What can we do about the new Nationality and Borders Bill?

By 08/07/2021News

The government has published the details of its new Nationality and Borders Bill but what does it mean exactly and crucially, what can we do about it?

Image by Ilias Bartolini via Flickr/Creative Commons

Since the Bill – a proposal for a new law – was published on Tuesday, 6 July – I can’t stop thinking about access to democracy as well as how damaging the proposals are. As a media maven I never assume that everyone spends their whole life digesting and interpreting media stories; but was still surprised to know how many people had no clue that a significant bill on immigration was about to be tabled. And if you don’t know it’s happening, how can you influence it? 

Lots of people are forensically analysing the Bill, like Colin Yeo at Freedom of Movement, but in short the Bill (if passed into law) will do a few things: 

  • Make it harder for people to seek asylum  
  • Criminalise people with credible and legal asylum claims who arrive in the UK ‘the wrong way’ 
  • Treat people differently depending on how they arrive 
  • Make it quicker for people to be removed unfairly and without proper legal advice  
  • Make it a crime to help people arrive in the UK through irregular routes 

Freedom From Torture stated that this is an anti-refugee bill and we agree.  

Right now, many of us are thinking, ‘But what can I do when the government has a majority of 80?’. It might not feel like it, but we can all do lots of things (or just a little if that is all the capacity we have). First up, you can talk to your MP. Whether you have a vote or not, or the person you voted for won or lost, your MP represents you. 

‘Why is it so important that I get in touch?’ 

Our government said they are introducing the Bill because the system is broken and the public are ‘fed up and demoralised’ by channel crossings. MPs need to hear that we’re fed up with people who need our support being treated so badly. 

‘But what do I say?’

While there will be many, brilliant pro-forma letters you can get from organisations like Refugee Action, write from the heart. It doesn’t matter whether your English is perfect or not; it’s not important if you don’t understand the exact details and intricacies of the Bill. You can share your personal experience of seeking asylum or helping people who are refugees; or you can just say it makes you feel uncomfortable to see people who are struggling to reach safety being treated this way.  

The Bill is purposefully dehumanising. We need to talk about people, not processes.

The Bill should get its second reading (see presentation below) on Tuesday, 19 and Wednesday, 20 July, so get writing! There will be other chances too, but good to get your thoughts in early. If you feel strongly about the issue, you could also ask to meet your MP. 

‘What other actions can I take?’

Several organisations have set up petitions where you can add your voice against this Bill like Refugee Council, Safe Passage, Freedom From Torture and Choose Love.

On Friday, 9 July there will also be an online rally led by people from lived experience networks including One Strong Voice, Survivors Speak OUT, Young Outspoken Survivors and Write To Life where their plan for a better, more compassionate and welcoming asylum system will be launched.

You can also become part of the Together With Refugees campaign calling for a kinder, fairer and more effective approach to supporting refugees. Put an orange heart on your social media profiles to show your support and discover more shareable messages and images to share via their website.

For those of you who would like to learn a bit more about how a bill goes through parliament, we’ve created this short presentation which gives a quick, simple overview of how a government bill becomes law and how to influence. More technical and detailed briefings will be available all over the internet. 

Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be updating this blog with campaign ideas, thoughts on messaging and other useful things. Do let us know how we can help you make some noise! 

Author Emma Harrison

More posts by Emma Harrison