How worthy of protection someone is will depend on how they were able to travel to the UK. This will deny sanctuary to the vast majority of refugees

The bill divides refugees into “Group 1” and “Group 2” depending on how they got to the UK. People who travel via another country, do not have documents or did not claim asylum immediately on arrival to the UK would be put in “Group 2”. The Bill suggests this group would find it hard to settle in the UK, living under threat of expulsion rather than getting a chance to rebuild their lives; have less chance to reunite with family members torn from them, be denied access to public funds and be left at risk of destitution. Most refugees have no choice in how they travel – when you’re fleeing for your life, you just have to go. There are also good reasons people can take a while to claim asylum.

Most refugees will be penalised under this system and be denied the opportunity to rebuild their lives here.


It will expand the use of detention-like accommodation centres

The Bill proposes to create large-scale accommodation centres. It would mean accommodating people seeking asylum in out-of-town institutions, rather than in the community where they can get the practical support and help they need. The asylum camp at Napier barracks is being used to trial asylum centres. Earlier this year, the High Court ruled that Napier was unlawful, partly because the accommodation was so bad.

JRS UK supports people at Napier. It is prison-like and isolated. Residents’ mental health spirals rapidly while they are there. Most suffer from chronic sleep deprivation and anxiety.

One man placed there said:

“I did not feel like a person when I was there. I felt I had lost who I was, like my personality had gone.”

We believe these proposals lack humanity and respect for human dignity. Many people who are forced to flee their homes in desperate circumstances simply have no choice but to cross borders informally to reach a safe haven; to penalise them for this is to abandon the very principle of international protection. Moves to criminalise and penalise undocumented entry to the UK mean it will effectively be impossible for most people to claim asylum because safe and legal routes are extremely limited, and could never feasibly be made available to all who need them.

Aaron* was 13 when he had to leave Eritrea without his family.

His father had been conscripted into the country’s brutal military service. He came
home to see his family. He left again and told his family that he was going back to his base. He never showed up there. The family didn’t know anything about his whereabouts because he had not told them.

The military came looking for Aaron’s father. They came to his house and told Aaron’s mother that they would take her children, including Aaron. Aaron had no choice but to leave.

“People really suffer”, he says. “They don’t want to leave their country but their country forces them because military service in Eritrea is the worst thing. You have to serve the military forever. There is no life, there is nothing.”

He left Eritrea and spent two years looking for safety before he arrived in the UK. He travelled via Sudan and Libya, both of which were very dangerous. He then went to Italy, where he felt unsafe sleeping outside under bridges, and to France, where he ended up in the Calais jungle.

“They didn’t treat us like human beings” he explained. He came to the UK in the back of a lorry. “I wasn’t expecting anything,” he remembers. “I just escaped to keep my life, to be safe. That’s the most important thing.”

Aaron was in the UK asylum system for 7 years before finally being recognised as a refugee, and as having been one all along. He was initially refused asylum and had to submit a fresh claim. Now, he plans to study IT.

*This is the testimony of a refugee friend of JRS UK. Aaron is a pseudonym.


It will permit the use of offshore processing for protection claims

The Bill would allow asylum seekers to be removed from the UK and held elsewhere while their asylum claim is processed. Other countries have tried and failed to do this. Australia for example transferred thousands of asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea where people were detained in prison-like conditions, and banned them from receiving any visitors.


It will tear families apart

This Bill would further reduce family reunion rights. These restrictions will predominantly impact women and children, who currently account for 90% of those who receive family reunion visas. Refugees are often forced to leave family behind. Refugee family reunion however allows refugees to reunite with certain family members here in the UK. It is a vital lifeline, bringing people to safety, allowing refugees to rebuild their lives, and reuniting them with, in some cases, the only family they have left.


It makes asylum determination much harsher – even though it’s already harsh.

The process by which the government decides if someone needs international protection would be much harsher. For example, the Bill introduces the criterion of “Good Faith” by which to judge asylum claimants. It is very hard to qualify as acting in Good Faith.

Did you forget the exact date on which something relevant happened several years ago? Did you struggle to talk about trauma the first time you spoke to a government official?

Either of these could mean you’re not acting in Good Faith.


It does not commit to resettlement

Refugee resettlement is the transfer of refugees from one country to which they have fled to another State. The Refugee Resettlement Scheme is one of the very few schemes provided by the UK Government to help people living in dangerous refugee camps abroad (for example Syrians living in refugee camps in Lebanon) to be able to come and live in the UK and rebuild their life here. The Bill could be an opportunity to expand resettlement. Instead, it contains no commitment to continuing it.


It does not create any safe routes to seek asylum

There is no formal mechanism for travelling to the UK to seek asylum – for example, no such thing as an asylum visa. The Bill does nothing to create one. The government says refugees should use “safe and legal” routes rather than informal ones. But this bill doesn’t create any safe ways for people to seek asylum in the UK, rather, it makes dangerous routes worse, and punishes people for travelling in the only way available to them.


It will make people seeking sanctuary more vulnerable to trafficking and modern slavery

Because the Bill unfairly punishes refugees who arrive without documents, victims of trafficking will be scared of going to the police. Traffickers routinely tell their victims that if they go to the police, they will be arrested and detained. The government says it wants to combat trafficking but this Bill plays into traffickers’ hands.



Contact your MP to express your concerns about the Nationality and Borders Bill and call for a just and person-centred asylum system.

If you’re not ure where to start, download our template letter and visit our Contact your MP pages for some top tips!


Share this guide with your friends and your family, and explain why it matters to help refugees and asylum seekers, and read the human stories behind the numbers.


Host a refugee or asylum seeker or look at whether your community would be suited to Community Sponsorship.

Stable accommodation is one of the biggest challenges facing refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. If you’re in London, find out about hosting through the JRS UK hosting scheme At Home.

Pray for refugees, asylum seekers and parliamentarians making life-altering decisions. We have a host of prayer resources to help.

Jesuit Refugee Service UK
The Hurtado Jesuit Centre
2 Chandler Street, London E1W 2QT

020 7488 7310

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