Refugees welcome protest Photo: Refugees welcome protest / Julian Stallabrass

In the run up to this Saturday’s anti-racism protests, Jamal Elaheebocus assesses the campaign against the draconian Nationality and Borders Bill. 

The government has faced several significant defeats over its Nationality and Borders Bill, as the House of Lords voted for several amendments to the most cruel parts of theracist bill. 

The Nationality and Borders Bill passed through the House of Commons in December last year and sparked a nationwide movement against the bill and anti-immigrant racism in Britain.  

The bill proposes several drastic changes to the asylum system, including creating a two-tiered system whereby those who do not arrive to the UK via so-called legal pathways can be stripped of some of their rights to asylum.

It would also make gaining asylum far more difficult, as the government would consider applicants ineligible if they have a connection to a country deemed safe by the government even if they have never been to that country. 

The Home Secretary would be able to deport asylum seekers without notice, denying them of their right to appeal the decision, and the prison sentence for arriving in Britain illegally would be increased to four years. 

The bill would also allow the UK Border Force to stop and return vessels in the Channel to France if they are suspected of carrying illegal immigrants. 

The bill has been condemned by human rights organisations, including the UNHCR, and many have said that it would undermine the UN Refugee Convention and international law. However, the House of Lords recently voted to remove and amend several of the most pernicious parts of the bill. This included removing clause 11, which would have stripped asylum seekers who did not arrive via legal pathways of some of their right to asylum. 

The Lords also voted to remove clause 9, which allowed the Home Secretary to remove citizenship without notice, and voted for a new clause which ensures the bill is enacted to comply with the 1951 Refugee Convention. A new amendment will also give asylum seekers the right to work in Britain if they have been waiting for 6 months or more for a decision on whether they will be granted asylum.

These amendments represent a serious defeat for the government in its racist offensive against immigrants and refugees. These defeats have been at least in part a result of the nationwide “Kill the Bill” protests, which have seen tens of thousands take to the streets across the country calling for the Police and Crime bill to be scrapped which fed into a renewed movement including a wide coalition of organisations against both bills and for Britain to welcome asylum seekers. 

This is a reminder of our collective power in fighting against the establishment’s racist and authoritarian agenda. The bill will however return to the Commons and we must continue to mobilise and protest until it is scrapped in its entirety. 

While Ukrainians flee their homes under Russian bombardment and people across the Middle East, from Yemen to Palestine, are forced to flee their homes as they are hit with British bombs and weapons, we should continue to call for safe passage for all refugees who are fleeing war and persecution. 

March Against Racism this Saturday and Sunday in London, Glasgow and Cardiff.

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