Now that the much-anticipated Nationality and Borders Bill is nearing its second reading in the UK’s House of Commons, immigration law specialists, Optimus Law, is seeing a plethora of reactions from various groups who have had time to digest its contents and come to a conclusion about what the Bill will mean in practice.
One of the most damning reactions is from the Law Society of England and Wales which claims that the Bill risks undermining Britain’s global reputation for justice.
The bill seeks to make changes to the UK immigration system for asylum seekers and refugees by introducing a two-tier system for asylum seekers arriving in the UK, treating them differently depending on how they arrived in the country. It would also seek to change the definition of what it is to be a refugee by “radically raising the threshold of proof” asylum-seekers must reach to gain meaningful protection in the UK.
The bill – and the wider plan – has 3 key objectives, as outlined by Home Secretary, Priti Patel:
- To make the system fairer and more effective so that we can better protect and support those in genuine need of asylum.
- To deter illegal entry into the UK breaking the business model of criminal trafficking networks and saving lives.
- To remove from the UK those with no right to be here.
However, the Law Society has warned the bill would damage access to justice by altering the process for asylum claims and appeals.
The organisation, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, also questioned whether the bill would comply with international law and called for greater legislative detail and clarity.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the measures in the bill would not deal with the “chaos” created by the Conservatives since 2010.
“They don’t deal with the fact that the time taken to process claims has rocketed or desperate people are still falling victim to criminal gangs,” he said, as quoted on the BBC website.
He added that the proposals would also “reduce support” for victims of human trafficking, and “potentially break international law“.
Another condemnation comes from Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive of Refugee Action, who said the bill was a “crackdown on traumatised people whose only wish is to build a new life here“.
“This extreme and nasty anti-refugee bill has no place in any country that seeks to defend human rights and the rule of law,” he added.
Why is there a need for a new Nationality and Borders Bill?
According to the UK Government website the Nationality and Borders Bill is the cornerstone of the government’s new immigration plan, delivering the most comprehensive reform in decades to fix the “broken asylum system”. And the government is open about the many reasons it needs reforming:
- The system is broken. We stand by our moral and legal obligations to help innocent people fleeing cruelty from around the world. But the system must be a fair one.
- In 2019, UK asylum applications increased by 21% on the previous year to almost 36,000 – the highest number since the 2015/16 European ‘migration crisis’.
- The current appeals system is too slow. As of May 2020, 32% of asylum appeals lodged in 2019 and 9% of appeals lodged in 2018 did not have a known outcome.
- The asylum system now costs over £1 billion a year to run.
- Known illegal entry in 2020 was around 16,000 people, and the number of people with no right to be here being removed has been steadily declining for several years due to legal challenges.
- As a result, there are now over 10,000 Foreign National Offenders circulating on the streets, posing a risk to the public.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has promised the bill will create a “firm but fair” asylum system to allow the UK to “take full control of its borders” and “break the business model” of people-smuggling gangs.
A record 6,000 people crossed the English Channel in small boats in the first six months of 2021, meaning last year’s figure of 8,417 could soon be eclipsed over the summer.