'This bill aims to criminalise and scapegoat the most vulerable'

People staying at of Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, which is used by the government to house p

Asylum seekers staying at of Napier Barracks in Folkestone - Credit: PA

The government’s Nationality and Borders Bill is a break from the 1951 Refugee Convention.

For 70 years, the convention has provided protection to at least some of those who are able to escape persecution for reason of their race, religion, political opinion and, more recently, their gender or sexuality.

To justify this dreadful bill, the government continues to whip up a moral panic about desperate asylum seekers crossing the channel in small boats. The government’s claim that the few thousand people crossing the channel from France has "broken" the UK’s asylum system has been shown to be nonsense.

But the asylum system in the UK is broken only to the extent that it has been increasingly starved of sufficient resources by the government, leaving asylum seekers in limbo for years. During this enforced limbo, they are denied the right to work, leaving 10s of 1,000s to live in substandard accommodation at near destitution levels.

Vivek Lehal, Haringey Stand-Up to Racism (HSTUR)

Vivek Lehal is opposed to the Nationality and Borders Bill - Credit: Archant

The truth is the numbers of asylum seekers arriving in the UK has fallen over the last few years, and is lower, per head of population, than 16 other European countries.

It is also clear that the huge sums of money that the UK gives to France to stop asylum seekers setting off for our shores serves only to make those journeys longer and more dangerous. Despite its promises, the government has done nothing to open up "safe and legal" routes for those fleeing from persecution.

The overwhelming majority of those responding to the government’s sham consultation exercise, carried out before the bill was put before parliament, condemned the proposed new policies as unlawful, impractical and ineffective.

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The responses exposed the government’s justification for the bill as based almost wholly on blatant lies. Yet the bill as drafted is exactly as laid out in the supposed consultation document. The government is clearly not interested in facts.

This bill is designed to criminalise and scapegoat the most vulnerable migrants arriving in the UK, not just asylum seekers but also victims of trafficking.

Join Stand up to Racism’s campaign against this brutal and racist bill, standuptoracism.org.uk

Vivek Lehal is from Haringey Stand Up To Racism.