The Scottish Parliament has voted against the UK Government’s Nationality & Borders Bill, the anti-refugee bill.

Today, 22 February 2022, a majority of MSPs voted to reject the bill. They also agreed that parts of the bill affect laws that the Scottish Parliament has control over. These include the way children are treated in the asylum system and how survivors of human trafficking are identified and supported.

What does this mean?

The care and rights of children and trafficking survivors sit within Scottish law. The Borders Bill, proposed by the UK Government, seeks to make changes to these Scottish laws. The Scottish parliament has recognised how harmful the Borders Bill could be and today gave a formal declaration that they did not agree for these changes to happen.

What happens next?

The UK Parliament can decide whether to change the Bill in line with the Scottish Parliament’s concerns, or they can pass it as it is.

That’s why it’s so important for the Scottish Government and Parliament to use its powers as much as possible to protect people from the worst impacts of this cruel bill.

What can Scotland do?

Scotland can:

  • Use its powers under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 to maximise protection for survivors of trafficking and exploitation
  • Review Scottish Government strategies like Equally Safe, New Scots Refugee Integration, the Ending Destitution Together and the Ending Homelessness Together policies as well as the Mental Health framework, to make sure they continue to support vulnerable people after the Bill becomes law
  • Make sure the Scottish Human Rights Bill makes a clear and meaningful commitment to protecting the rights of refugees and migrants in Scotland
  • Ask the Lord Advocate to offer human rights-based advice to Scottish police and prosecutors about deciding if it is in the public interest to prosecute people for how they arrived in the UK (a key part of what the Bill will do)

Why is the Borders Bill known as the anti-refugee bill?

This Bill is the biggest threat to refugee rights we’ve seen for decades. The Borders Bill seeks to

  • Discriminate between people based on how they arrived in the UK, not their need for protection, contravening the UN Refugee Convention
  • House people seeking protection in institutional style accommodation so called ‘reception centres’
  • Criminalise people who are forced to arrive in the UK via whichever route they possibly can, just for the act of seeking safety – this would include people fleeing the Taliban who were not one of the very small number of people to be officially resettled to the UK
  • Not introduce any new routes to safety, such as a resettlement programme

We knew that this legislation was not written in Scotland’s name, or with Scotland’s consent.

Charities and community groups from across Scotland signed a joint statement asking MSPs to vote to deny the Bill consent. Scotland’s children’s rights sector has also issued a joint statement about the vote and how the Bill could harm children seeking protection who live in Scotland.

As we heard on Kenmure Street – refugees are welcome here.

What are we doing?

  • We have written a guide for MSPs to the Borders Bill, urging them to vote against it in the Scottish Parliament today.
  • We continue to campaign against the Bill in every way possible, including with partners in Scotland and across the UK

What can you do?

Claire Thomson
Author: Claire Thomson