The Nationality and Borders Bill – An Overview

In May 2021, the government published its plans for overhauling the UK’s immigration and asylum systems in the New Plan for Immigration. The following month, the Nationality and Borders Bill was introduced to Parliament, representing legislation which would put this plan into action. 

There have been a number of protests against the implementation of the bill in major UK cities and towns, and asylum and refugee NGOs and advocacy organisations have called for the Bill to be significantly rethought, if not scrapped, linking it to the Hostile Environment. Further, the UNHCR has made it clear that the proposed legislation violates the terms of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the UK’s international commitments to the resettlement and protection of refugees and asylum seekers.

If successful in coming into law without significant amendment, this anti-refugee bill will undermine refugee protection in Britain and make a mockery of our historical reputation as a nation of welcome, refuge and sanctuary.

Controversy and Progress of the Bill

The Nationality and Borders Bill was debated in Parliament on the 19th and 20thJuly 2021. It passed its 2nd Reading in the House of Commons by 366 votes to 265. Since then, it has passed through the Committee and Report stages and its 3rd Reading in the House of Commons, as well as 1st and 2nd readings in the House of Lords in January 2022. 

Both the Senedd and the Scottish Parliament have voted against the Bill and have called on Westminster to differentiate between its implementation in England, Scotland, and Wales. The Welsh minister for social justice called the Bill  ‘severely damaging’ to local communities, pointing to wider societal effects beyond the lives of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Over 90 MPs have received messages from their constituents calling for a more just and considered approach to refugee processing and the asylum system. On the 28th of February, 1000 faith-leaders across the UK reiterated this call in a letter to the UK Government saying they are “horrified and appalled about [the Bill’s] potential repercussions” and calling for an urgent rethink. 

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has heightened the urgency of this call and has illuminated the main failings of the Bill, galvanising opposition to its progress and enactment. 

At present, the Bill is being debated at Report stage in the House of Lords. 

Details of the Nationality and Borders Bill and the New Plan for Immigration

To design the New Plan for Immigration, the government held a consultation process, which Asylum Welcome contributed to alongside numerous other refugee support organisations. Although 75% of respondents expressed opposition to the government’s intended plans, there is no evidence that any recommendations were implemented.

The Bill claims to ‘increase the fairness’ of the asylum system, to ‘deter illegal entry’ of migrants into the UK and to facilitate the removal of those with ‘no right to be in the UK’.  It forms part of the post-Brexit turn to ‘Global Britain’, the push for ‘sovereignty’, and the narrative of ‘taking back control’. 

There are many aspects of this plan and its proposed legislation that violate both the rights of refugees and the UK’s legal duty to protect them. These are outlined in greater detail on this page. However, some key aspects include: 

  • A proposed two-tier refugee classification system, under which any person who enters the UK “illegally” (‘group 2’ refugees) will not be eligible for full refugee status or family reunification rights (note: the act of seeking asylum is always legal under international law) 
  • The proposal of offshore locations for refugee processing 
  • The plan to ‘return’ refugees to the first ‘safe’ country they entered, which is both infeasible and puts refugees’ lives at additional risk
  • The provision of  ‘temporary protection status’ to ‘group 2’ refugees

Fight the Bill

To join us in opposing the Bill and creating a nation of sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, you can: 

  • Fight the bill in your local community 
  • Empower your local leaders to take a stand 
  • Show solidarity everyday 
  • Get in contact with us! 

Find out more here