News that MPs have voted to pass the UK Government’s Anti-Refugee Bill is deeply disappointing. Although this is a massive blow for refugee rights, our work won’t stop.

We’d like to thank the 231 MPs who voted against the Anti-Refugee Bill – also known as the Nationality and Borders Bill – and everyone who opposed these harmful proposals.

Our Chief Executive, Sabir Zazai, said: “Shutting the door on people seeking asylum will not reduce the number of dangerous journeys made by people desperate to reach safety in the UK. Criminal gangs will go on profiting from people escaping warzones and other violent situations. The Bill will inflict further suffering on people who have fled their homes and are seeking protection through no fault of their own.”

What is the Anti-Refugee Bill?

The Bill creates a two-tier refugee system based on how people travel to the UK, rather than the level of danger they face. Under the new system, anyone who arrives via so-called ‘unofficial routes’ will be criminalised and could face deportation or off-shore detention. As there are very few ‘official routes’ open to people fleeing for their lives, this will apply to the vast majority of people arriving on our shores in search of safety.

This legislation directly contravenes the UN Refugee Convention. The Convention recognises a person’s right to seek asylum from persecution. It also asserts that refugees should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.

You can read more about the Anti-Refugee Bill here.

What next?

It’s important to remember that this Bill isn’t yet law. It will pass through the House of Lords in January, where more amendments may be made.

As part of the Together With Refugees coalition, we’ll continue standing up for people seeking safety and campaigning for a fair and humane asylum system. 

The Refugee Convention has endured for 70 years. We’ll keep working with others in Scotland and across the UK to ensure it outlasts this harmful legislation.

What can Scotland do?

There’s a lot that we can do here in Scotland to mitigate against the worst impacts of this cruel Bill. Along with JustRight Scotland, we recently commissioned an expert legal opinion on the UK Government’s Nationality & Borders Bill and the impact it could have on Scottish legislation and policy.

The opinion sets out ten recommendations for how Scotland can protect refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from this Anti-Refugee Bill:

  1. Scottish ministers should lodge a Legislative Consent Memorandum against this Bill, outlining how it might affect laws in Scotland and asking the Scottish Parliament to withhold legislative consent where it can.
  2. Scottish ministers should introduce responsibility for trafficking identification in Scotland and create a Scottish anti-trafficking system to protect refugees and survivors of trafficking.
  3. Undertake a review of devolved strategies that will be impacted by the Bill, including Ending Destitution Together, New Scots Refugee Integration, and the human trafficking and exploitation strategies.
  4. Scotland should ensure that the protection of refugees is an explicit commitment in devolved human rights laws.
  5. All elected representatives in Scotland should take an active interest in the consequences of this Bill and do what they can to oppose it.
  6. Local authorities should review how the Bill could impact on their duties to support people.
  7. Scottish public authorities should implement a barrier on data-sharing between their public services and Home Office immigration enforcement.
  8. The Lord Advocate should instruct police and prosecutors not to uphold the Bill’s recommendation to prosecute people arriving in the UK without papers or a visa – there is no such thing as a refugee visa
  9. Scottish civil organisations should work as allies and partners to uphold the rights of refugees and migrants in Scotland.
  10. They should review their work and consider how they can best support New Scots, people seeking asylum and survivors of trafficking in the wake of this dreadful Bill.

In the months to come, we’ll be urging the Scottish government, local authorities and civil organisations to consider these recommendations. And with your help, we’ll be campaigning to ensure that Scotland continues to welcome refugees.

What can you do?

We’ll be posting regular updates about the Bill on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Follow us to find out how you can call on authorities in Scotland to put our recommendations into action.

Together, we can ensure that Scotland remains a place of sanctuary for people seeking refugee protection. Say it loud and say it clear, refugees are welcome here!

Claire Thomson
Author: Claire Thomson