Proposals discriminate against most people arriving in UK as refugees
Campaigners at the Scottish Refugee Council have written to all of Scotland’s MPs urging them to vote against the UK government’s Nationality & Borders bill.
The bill will have its second reading in Westminster on 19 July.
The charity is “deeply concerned” about the UK government’s proposals to make seeking asylum via an irregular route an offence, for which people seeking protection could be prosecuted.
The proposals discriminate between the vast majority of people who arrive in the UK having fled war, terror and persecution via any routes possible, often risking their lives in the process, and the small number of people who are able to access so-called ‘legal routes’, such as via the strictly limited resettlement programme.
However, the proposals fail to include any commitment to support or extend refugee resettlement programmes, as well as reducing access to the family reunion system, a route to safety most often used by women and children.
The proposed legislation could also criminalise those who are deemed to be “assisting unlawful immigration”, which could put non-asylum humanitarian services such as the RNLI at risk of prosecution.
Sabir Zazai, chief executive, Scottish Refugee Council said: “This anti-refugee bill presents the biggest threat to refugee rights in the UK that we have seen for decades.
"The bill proposes to assess people’s asylum claims based on the routes they took to the UK, not their fear of persecution.
"This directly undermines the UN Refugee Convention of which the UK is a founding signatory.
"In breaking the UK’s compliance with the Refugee Convention, this bill puts in its place a regime of punishment for people who are simply looking to rebuild their lives in safety.
“Under international law, there is no illegal way to claim asylum, and Priti Patel is perfectly aware of this.
“We cannot allow this government to criminalise people seeking safety and endanger so many lives. Britain can, and must do better than this for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
“Recent polling shows that 74% of people think it’s important to make refugees welcome here. This is the opposite of what this bill will achieve. There simply is no appetite in Scotland for these cruel and brutal tactics of the hostile environment.”
The bill follows an outsourced consultation process, which ran concurrently with the Scottish election period.
Due to purdah restrictions, several Scottish stakeholders were unable to participate in the consultation.