UK set to criminalise refugees based on arrival method after MPs reject amendments

UK set to criminalise refugees based on arrival method after MPs reject amendments
The UK House of Commons has rejected a string of amendments made by the House of Lords to the controversial Nationality and Borders Bill. This includes reinstating the penalisation of asylum seekers based on their method of arrival.
3 min read
23 March, 2022
Almost 400 people crossed the English Channel in small boats on Tuesday [source: Getty]

The criminalisation of refugees based on their method of arrival to the UK appears set to become law as Britain's House of Commons voted to reverse a series of amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill on Tuesday. 

Amendments to the bill by the UK House of Lords - such as the removal of a controversial clause to strip dual nationals of their British citizenship without notice - were rejected by Members of Parliament, in most cases with a comfortable majority. 

The Commons also voted to reinstate a clause that allows asylum seekers to be sent overseas while their claim is being processed and rejected adding a new section to ensure legislation complies with “obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention”. 

Refugee campaigners and Tory rebel MPs deplored the Commons’ votes, which they said will result in a more discriminatory, ineffective and expensive migration system in Britain. 

“Ultimately, this government doesn’t want people coming and seeking safety in the UK," Human for Rights Network founder Maddie Harris told The New Arab. “It has been well documented the negative effects of this bill - including a rise in exploitation, modern slavery and human trafficking.” 

When asked about yesterday’s vote, Harris said: “It doesn’t make sense.” She added MPs were most likely “following the party line” - at odds with the groundswell of public support expressed in recent days to allow Ukrainians fleeing Russia's invasion to seek refugee in Britain. 

Tory rebel MP Damian Green said safe routes to the UK were unavailable for “too many people”, resulting in families and children undertaking perilous journeys across the English Channel in small boats.

The majority of people forced to take this route are from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, Green said. Nearly 400 people travelled across the Channel via a small boat on Tuesday. 

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Conservative MP David Davis slammed the decision to reinstate the possibility of offshore processing centres.

“We are a great nation and our greatness rests on the fact that we take a moral stance on most things…asylum offshoring would be a moral, economic and practical failure,” Davis said. 

Tory junior minister Tom Pursglove, who sought to defend the government’s legislation, confirmed that Ukrainian children could be sent to offshore camps, but added that there was “absolutely no reason” for this. 

The Nationality and Borders Bill - dubbed the anti-refugee bill - has been lauded by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel as a way to make Britain's migration system "fairer" and tackle “people-smuggling gangs”. 

The Bill went to the Commons for consideration of the Lords' amendments on Tuesday 22 March and the Commons have now returned the Bill to the Lords. 

The New Arab reached out to the Home Office, who responded with this statement: 

“The UK has a long history of supporting those fleeing conflict and our resettlement programmes have provided safe and legal routes for tens of thousands of people to start new lives in the UK. 

“Protecting the most vulnerable will always be our top priority. Through the Nationality and Borders Bill, we will ensure a firm but fair system, helping those in genuine need while tackling people-smuggling gangs.”