An alternative is possible: Getting MPs onside against the Refugee Ban Bill

By 11/07/2023News, Tips

As the Refugee Ban Bill heads back to the Commons, IMIX Policy Communications Coordinator, Esther Raffell highlights the best way to petition MPs to vote against this harmful legislation.

Today is a critical day for the passage of the Refugee Ban Bill. The Bill has been through its key readings in the House of Lords where it suffered cross party criticism and a record number of defeats. Tory peers were concerned about Britain’s reputation on a world stage given the Bill’s clear breach of international law. Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury has led the charge against the Bill for a comprehensive ten-year strategy for international cooperation to address key drivers of migration and human trafficking. The Lords have approved 20 amendments, including protection of LGBTQ+ people, pregnant women, and international laws like the Refugee Convention. These amendments are being considered by the House of Commons before it votes on the Bill tonight

Appealing to the Commons 

The political environment for this Bill has always been charged and the cracks are starting to show. As a result, the government has offered various concessions to appease Tory rebels and, more importantly, to avoid a lengthy back-and-forth with the Lords to get the Bill passed before the summer break. These concessions include no longer backdating the removal of new arrivals to when the bill was introduced in March, reverting to the 72-hour detention limit for pregnant women, and reducing the time government can hold unaccompanied children without bail. While these amendments mitigate harms and provide fertile ground for opposition, nothing can do away with this Bill’s ultimate effect: extinguishing the right to seek safety. 

Reaching out to a specific MP

With that in mind, what are the key messages that can cut through the noise of Westminster to impress on our MPs that an alternative is possible and that they must not vote for this cruel and ineffective Bill?    

First, if you are reaching out to a local MP and they have critiqued the bill or done something to mitigate its effect, it’s worth acknowledging that, and asking them to do more by voting against it. Also consider searching their name in the MPs’ section of to see if they have expressed particular interest in any specific issues. Common interests include human trafficking, children, detention, mental health, Sudanese asylum seekers, and LGBTQ+ asylum seekers. If it’s relevant, you can speak about these issues as part of your plea to the MP to stand against the bill. 

Crafting the right message

The following messaging crafted by IMIX might help frame your appeal. It draws on the human impact of the passage of this Bill and the fact that there is an alternative:  

No amount of fiddling around the edges can disguise the real purpose of the Refugee Ban Bill – to extinguish the right to seek safety.  

Let’s be clear what MPs are voting for. They are voting for a law that would turn away anyone who comes to the UK seeking protection, whether they are a female protester from Iran or a Sudanese child escaping civil war, because of a dangerous journey they had no choice over taking. It’s a law that would punish survivors of trafficking while empowering those who try to exploit them. And it destroys our international credibility at a time when it’s more important than ever that we play our part on the world stage.  

This Bill injects a poison into the heart of our society. It is a blueprint for the mass detention of people, including children and pregnant women, who have done nothing more than ask for our help. In doing so, it wastes billions of taxpayers’ money on unnecessary cruelty.  

There is another choice. This government could create safe routes for refugees, rather than shutting them down. It could speed up the time it takes to hear asylum claims, so people get a quick decision rather than languishing in limbo for years. It could allow people seeking safety to work. It is not too late to create a system that is compassionate, fair, and effective. 

We urge MPs to do the right thing by refugees and our communities and vote against this Bill.   

Finding the right messenger

Sharing the stories and case studies of people with lived experience is always paramount to your argument. Here are some recent articles from people with lived experience of the asylum system. Quote a powerful sentence or two from one of the people featured in these articles or even someone that you know personally when backing up your key messages to MPs.  

A former child refugee on why children shouldn’t be locked up 

A modern slavery survivor on how the Bill would have affected her 

Kindertransport refugee would not be here under this government’s approach to refugees  

There are also other influential or unlikely messengers challenging the Bill whom you might like to reference. For example, religious leaders like the Archbishop of Canterbury, and high-profile former Tories like Dominic Grieve have also criticised the Bill on several fronts. Meanwhile, doctors have spoken out against the Bill as well as the Children’s Commissioner.  

These tips should give you the best chance of reaching your local MP either before the vote today or in the coming weeks. Indeed, the fight is likely to continue given the likely outcome that the Lords seek to amend the Bill and send it back to the Commons again… 

Author Esther Raffell

More posts by Esther Raffell