Written by Volunteer Clara Morer Andrades
Fear, hate and ignorance is guiding UK’s migratory policy nowadays. Bluntly violating human rights law and international agreements, Ms Priti Patel’s Nationality and Borders Bill is now waiting a for the final deliberation in the House of Lords.
Ironically the bill is presented by Tories as a fair solution to halt illegal migration, aimed to make UK’s asylum seeker process more effective, punish smugglers, and “[…] remove from the UK those with no right to be here”, which apparently, is a great amount of people, including, if the occasion is given, those who were born in this country like MP Imran Hussain himself.
Civil society and even international organisations such as the UN have raised their concern on how human rights standards would be deteriorated if this bill is implemented. The following article will explain some of the measures and consequences of the so called Anti-Refugees bill:
- Loss of citizenship rights without notice
This proposition does not come as something new in UK’s legislation. In the early 2000, the government denied and removed British from their nationality, on the bases of an alleged threat to national security. Since 2006, UK’s anti-terrorist policy allows the government to expropriate individuals with dual nationality if they are identified by state authorities as a threat to the nation. For example, we all probably recall the case of Shamima Begum, born, raised and national from the UK. In 2019, she was not allowed to return to the UK because she was considered to pose a threat to the nations’ security. The reason? Shamima joined the Islamic State in Syria when she still was 15 years old. Thus, five years later, when she asked for aid to return to her birth country, the UK decided to forbid her entrance to the island and stripped of her nationality.
So, one might wonder, given already restrictive legislation, which is then the role of the Nationality and Borders Bill in this area? Actually, in addition to the current legislation, the new bill will reinforce these power dynamics by making it easier for the state to remove anyone’s nationality.
As long as a person has a claim over another nation’s citizenship, without any previous notice and whenever official authorities consider that (1) the person attempts against “[…] national security” or (2) is in the “interests of the relationship between the United Kingdom and another country,” or whether (3) “it is in the public interest”, a British national might all of a sudden lose its citizenship and related rights. Simplifying, it would be possible to deprive someone’s rights to remain in the country and citizenship whenever the state’s courts “fancies” it.
As it happens, this policy will not necessarily have severe effects on white British-nationals. According to a report published by New Stateman, almost six million people in England and Wales with Indian, Polish, Irish and Pakistani background, among others, could be eligible for their nationality to be removed if it were “in the public interest”. And although, they would have the right to appeal in front of a court, the fact that they would no longer be nationals but seen as “foreign national offenders circulating on the streets”, might suppose an added difficulty to pose their case in front of a “foreign court”, even when they have been born in UK’s land.
- Boris’ “Great Wall”
The new bill will reinforce the existing discriminatory social order concerning migration. Based on aspects such as nationality and the chosen arrival route, people might be immediately treated as “public offenders” and, hence, expelled from the country. For instance, if the place of origin where the alleged refugee is from, is deemed as a “safe country”, no protection will be granted. As a consequence, the individual will be immediately returned.
What is a “safe country” though? The definition is quite general, yet, as a starting point for this bill, any country that belongs to the European Union is seen as safe. That is to say, all nationals or individuals somehow related to one of the 27 countries of the Union will be denied any claim of asylum, unless, the European Union, more concretely, the European Council (body composed by ministers of each country), raises any objection on a country’s commitment towards the European Charter of Human Rights. Furthermore, while the right of appeal is still applicable in some of the cases, the no notice policy and the prejudiced legal status given to newcomers might difficult individuals and families’ access to justice.
The Anti-refugee Bill will also provide immunity for those who, by participating in pushbacks in the sea, provoke the death of people trying to reach UK’s shores. Plus, not only the government will allow summary removals, but additionally, the bill will criminalise individuals and organisations that attempt any sort of rescue of people in danger of drowning. Basically, Ms Priti’s Bill will transform the English Channel into an official graveyard.
- Guilty until otherwise decided
Those whose residence situation is under investigation will be imprisoned in “accommodation centres” while waiting for the state’s final verdict concerning their status. Proved by different studies, people’s mental and physical health severely deteriorates when confined in those centres, sometimes leading to extreme reactions such as suicide. That is one of the reasons why, for years, civil society and the international community have been asking for a better system of reception and the closure of these pseudo-prisons. However, unhearing public demands, the Nationality and Borders Bill would only increase the time of detention of people in centres (going from 6 month maximum to an undetermined length of time) while also increasing the number of detention centres available now in the UK.
Children arriving to the UK won’t have it easy either. Up until now, minors were usually guaranteed certain additional safeties and treatment following the UN Convention on the rights of the Child (signed by the UK in 1991 and enforced in 1992). According to the government, the new bill will maintain these standards. Nevertheless, it is also written that for those cases where it is not clear whether the individual is below or above 18 years old, this will be treated as an adult depending on the civil servant’s perception or until proved otherwise. That is to say, a child of 15 years old, who might be early developed and hence, look older than its age, will be treated as an adult, at least, until no further investigation (the bill does not clarify how long it might take) concludes differently.
How to stop the Bill? Join the campaign to #LiftTheBan
As you probably gathered by now, were the bill to pass, it would have nefarious consequences for the interest and rights of those who are most in need. Furthermore, it will also put at risk the current living situation of thousands of residents in the UK…
Despite its advanced status, it is not law yet. So, now that we have information available and open to the public, why should not we claim our rights and protest against such an undeniable violation of human rights? There are distinct sorts of campaigns adapted to the current pandemic times in which one could engage. Aiming to make our voices heard, here there are the links for you to have a look! #AddYourVoice to #LiftTheBan
And finally, look for other resources here.