Bell Ribeiro-Addy

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Labour Candidate for Clapham & Brixton Hill
From Clapham & Brixton Hill, For Clapham & Brixton Hill

Please note: Parliament has now been dissolved until after the General Election, meaning I am no longer an MP.

We need a humane and fair asylum system, not another anti-refugee bill

Jul 21, 2021 | Parliamentary Work

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I voted to throw out the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill at Second Reading. Rather than creating a fair and humane asylum system, the Tories are punishing people who come here seeking safety and exposing them to further risk of exploitation and human rights violations.

This Bill does nothing to create safe routes for refugees, nothing to end the hostile environment, nothing to end the danger of unsafe asylum accommodation and nothing to address the bureaucratic hurdles leaving people without documentation through no fault of their own.

Asylum system
At Streatham Drop-In Centre ahead of the 2019 General Election

Rolling back on our international commitments

Instead, the Government has put forwards a plan that rolls back our commitment to the 1951 Refugee Convention. Their Nationality and Borders Bill would create a two-tier asylum system which differentiates between those entering by resettlement, and those arriving spontaneously or having passed through countries deemed safe. We shouldn’t be creating arbitrary divisions between people who are all worthy of our support.

Lowering the bar even further on asylum accommodation

The Bill also includes clauses that would normalise the barracks-style accommodation we’ve seen at Napier and Penally. They plan to lower the bar even further by incorporating offshore detention for processing asylum seekers. Outsourcing asylum accommodation to other countries would mean moving people out of the UK without a fair hearing. It would also mean housing them away from public scrutiny in likely even worse conditions than at present.

Plans to give border agents new powers to stop and divert vessels and dish out harsher sentences for people who steer boats across the Channel won’t stop people smugglers. These proposals ignore the valid reasons why asylum seekers might need to enter the country via the Channel. For instance, people stranded in France and desperate to reach loved ones or family members in the UK.

Punishing refugees for seeking safety

As the Government very well knows, the people smugglers are not the ones driving the boats; they’re much higher up the chain of command. They will be laughing at these plans which do nothing to reduce the market of desperate people hoping to reach safety in the UK. If the Government was serious about putting people smugglers out of business in the Channel, there’s an easy solution: opening up safe routes for people to claim asylum here in the UK and ending the market.

Attacking “activist lawyers”

Finally, the Government is looking to consolidate their attacks on “activist lawyers” with rules that will make it harder for legal representatives to challenge bad decisions. They are also looking to increase the burden of proof on asylum seekers to prove their cases.

We need a fair and humane asylum system

We should be doing our bit to help the small number of refugees and asylum seekers who reach the UK. So often, the UK has been complicit in creating the circumstances that displaced them in the first place: whether through our outsized contribution to climate breakdown, our historic exploitation of former colonies or our support for destructive wars.

The only thing separating us from the people crossing in dinghies is an accident of birth. We have a moral obligation to create a fair asylum system that helps refugees rebuild their lives within our communities. These plans will only subject them to further criminalisation, upheaval and trauma.