"Inhumane and draconian": Nationality and Borders Bill passes by majority of 67


The passing of the Nationality and Borders Bill through the Commons yesterday was widely anticipated, but it does not make it any easier to digest. It passed its third and final reading in the Commons by a vote of 298 to 231 and will now go through its second reading in the House of Lords on 5 January next year. While the fallout from the government's covid party rule break continues, the implications of this latest bill may be significant for many of you reading.

The bill will extend the government’s ability to deprive individuals of their citizenship to now being able to do so without notice under clause 9. Early November research from the New Statesman found that nearly six million people in England and Wales could be affected, including two in every five people from a non-white ‘ethnic minority’ backgrounds. 

Given the historical and present day realities of government policy which has aggresively violated the rights of citizens from non-white racialised communities, most notably where the Windrush generation are concerned, the development cannot be overstated.

The emphasis on current infringement of rights is critical since it explains why opposition to this has been so strident. Simply put, we do not need to envisage a scenario in which the government violates the rights of individuals since we are witnessing it in real time.

The bill will also restrict asylum seekers' access into the UK based on the path they have taken, and, according to an assessment by The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), will deprive recognised refugees' rights given to them under the Refugee Convention and international law, while essentially creating a two-tier refugee hierarchy. They claim that this is based on the Home Office's misleading reinterpretation of the Refugee Convention.

The Bill revolves around the notion that refugees are required to seek asylum in the first safe country they find. To be clear, that principle is not found in the refugee convention, and it is not a requirement in international law. It is also unworkable because it would further increase pressure on those few countries that find themselves at the frontier of a crisis.

Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, the UNHCR's representative to the UK speaking in a public bill committee in September

Opposition parliamentarians have been outspoken in their displeasure with the bill's progress. Caroline Lucas of the Green Party has called it "inhumane and draconian." Labour's Yvette Cooper, the SNP's Alison Thewlis, and the Lib Dems' Jamie Stone have been similarly scathing. 

Conservative MP David Davis branded it an "uncivilised, legally disputable removal of people's rights." At the time of writing, there are two petitions with well over 100,000 signatures each calling for the measure to be repealed.

Mayowa Ayodele