Thank you for getting in touch with me about the Nationalities and Borders Bill which was debated in Westminster recently.
This Bill isn’t about improving legislation. This Bill is about hate. It’s little more than political gesturing of the worst kind. It panders to far-right politics, stirs up resentment, fear and division. We live in an increasingly hostile world. Conflict, climate change and COVID 19 are among many injustices and inequalities which have made life more precarious. As we speak, many innocent families and children are fleeing for their lives, driven from their homes, livelihoods, communities – joining the 30 million refugees worldwide. With little more than the clothes on their back and hopes and dreams, fearful of the future, but with a yearning to protect themselves and their loved ones.
But to those who make that perilous journey, this Government says, “we do not care”. This Conservative Government is attempting to build a wall around our shores. This Government’s deliberately and unnecessarily hostile attitude doesn’t tackle the drivers of displacement which will continue to force the vulnerable to flee, which will aggravate the very threats which make our own lives here at home less secure, and make the United Kingdom even more isolated not just from our partners, but the values which made us a welcoming nation so many people look to with hope.
We mustn’t forget collective responsibility – the United Kingdom was a co-signatory and first to ratify, with the support of the whole House, the 1951 Refugee Convention for a reason. But rather than be an open and inclusive country, the Government’s Bill seeks to remove us from shared challenges and wash our hands of the crises and injustices fuelled by many decisions made at home and which weaken a community’s resilience.
This Bill also seeks to criminalise refugees, but refugees are not criminals and seeking a safe haven is not a crime. Putting the United Kingdom at odds with decades of agreed consensus on the need to offer safety to the persecuted and stateless whether neighbour or stranger and it would break international law. This Bill goes against the underlying principle of the 1951 Convention of non-return of a refugee to a state where there may be a clear risk of persecution.
In stark terms, had this Bill come some 70 years earlier, what would it have meant for the Kindertransport that provided safe haven for Jewish children fleeing the horrors of Nazi Germany? It would have turned their back on them, just like this Bill would do now to children fleeing brutality in Tigray or Yemen.
The majority of powers the Home Secretary seeks to gain from the Bill are granted to her in existing law. This Bill is politicking at its best and cruel at worst, playing life or death with the most vulnerable families and children. The Government seek to wage the culture war, stir up hate, and detract from the miserable failings this Government have made of Brexit, of the rampant corruption we’re witnessing at the top of Whitehall, and their inexcusable failure to protect many thousands of lives during the pandemic.
I opposed this extension of the Government’s hate-filled culture war. I will not allow our country to turn our backs on shared challenges which threaten our collective health, security and prosperity or shut the door on the most vulnerable. I welcome the stranger and champion the values of a progressive and confident nation which looks out and which recognises the value added to society when we embrace the world and protect the most vulnerable.