Response to the Nationality and Borders Bill
The Nationality and Borders Bill makes significant changes to the UK asylum and trafficking systems that HBF believes will significantly curtail the rights of survivors and put them at a greater risk of being denied the protection and support they need.
This evidence, submitted to the Public Bill Committee, focuses on the key areas of concern for HBF in parts 2 and 4 of the Bill:
- The introduction of a two-tier system where refugees who have not benefited from a place on a resettlement programme may have their claim deemed inadmissible and be expelled to another country, or eventually granted a temporary status with restricted rights to family reunification and financial support (clauses 10 and 14).
- Provisions for the use of ‘accommodation centres’ to house those seeking asylum (clause 11).
- The introduction of offshore processing of asylum applications (clause 26).
- Measures in the Bill that would mean late evidence and late claims are seen as lacking in credibility or unmeritorious, ignoring established evidence on the impact of trauma on disclosure (clauses 16, 17, 23, 46 and 47).
- Changes to decision-making thresholds that would make it harder or impossible to be identified and provided with support as a survivor of trafficking (clauses 48 and 51).
- Proposals to further entrench the inadequate discretionary leave system for survivors of trafficking (clause 53).
- The failure to properly address existing gaps in legal aid provision for survivors of trafficking, all the more important in light of potential changes to the system of identification (clauses 54 and 55).
These proposals will not ‘break the business model’ of smugglers and criminal networks. Indeed, the government’s own Equalities Impact Assessment on the Bill, in relation to this objective and that of deterring unauthorised entry to the UK acknowledges that “evidence supporting the effectiveness of this approach is limited”. People making irregular journeys to the UK are driven by the need for safety and the absence of alternative routes to protection. 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.
It is important to recognise the significant cross-over between the asylum and National Referral Mechanism (NRM) systems: at least half of our clients who have an NRM claim also have an asylum claim and many of the proposals included in both parts 2 and 4 of the Bill will have a grave impact on survivors of trafficking. We need a Bill to strengthen the identification and support of survivors – instead we have one that undermines the multi-agency system of protection that has been built up over the years.
HBF also submitted evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights to help inform its legislative scrutiny of the Bill.