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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Scotland's third sector unites to oppose borders bill

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Charities from across the country underlined their opposition to the proposed legislation ahead of a Holyrood debate.

Dozens of charities across Scotland have joined together to condemn Westminster legislation ahead of a debate in Holyrood. 

Organisations from across the country joined forces, writing to MSPs urging them to condemn the Nationality and Borders Bill and withhold consent for its passing from the Scottish Parliament. 

The proposed legislation, charities have said, would introduce an anti-survivor, anti-refugee and anti-safety law which would disproportionately and severely harm women and girls, children and young people - criminalising vulnerable people on their arrival to the UK.

Concerns have been raised by the Scottish Government over the new law, with a legislative consent memorandum earlier this month recommending that consent be withheld - with the Welsh Parliament already voting to withhold its own consent. 

A motion by SNP MSP Neil Gray, which is to be voted on, claims that “the Bill will not achieve its aims or the change that is needed to ensure that the UK’s asylum and immigration systems are effective, efficient and deliver for people in need of humanitarian protection, according to international human rights obligations”. 

Ahead of the debate on the matter in Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon, MSPs were told by charities that Scotland has a “proud history of protest, of raising our voices against the injustices that blight our society and speaking truth to power”.

The letter adds: “Millions of people across generations in the UK have campaigned for the rights of refugees and women and girls, children and survivors of human trafficking and exploitation. Courageous people formed movements to defend human rights and dignity. 

“This Bill endangers all that movements and Governments have achieved for refugees and survivors of trafficking and exploitation.

“To sever our links from the international community and from the Refugee Convention is an act of harm, not only to ourselves and to the very fabric of our values, but left as it is, we can be in no doubt that this Bill will kill and leave people to suffer.

“Far from protection, this Bill is punishment. We must act – in Scotland – to use the powers we have to object in the strongest possible terms, to push back and stand with our fellow human beings through practical action, and to say loudly and clearly: not in our name.”

Sabir Zazai, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, said: “This simply is not the kind of legislation we want to see here in Scotland. I very much hope that the Scottish Parliament chooses to stand with us too, and say in no uncertain terms that this bill is not welcome here and it is not in our name.

“After today’s debate, the Scottish government must act to ensure that its powers of legislation and policy are used to their very fullest extent to mitigate against the serious harms this bill will cause some of Scotland’s most vulnerable people. 

“This letter sets out a clear five-point plan that we urge the Scottish government to put into action to practically show that this bill will never be in Scotland’s name.”

Those signing the letter, who include representatives from Rape Crisis Scotland, Engender, Scottish Women’s Aid and 57 other groups from the third sector, called for MSPs to undertake number of promises relating to human rights in Scotland. 

Jen Ang, director of Just Right Scotland, said: “We – together with so many organisations across Scotland who have joined us today – oppose this anti-survivor, anti-refugee, anti-safety bill. 

“These reforms do not make our system safer or our borders more secure, but rather create cruel and unnecessary barriers for people seeking sanctuary here.

“We are also concerned that the bill seeks to interfere with how we protect and support all survivors of violence in Scotland – in particular, survivors of trafficking, women and children survivors of gender-based violence, and other survivors of complex and long-term trauma. This bill affects us all.”