Today, in spite of our best efforts and overwhelming opposition, the government has managed to force the Nationality and Borders Bill through Parliament.
This bill will punish refugees who have been left with no other options to find safety by taking dangerous journeys to get to the UK, and it will criminalise people for simply trying. It’s completely at odds with the UN Refugee Convention and will see the UK renege on our international obligations.
This is a sad day for people fleeing war and persecution. Even for former refugees like me who are now British citizens, this feels very personal. As if our contribution to the UK is being disregarded, that we’re not wanted. Though of course I do know the extreme, unworkable, and expensive measures in the bill, are not supported by most people in the UK.
It is in ordinary people, in communities all over the country, that my hope lies. I have been moved and inspired by your resilience and steadfast dedication to demonstrating community support for a fairer, kinder and more effective approach to refugees. People from all backgrounds up and down the country have been standing up and being counted. Together we have shown the government that the bill doesn’t represent us.
Though while this does represent a significant blow, we have also made significant strides in our longer-term struggle for change. Together through your dedicated work in your communities we have succeeded in influencing many more MPs from across the political divide, got our message of hope out to millions of people through media and social media, and persuaded more people to stand up for the rights of people fleeing war and persecution. We will continue to press the government on our calls – such as on setting a clear annual target for resettling refugees from around the world, which they can readily do outside the bill. We should take a moment to celebrate all that we’ve achieved together over the last year.
We will fight on against the tyranny of this bill, and in time our hopes for a more just and compassionate approach to refugees will be realised. We will keep you posted on our next steps in the coming days.
Chair, Together With Refugees