On Tuesday (26th April), both the Lords and the Commons debated the Nationality and Borders Bill in a rapid-fire exchange of parliamentary ping-pong. The Lords voted on eight amendments to the Bill, passing three and adding to the string of defeats to the Bill in the Lords in past weeks.
The Lords voted to:
- Give asylum seekers the right to work after six months
- Undermine Clause 11 which cements the ‘two-tier system’ into law by adding clarifiers as to what counts as an ‘irregular’ route to and arrival in the UK.
- Demand that the Nationality and Borders Bill complies with the 1951 Refugee Convention and norms of international refugee law (the UNHCR’s assessment of the bill can be read here)
An amendment to introduce checks to prevent the transfer of people seeking asylum to Rwanda or any other country where their human rights may be at risk was voted down by a narrow margin of 221:216. This paves the way for the home secretary’s plans to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda – a key aspect of the Nationality and Borders Bill which has caused those working in the immigration sector, including civil servants working in the Home Office, to balk.
Later in the evening, the Commons voted on the three Lords amendments, rejecting them and reinstating the original bill. The bill will return to the Lords this evening and, if they vote to pass amendments once again, may even ping-pong back to the Commons, all before parliament is prorogued.
The government continues to push forward with the Nationality and Borders bill, ignoring the clear and well-reasoned national and international political and public opposition. Last Wednesday (20th), refugees, activists, civil society members (including members of Asylum Welcome) and celebrities boarded a boat on the Thames to protest the progress of the Bill, calling for the government to “protect not punish refugees”.
Given the small margins in the votes at the Lords on Tuesday, it may be that this will be the final time the Nationality and Borders Bill returns to the Lords. Unfortunately, we may see it become law very, very soon.
By Tiger Hills, Advocacy Volunteer