The UK Government’s Nationality & Borders Bill seeks to overhaul the UK’s asylum system. The government says the new Bill will “fix the broken asylum system” but in it’s current form it will make the existing problems even worse.

The proposals have been widely condemned by charities, faith groups and community organisations across the UK.

Although 53 MPs from Scotland voted against the Bill, it was passed by the House of Commons in December 2021. On 22 February, MSPs from the Scottish Parliament joined their counterparts in Wales by voting to reject the Nationality and Borders Bill. Less than a week later, on 28 February, the House of Lords also voted to reject or amend the many of the most harmful parts of the Bill.

However, on Tuesday, 22 March, Conservative MPs, who hold a majority in the House of Commons, voted to reinstate all the worst bits of this evil Bill. This move comes despite the huge outpouring of support for refugees shown by the British public in response to the crises in Ukraine and Afghanistan.

What happens next?
  • The Bill, it will return to the House of Lords, where it will go through further readings before any amends are passed back to the Commons

Here are some of the reasons we’re against the Bill and how we plan to oppose it…

We believe the Bill is dangerous and cruel. It will have a devastating impact on people fleeing war, persecution and human rights abuses.

The Nationality and Borders Bill:
  • Judges a person’s right to refugee protection according to how they arrive in the UK, not on their need or the level of danger they face
  • Criminalises people who arrive in the UK by ‘unofficial routes’, which will apply to the majority of people seeking asylum, including many of those currently fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan
  • Plans to house people seeking refugee protection in ‘off-shore’ detention centres and out-of-town institutions, like Napier Barracks, rather than providing accommodation within local communities
  • Fails to set clear targets for resettling refugees in the UK, despite the government claiming to support so-called ‘legal’ routes
If the Bill becomes law:
  • Up to 21,600 people that the UK would accept as refugees today, could be turned away each year
  • Humanitarian organisations like the RNLI could be criminalised for “assisting unlawful immigration” by rescuing people from sinking boats
  • The UK Government could break international laws, set out in the UN Refugee Convention – this sets a worrying precedent for refugee rights
We’re doing what we can to protect people seeking safety from the worst impacts of the Bill
  • We commissioned an expert legal opinion on the Bill to help us gain a better understanding of how it might affect and the impact it could have on Scottish policy and legislation
  • The opinion sets out ten recommendations for how Scotland can protect refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from the worst impact of the Bill
  • In the months to come, we’ll be working closely with politicians, local authorities and civil organisations across Scotland to call for these recommendations to be considered
  • And with your help, we’ll be campaigning to ensure that Scotland continues to be a place of welcome for people seeking safety
As part of the Together With Refugees coalition, we’re calling for the UK Government to deliver an asylum system that is fair, effective and humane.

We’re calling for a new and better approach that:

  • Stands up for people seeking safety in the UK, no matter how they came here
  • Ensures people can live with dignity while they wait to hear if they will be granted refugee protection
  • Empowers refugees to rebuild their lives and contribute to their communities
  • Sees the UK work alongside other countries and do our bit to help people who are forced to flee their homes

Ahead of the vote in the Scottish Parliament in which MSPS rejected the Bill, we prepared a briefing for MSPS, which you can read below:

Briefing for MSPs ahead of LCM
Rachel Lamb
Author: Rachel Lamb