Ministers warn Priti Patel over her ‘barbaric’ Nationality and Borders Bill

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Ministers in Scotland and Wales have jointly condemned as “barbaric” measures in the UK government’s Nationality and Borders Bill – as well as warning the legislation may need approval from the parliaments in Edinburgh and Cardiff.

Scottish social justice secretary Shona Robison and her Welsh counterpart Jane Hutt have written a joint letter to home secretary Priti Patel to demand the UK reconsiders its “hostile environment strategy” and develops “sufficient safe and legal routes” for asylum seekers.

And they are calling for Patel to have talks with them before the end of the year, as there have been “no ministerial meetings in relation to these matters”.

The Scottish and Welsh governments want a meeting with Home Secretary Priti Patel before the end of this year (Aaron Chown/PA)

Ministers have “far-reaching concerns”

The letter comes after 27 people lost their lives trying to cross the English Channel in November – a journey which has resulted in 166 people being recorded as either dead or missing since 2014. The Nationality and Borders Bill – which cleared the Commons on Monday – seeks to curb these crossings and also change how asylum claims are processed.

Both the Scottish and Welsh governments have “far-reaching concerns about the impact of the provisions” in the Bill, the home secretary was told.

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Robison and Hutt stated:

This legislation contains measures that will prevent migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats, including the barbaric suggestions for ‘push-back’ exercises involving enforcement officials seeking to repel small boats.

Rather than help matters, these measures will delay rescues and endanger lives.

PA Graphics

Patel’s Bill contradicts the UK’s obligations

The Scottish and Welsh politicians told Patel this contradicts the UK’s “obligation under maritime laws and conventions to guarantee people’s safety”. Robison and Hutt make clear their governments “do not believe that increased marine or beach patrols, diversion, criminalisation, changes to legal status or reduced support to those who arrive in the UK” will deter people from seeking to enter the UK.

They also told the home secretary:

Scotland and Wales have always played their part in providing sanctuary to those fleeing conflict and persecution and we stand ready to do so again.

Meanwhile, Welsh ministers have now decided that a Legislative Consent Memorandum is required at the Senedd in relation to some clauses in the Bill. Under the devolution settlement, such consent is needed where UK legislation touches on areas which the devolved administrations are responsible for – although Westminster in the past has pushed ahead with new laws without such approval,

The letter adds that Scottish ministers:

still require urgent clarity from the Home Office to ascertain whether similar legislative competence issues need to be addressed in Scotland

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  • Show Comments
    1. It has happened before that a people assured of its humanity, its cultural attainment, its position at the peak of modern civilisation, and with confidence in a well-established democratic system has stood by and done nothing as all these good things were swept away, and finally the people were themselves swept along with the rushing torrents of a new fascism.

      If we do not oppose it as it is born furtively, how will we stop it as it reaches its full strength?

      Fascism and the negation of human rights may come to power not through fanfares and speeches, but through stealth and democratic changes.

      Will we let all these things pass, thinking ‘it will be alright’, as others did almost a century ago?

    2. Arthur Hugh Clough’s ironic lines:
      Thou shalt not kill; but needst not strive
      Officiously to keep alive…
      come to mind as border forces are asked to nudge refugee boats back into the middle of the raging seas.

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