Written evidence from Preston City of Sanctuary (NBB0020)
I am writing to you on behalf of Preston City of Sanctuary, a local organisation that campaigns and supports refugees and people seeking sanctuary living in our City and the surrounding areas. Full details of our work can be found at https://preston.cityofsanctuary.org. We are gravely concerned by the proposals contained in the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill.
It is our contention that the Nationality and Borders Bill is dystopian in its scope. It shows a complete disregard for human dignity, justice and right to life. What is being proposed emerges as fundamentally cruel, inhumane and unworkable.
On reading the proposals in the Bill it would appear that the Government is seeking to introduce legislation that will create a two-tier asylum system, criminalising and punishing people who seek safety on our shores (as well as anybody who assists a person whose life is at risk). There is nothing in the Bill that gives any detail on refugee resettlement. Without this, desperate people will be forced to make desperate decisions, increasingly falling into the hands of smugglers. Under the proposed legislation, people who enter the UK by any means other than an established resettlement programme will only be granted temporary protection and will be subject to removal from the UK at any time. As recently pointed out by the UNHCR this is a disgraceful proposition, which undermines the right to claim asylum, and attempts to judge a person on their means of entry into the UK, rather than the merit of their asylum claim.
The Bill will also raise the standard of proof required to determine if a person has a ‘well-founded fear of persecution.’ As you will be aware undermines the 1951 Refugee Convention and the very principle of asylum.
Furthermore, the Bill allows for sanctuary seekers to be removed from the UK and held in offshore processing centres. We have already witnessed what happens when people seeking sanctuary are held in government provided asylum accommodation, such as in the Napier Barracks in Kent. The individuals forced to live there have spoken about being housed in unsanitary and unsafe accommodation, leading to outbreaks of Covid and the deterioration of their mental and physical health. This clause and references to Australian style off-shoring in the proposed Bill are particular concerns and areas that we urge you to speak out about and seek to amend when it comes before you.
We would also ask you to seek clarification on our part regarding when the provisions contained within the Bill will apply to those seeking sanctuary in the UK? In particular we would like some reassurance that nothing contained in the Bill will be applied retrospectively to those who have already lodged their claims for asylum here. We trust that you would oppose any such measures.
We are gravely concerned by what this Bill signals. As a society that appears to be growing in hostility towards people seeking sanctuary and immigrants more generally, goaded on by political and media scaremongering, it is crucial that as a civilized society we challenge the frightening course that this legislation could set us on.
Historically Britain has a proud record of supporting those seeking sanctuary and upholding human rights, yet this Bill serves to now seriously undermine our humanitarian role within the world. We thus urge you to consider your support and position on the Nationality and Borders Bill when it comes before you in the Lords, and to speak out against these proposed draconian changes to the UK asylum system.
If you require further information on the huge social and economic contribution that those seeking sanctuary have made in our constituency please do not hesitate to contact us at Preston City of Sanctuary- we can provide both case studies and documentary evidence. We believe in the right to asylum, and we are campaigning for an asylum system that is compassionate and fair and that recognises the dignity and value of every human life. Please join with us in opposing the Bill.,
Dawn B Judd
Chair Preston City of Sanctuary