Fighting the #Anti-RefugeeBill in our communities

The Nationality and Borders Bill currently progressing through Parliament is a profound and historic threat to the right to seek safety in the UK. In the face of the UK Government’s determination to push through these cruel and divisive measures, communities across the country have come together to fight this ‘anti-refugee bill’, which seeks to punish, rather than protect, people who are seeking safety.

Many communities have put this opposition into action by successfully calling on local and devolved leaders to take a stand against the Bill. In July 2021, the Leader of Newcastle City Council made a statement on the Bill, saying, “The Government may have lost its moral compass on this issue; Newcastle emphatically has not.” Later that month, leaders of Sheffield City Council wrote publicly to the Home Secretary following a joint letter from local groups and organisations requesting that the city’s leaders speak out against the Bill.

A Bristol City of Sanctuary Statement opposing the Bill was signed by four local MPs, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, cross-party Councillors, trade unions, and refugee, faith and community groups, while in response to the Afghanistan crisis Glasgow City Council passed a motion calling on the UK Government to go faster and further in its plans for resettlement for Afghan people and pledging to support groups campaigning against the “egregious” plans in the Bill.

In October, Cllr John Cotton, Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Community Safety and Equalities for Birmingham City Council shared a powerful open letter to the Home Secretary calling on the Government to scrap the Bill.

“Together with our partner organisations in Birmingham who support asylum seekers and refugees, we are asking that you and your colleagues abandon the New Plan for Immigration and instead seek guidance and support from people with lived experience, and the professional organisations that support them, to create a genuinely fair and humane UK asylum system.” Cllr John Cotton, Birmingham City Council

In December, Coventry City Council passed a motion calling on the Government to throw out the Bill and to work with Local Authorities and communities to build a fairer and more effective asylum system. This was followed by a public statement from Coventry City Council, with the Deputy Leader, Cllr Abdul Salam Khan, warning that the Bill will “only exacerbate the issue of cases awaiting a decision, warehouse people in larger accommodation centres, and push many refugees into temporary and precarious situations.”

2022 opened with Salford City Council unanimously passing a motion brought by Cllr Wilson Nkurunziza that raised concerns about the Bill, pledged to support the Lift the Ban Campaign and resolved to begin the process of becoming a City of Sanctuary. In January, Lewisham Council passed a motion calling on the Government to withdraw the Bill, while Deputy Leader of Sunderland City Council condemned the Bill in response to concerns from local residents.

January and February also saw communities across Liverpool coming together to take action, with Liverpool City Council unanimously passing a motion of condemnation. Activists gathered outside the council in support of the motion, and 38 voluntary sector groups came together to pledge their support for the council and their opposition to the Government’s plans. The Mayor and Bishop of Liverpool further shared an open letter urging the Home Secretary to drop the Bill, and the Mayor also released this powerful video statement.

Groups fighting the Bill have also joined forces across cities and regions, with 50 groups from the North East joining together in a North East Pledge to take action against the Bill, while 56 organisations across Greater Manchester came together in a joint statement calling on local leaders to stand with them and for the the Government to scrap its harmful and divisive proposals. On the day that marked 6 months since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, over 60 organisations across the West Midlands shared a pledge opposing the Bill, highlighting that the Bill will punish rather than protect people seeking safety, including Afghan refugees.

The Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Irish Executive have also taken a strong stand against the UK Government’s plans. Following the tragic loss of life in the Channel in November 2021, the Scottish Social Justice Secretary and Welsh Minister for Social Justice jointly wrote to the Home Secretary calling for urgent talks on their significant concerns on the Bill and preventing further loss of life in the Channel. The Welsh Government also released a Cabinet Statement from the Minister for Social Justice and the Counsel General calling on the UK Government to change course, accompanied by a powerful video statement from the Minister.

“We will always stand with those who need us most, because that is who we are as a people. We are proud to welcome refugees and asylum seekers and recognise the valuable contributions they make to our country. The UK Government’s New Plan for Immigration and its Nationality and Borders Bill severely undermines our vision of Wales as a Nation of Sanctuary. This is where we have to stand up for those we support.” Jane Hutt MS, Minister for Social Justice

In January 2022, the First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland spoke out against the Bill, saying it “creates an unhelpful two-tier system and could give rise to the misperception that those seeking asylum do not have the right to be here”. In February, the Welsh Parliament rejected the Bill by voting to withdraw consent for the legislation.

It is clear that the UK Government’s plans do not reflect the culture of welcome and solidarity that is in the fabric of communities throughout the UK, and that the fight against this harmful Bill will continue.

Fighting the #Anti-RefugeeBill in your community

There are still many ways to oppose the #AntiRefugeeBill by mobilising in your community and calling on local and regional leaders to take action against the Bill. You could:

  • Call on your national, regional or local decision-makers to speak out publicly against the Bill. You can find a guide on how to engage your local leaders on the Bill here.
  • Call on your local Councillors or Cabinet Members to take forward a motion opposing the Bill. You can find a template motion you can use or amend here

If you’d like to chat through taking action, please get in touch with your regional Asylum Matters Campaign Manager, or drop us a line at [email protected].

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