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Briefing for House of Lords Second Reading of the Nationality and Borders Bill

Kamena Dorling

The Nationality and Borders Bill seeks to change the UK asylum and trafficking systems in ways that will significantly curtail the rights of survivors and deny many the protection and support they need. It will increase the numbers of survivors at risk of exploitation and re-trafficking.

The Bill will effectively punish refugees and survivors of human trafficking for behaviour and actions that are inextricably linked to the human rights violations and trauma they have experienced and the means by which they have had to reach safety. Refugees who have come to the UK by land and sea will be given fewer rights (even though no alternative ‘safe and legal routes’ are being proposed in the Bill). Many survivors of human trafficking who have been imprisoned for crimes they were forced to commit will be given no protection at all. All survivors risk not being identified and supported if they do not disclose what happened to them immediately. The Bill will establish large-scale accommodation centres in the UK and offshore asylum processing sites, which will cause lasting and profound harm to the health and wellbeing of people seeking asylum.

Many people who claim international protection, who have fled war, torture and human cruelty, are under the control of human traffickers or are dependent on people smugglers, risking abuse and exploitation to reach safety in any way they can. These proposals will not ‘deter’ them from seeking safety and they will do nothing to ‘break the business model’ of smugglers and criminal networks, as acknowledged in the government’s own Equalities Impact Assessment on the Bill. Instead, provisions in the Bill will drive those who are vulnerable away from protection of the trafficking and asylum systems and into the hands of criminal networks and individuals who would exploit them further after arrival to the UK.

We need a Bill that strengthens the identification and support of survivors – instead we have one that undermines the multi-agency system of protection built up over the years and increases the risk that survivors will be exploited or re-trafficked.

This briefing focuses on the key areas of concern for HBF in parts 2 and 5 of the Bill:

  • A two-tier system will be introduced whereby refugees with successful asylum claims are treated differently based on how they arrived in the UK, granted only a temporary form of status with restricted rights to family reunification and financial support (clauses 11 and 15).
  • ‘Accommodation centres’ will be used to house those seeking asylum (clause 12). • The introduction of ‘offshoring’, where people will be removed to another country to have their asylum claims decided (clause 28 and schedule 3).
  • ‘Late’ evidence and late claims will be treated as lacking in credibility or unmeritorious, ignoring evidence on the impact of trauma and why survivors of human rights violations have difficulty in disclosing without sufficient time and support (clauses 25, 57, 58).
  • Clauses to disqualify survivors of trafficking from protection (clause 62).
  • The failure to properly address existing gaps in legal aid provision and grants of leave to remain for survivors of trafficking, (clauses 64, 65 and 66).

In addition HBF also briefed Peers on its concerns regarding Part 4 of the Bill on age assessments (as part of the Refugee and Migrant Children's Consortium) and the Bill's impact on survivors of trafficking placed in detention (as part of the Detention Taskforce).