Borders Bill threatens UK's 'reputation for fairnesss', Lawyers say
Lawyers have slammed the UK government's new Borders Bill, which entered parliament for the first time on Tuesday, as threatening the "pillars of our democracy".
The Nationality and Borders Bill intends to overhaul the UK immigration system by penalising people who "knowingly arrive in the UK without permission", including as refugees fleeing persecution, and allows the government to move asylum seekers to a "safe country" while their claim is being processed.
It also gives UK Home Secretary Priti Patel powers to suspend or delay visas to applicants from countries that do no "cooperate" under the new immigration system, according to reports.
The UK government has called the bill "fair but firm".
Law Society President Stephaine Boyce slammed the proposal as threatening "the country's reputation for justice and fairness", in a statement posted on Tuesday by The Law Society.
Boyce said: "It is extremely difficult to see how core parts of the Borders Bill would not breach our international obligations enshrined in the Refugee Convention."
The 1951 UN Refugee Convention states that "refugees should not be penalised for their illegal entry or stay" in a country.
The convention also prohibits "arbitrarily" detaining refugees "purely on the basis of seeking asylum".
Reports last week suggested that the UK Home Office consulted with their Danish counterparts about possibly sharing an asylum processing centre in Africa.
Patel said in a statement on Tuesday that the legislation "delivers on what the British people have voted for time and time again - for the UK to take full control of its borders."
The bill is being championed by Patel as a way to "break the business model of the gangs that facilitate dangerous and illegal journey".
The Government has just published its #AntiRefugeeBill.— Refugee Action 🧡 (@RefugeeAction) July 6, 2021
This extreme and nasty Bill tears up the Refugee Convention. It aims to keep refugees out, not keep them safe.
70 years after signing the Refugee Convention, the UK is pulling up the drawbridge.https://t.co/DDDpsuw3Z7
However, Aalia Khan of refugee charity Freedom From Torture told The New Arab that the real victims of the bill will be individuals fleeing torture and persecution - from places such as Syria and Iraq.
"The bill will scapegoat a largely silent and vulnerable minority," said Khan.
It is an "aggressive and disproportionate response" to a fictional "refugee crisis," she said.
Khan explained that while the UK immigration system did need reform, this should involve "evidence-based solutions" that increase the efficiency and effectiveness of processing asylum claims and mean fewer cases refusing asylum are eventually overturned on appeal.
According to the latest government statistics - published on June 18 - the UK offered protection in the form of asylum to 8,640 people in the year ending March 2021, around half the number offered in the year ending March 2020 and the lowest level since 2012.