By Matty Maslen
his month, the Nationality and Borders Bill is going through the House of Lords, after passing through the House of Commons at the end 2021.
As the CSAN Statement from December summarises, the Bill would: “overhaul our asylum system to make it much more difficult to seek asylum in the UK.”. It is a weak attempt by our government to sell as beneficial immigration policies which will simply undermine, vilify and attack.
While MPs in the House of Common have passed it, the Bill’s new proposals have faced a severe backlash from groups up and down the country.
One response is the ‘Yorkshire and the Humber joint statement on welcoming refugees’ which spells out the region’s “spirit of care and solidarity” for refugees and concern over the implications of the Nationality and Borders Bill. After originally being developed by the Upper Wharfedale Refugee Support Group, the statement spread across the region.
John Battle, the Chair of the Commission, is one of over 100 political leaders, community groups, businesses, organisations, and faith groups to have signed the statement.
And in Settle, after being approached by Paul Kelly on behalf of his Parish’s LiveSimply Group, Fr Frank Smith signed the statement on behalf of both his Parishes: St Mary and St Michael, Settle, and St Boniface, Bentham.
Paul Kelly, who is also Project Lead of the ‘Refugee ReSETTLEment Group’ told us why the St Mary and St Michael LiveSimply Group felt so drawn to sign:
“Our parish started the first refugee Community Sponsorship group in the diocese so we have a first-hand knowledge of being totally responsible for welcoming and settling a family who were horrifically displaced from their homes in Syria. From this experience we strongly feel the intention of The Nationality and Borders Bill 2021 runs completely contrary to basic Catholic understanding of love and care for my neighbour.
The Bill will clearly make it much more difficult to seek asylum in the UK, create a two-tier system which discriminates against refugees depending on their method of entry to the country, and does nothing to establish more safe routes to requesting asylum.
Supporting the Syrian family here in Settle has been a significant local action towards our being a LiveSimply parish and has taught us so much about the practicalities of resettlement and welcome, and a wonderful bonus has been the extended connections made across the group in our local community. But for us LiveSimply is also about working to change bad structures and practices over which we have no direct control.
So, calling on the UK Government through the Yorkshire and Humber statement to withdraw these cruel and divisive proposals, and instead to protect people fleeing war and persecution, is one way we can try to influence the wider scene and stand publicly as a parish for what we believe is right and just.”
Back in summer 2021, the Commission wrote to the Home Secretary to express our concern over the new Immigration Plan. The letter called out the government’s plan for being “unfair and arbitrary”, particularly on 4 major points:
- The proposed treating of Asylum Seekers who arrive outside government resettlement schemes as illegal migrants.
- The proposed housing of Asylum Seekers in camps or barracks separate from the community.
- The proposal that only predetermined reports and evidence should be used by agreed parties to speed up court cases.
- The proposal to immediately deem not credible anyone not disclosing all the facts of their case.
The letter ultimately concluded that: “These proposals demonise and stigmatise vulnerable people, appear to be motivated by a lack of compassion and generosity, and are contrary to Catholic social teaching. We therefore urge you to abandon them.”.
The Commission is far from the only faith organisation to have responded to the Bill. The SVP and the Jesuit Refugee Service have worked together to release a campaign toolkit. It highlights the 8 key issues of the bill as well as 4 ways to advocate for refugees.
The proposals in the Nationality and Borders Bill will make those seeking safety in the UK more vulnerable, and will simply deny it to the majority of refugees.
The Immigration Plan violates the Gospel Values of Justice and Peace which we strive for. As Catholics, we are called to welcome the stranger, and so we cannot support the Nationality and Borders Bill.
F I N D O U T M O R E A N D D O M O R E
The Commission’s full letter to the Home Secretary can be found on Page 6 of the June 2021 newsletter:
June 2021 Newsletter
Amnesty International #BordersBill Fact Checker: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/nationality-borders-bill-truth-behind-claims