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One of the most significant proposed pieces of new UK legislation currently continuing its passage through the statute-making process is the Nationality and Borders Bill.

It continues to attract high-profile criticism, and its passage through the UK legislature is being keenly monitored and reported by the UK media.

As we come to the end of 2021 / enter 2022 let’s look back at the Bill and examine its current status.

Background

The bill was introduced in the UK Parliament on July 6, 2021, with the aim of amending the current asylum and immigration system in the United Kingdom.

The Home SecretaryPriti Patelintroduced the bill so that the UK can “take full control of its borders” and prevent the asylum system from – as the government sees it – being abused.

The UK government website outlines that the bill – and the wider plan – has 3 key objectives:

  • 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

Measures proposed in the bill include introducing a maximum life sentence for those convicted of people smuggling, coming up with new assessments to identify adult migrants pretending to be children, creating a downgraded status for asylum seekers who have not been deported to a safe country, and giving the Border Force new powers to stop and divert vessels suspected of carrying illegal migrants.

Current parliamentary status

At the time of writing, the Bill has now completed all steps in the House of Commons. That means it has passed the first and second reading stages before going to Committee stage. This was followed by the Report stage and then the third reading.

It is now in the House of Lords at the second reading stage, having already completed the first reading here.

The second reading gives members of the Lords their first opportunity to debate the key principles and main purpose of the Bill and to flag up any concerns or specific areas where they think amendments are needed.

Criticism and petition against the Bill

The Bill continues to attract high-profile criticism, some of which has been reported here on our blog page over recent months.

One of the main areas of protest is the claim – as reported in The Guardian newspaper – that individuals could be stripped of their British citizenship without warning under a proposed rule change which was allegedly “quietly added” to the Bill.

Clause 9 – “Notice of decision to deprive a person of citizenship” – of the bill, which was updated after the original introduction of the Bill, exempts the government from having to give notice if it is not “reasonably practicable” to do so, or in the interests of national security, diplomatic relations or otherwise in the public interest.

This has caused a recent backlash. At the start of December this year, the New Statesman reported that the citizenship of nearly six million British people could be jeopardised by the new law providing Home Secretary Priti Patel with the power to deprive people of British citizenship without notifying them.

Since then, more than 300,000 people have signed a petition against Clause 9 of the Bill, which includes the most controversial changes. The high number of signatures means the contents of the petition will be considered for debate by the UK Parliament.

Some criticism has been even more blunt, with some going on the record with the view that this is the most racist legislation seen in their lifetime.

In response to ongoing criticism such as this, Security and Borders Minister, Damian Hinds, is reported as saying such action would only be taken against the most dangerous people, such as terrorists, extremists and serious organised criminals.

What can we expect in coming months?

The Bill will continue its route through the UK Parliamentary processes – but we are likely to see much more vocal criticism as it nears the end of its journey.

Just how much this criticism reaps rewards, in amending the Bill or delaying it significantly, remains to be seen. However, we will continue monitoring all developments and will of course share our opinions and analysis on these pages as details unfold.

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