[Day] March 2022
Dear [MP – find your MP here]
I am writing to you today as a constituent and as a member of the Oxfordshire local community with respect to the progress of the Nationality and Borders Bill. As I am sure you are aware, the readings of the bill in the House of Lords on the 28th February and the 2nd and 8th of March led to a number of significant and important amendments in the shape of the bill. This amended version is due to return to the House of Commons, where it will be either accepted or rejected for further debate.
As with many, I am extremely concerned about the potential impact of the bill in its un-amended form, the detrimental effects it will impose on the lives of many refugees and asylum seekers who seek sanctuary in the UK, as well as the symbolism it holds at this time of crisis. Surely, in the face of such extreme and violent nationalism as we are seeing in the Russian incursion into Ukraine, we should be holding a mirror to our own policies and politics and considering what they signal to the international community and what we truly stand for as a nation.
It is simply not good enough at this time to turn our backs on those who need safety and security most.
As such, I respectfully ask that you register your support for the amendments brought forward by the House of Lords which will help to bring the Nationality and Borders Bill closer in line with the co-operative principles underpinning the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and will increase the protection of human rights for displaced individuals entering the UK. The following four amendments hold particular importance towards this goal.
The removal of Clause 11
Clause 11 would introduce ‘differentiated treatment’ into asylum law, allowing the Home Office to discriminate between people seeking asylum based on their means of arrival to the UK – ‘regular’ and ‘legal’, and ‘irregular’ and ‘illegal’. Those who arrive via indirect (‘irregular’) routes would not be entitled to full refugee status, may be removed offshore, and, if allowed to remain in British territory, would face marginalisation within British society, including no recourse to public funds and the uncertainty of living in limbo pending decisions regarding their status. The removal of this clause represents a critical amendment towards protecting the rights of all refugees to claim asylum in the UK, as well as keeping the UK in line with international refugee and humanitarian law.
The removal of Clause 15
Clause 15 is the ‘inadmissibility clause’ which was intended to enable the UK government to ‘remove’ a person claiming asylum to a third safe country with which they have ‘a connection’ (for example, they may have passed through it en-route to the UK). This was an impractical and unsafe recommendation; the UK government does not currently have any returns agreements with any other states and, further, each refugee’s personal circumstance means determining a ‘safe’ destination country for removal would be a fraught and risky process.
The inclusion of a family reunification route
There is currently no legal route for unaccompanied children to reunite with family members in the UK (beyond the Ukrainian Family Scheme which has seen little success thus far). This new clause is critical in building this into the asylum system. This amendment gained a large amount of support in the Lords.
The inclusion of a resettlement target
A resettlement target of 10,000 refugees is a crucial inclusion which reflects a number of key issues raised by local councils and refugee and asylum support organisations. The ad-hoc resettlement of refugees thus far has hindered local councils’ efforts to plan for arrivals – to provide housing, basic provisions, and education. As the government has already committed to resettle 5,000 Afghan refugees per year, this would secure a commitment of an additional 5,000 refugees per year from elsewhere in the world – a small ask given the scale of global displacement and the public will for supporting refugees and asylum seekers.
I ask you, as a member of government with the power to do so, but also as an individual who simply as a factor of chance may never have to face the violence, hardship, and uncertainty that refugees and asylum seekers face, to stand in support of these important amendments and to encourage your colleagues to do the same.
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