JRS UK has condemned plans put forward in the Nationality and Borders Bill which seeks to punish people seeking safety for how they travelled to the UK, and risks violating international refugee law. The Bill had its first reading in parliament on Wednesday 7th July and is a key instrument in a wider overhaul of the asylum system proposed in the government’s New Plan for Immigration, which has been widely condemned by many. JRS UK maintains that this legislation shows no respect for human dignity, justice, or the protection of human life.
Sarah Teather Director of JRS UK said: “Today is a dark day in British history. Punishing people seeking safety for how they travelled to the UK is a shameful violation of our commitment to international law & puts many more lives at risk. Those seeking refuge on our shores deserve to be welcomed with humanity, and fair process – not a barbaric culture of hostility.
“These abhorrent plans place unrealistic expectations on torture survivors and trafficking victims and treat those who are most vulnerable with deliberate contempt and suspicion. The government knows these plans are unworkable, immoral, and will ultimately build more walls to sanctuary. Where is our shared sense of humanity?”
Key features of The Nationality and Borders Bill which are relevant to JRS UK’s work with those in the asylum system include:
- Differential treatment for different groups of refugees, primarily depending on how they got to the UK. This approach ignores the reality of forced migration and abandons the very principle of international protection. It would impact many vulnerable refugees.
- Out of town asylum accommodation centres: The Bill focuses significantly on asylum accommodation centres, signalling an intention of expanding their use. One such centre is currently in use at the disused Napier barracks in Folkestone, which is prison-like and isolated, and a poor context for engaging with asylum claims.
JRS UK is supporting asylum claimants accommodated at the disused Napier barracks in Folkestone. The use of asylum centres is cruel and militates against integration.
A man formerly accommodated at Napier barracks described his experience: “I was suffering in the camp, there was security, there were police constantly coming and going, there was no freedom. The way we were treated, it denied us all freedom. I came to the UK full of hope that I would have a chance to be safe and have a good life, and then I found myself in this camp, with no freedom, it was just like a prison. In all the four months while I was in the camp, I must have left barely ten times. It is in a remote place and you have to walk quite far to end up somewhere equally remote. The camp is like being in a psychiatric hospital, or like being in prison, there are people rapidly becoming more and more mentally unwell around you, one has just tried to kill himself, another is in pain, another is very stressed and cannot cope. It just seemed safer to stay in my room and to avoid seeing all of this as I could not cope with it all the time. I did not feel like a person when I was there. I felt I had lost who I was, like my personality had gone.”
The use of detention-like, ghettoised settings as asylum accommodation represents a further erosion of humanity and equitable treatment within our asylum system.
- Hostile and suspicious asylum determination: The Bill raises the standard of proof for determining if someone has a “well-founded fear of persecution”, and includes measures to make it harder to bring evidence late. This is against the backdrop of a well-established culture of disbelief, and a large number of refusals overturned on appeal.
- Offshore processing of asylum claims: provision for asylum seekers to be removed from the UK while their claims are being processed, opening the door to offshore processing.
This legislation is deeply cruel, impractical, and destructive to the common good.
The second reading of the Bill is provisionally scheduled for 19th and 20th July. This session will give the opportunity for all MPs to vote, and speak out against this Bill, and a reasoned amendment can be made against the whole bill. Before then, JRS UK are working to highlight the injustice this Brill brings for survivors of trafficking, torture and those seeking sanctuary on our shores.
Can you help us? Your voice is powerful.
Contact your local MP and ask them to speak out against these proposed changes to the asylum system, at the second reading of the Bill on 19-20 July. By getting in touch, you can let them know that their constituents don’t support these changes which will make life even more difficult for those seeking sanctuary in the UK.
Not sure what to say? Don’t worry.
We’ve prepared a briefing and a template letter/email for you to send.