have its Committee Stage in the Lords, scheduled to start on 27th January. Similar to the process in the Commons, this will involve close scrutiny of the Bill and there will be the chance for amendments to be made. Committee Stage has only been allocated 5 days, which isn’t a lot for such a large and controversial Bill – let’s hope there’s time for sufficient scrutiny. In order for amendments to be considered by the committee, they need to be laid before Committee Stage starts, so the next few weeks are important as it is decided what these might be. JRS is among many organizations having conversations with peers about the Bill. As ever, it is very important that MPs in the Commons continue to get the message that we want a just and humane asylum process – the ultimate decision on any changes to the Bill the Lords might make lies with them.
We look forward in trepidation, but we must not give up hope.
4 ways we can impact the Bill
- Learn more about the Bill – check out our guide of Eight things you should know about the Bill
- Display your orange heart and messge of solidarity & welcome
- Write to your MP – even if you’ve already written, keeping up the conversation and sharing your thoughts about the bill is important. We have a template letter you can use.
- Pray for refugee friends and Parliamentarians as they debate the Bill. We have a host of prayer resources to help.