The Nationality and Borders Bill is the latest piece of authoritarian legislation that shows the Tories’ slide towards outright fascism. We must stop this before it’s too late.
The Nationality and Borders Bill that passed through the Commons last week is incredibly reactionary and the biggest threat to our basic human rights we have seen for decades.
The bill was first introduced in July this year, and is currently in its second reading in the House of Lords.
What exactly is this bill, and why is it so dangerous?
The biggest concern of the bill is Clause 9. Within it, the government can strip citizenship from individuals without informing them first.
According to the New Statesman, nearly six million people would be in a position in which they could be stripped of citizenship as the government sees fit with people who have come from India being the largest group. That’s just under 635,000 people of Indian heritage at risk of being deported.
Also at risk are 408,000 people who were born in the UK.
This essentially creates a two tiered society with those potentially affected becoming second class citizens.
The government has claimed that no-one can have their citizenship taken away if it renders them stateless, but this… is a lie.
The home secretary has been able to do this since 2014.
On the government website, it’s claimed that decisions are made in accordance with international law including the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
The 1961 convention “aims to prevent statelessness and reduce it over time”.
Yet, if the government has been able to make an individual stateless since 2014, and this new bill gives the secretary of state even more powers to do so, then it clearly flies in the face of the UN ruling.
In-fact, this bill may breach international and domestic law 10 times! Raza Husain, who is a QC human rights lawyer, led a team of four barristers who looked into this piece of legislation.
In their 95 page document, they conclude that the “bill represents the biggest legal assault on international refugee law ever seen in the UK”.
Former Brexit secretary David Davis has expressed concern the bill could create a “British Guantánamo Bay”. He highlights the fact asylum seekers would be sent to a foreign country when they are being processed. His worry is that this could potentially create a detention center that parallels the notorious US-run facility in Cuba.
Why is the government doing this?
Well of course the easy answer is because this government is becoming increasingly reactionary and authoritarian in it’s style of governance in order to generate populist appeal with voters. The Tories believe they can carry on whipping up fear and hatred as they continue to fail to manage the pandemic and bounce from scandal to scandal.
There’s also the case that Priti Patel has an unhealthy hunger for stripping us of our basic human rights.
But let’s be incredibly charitable here, and take on their claims as to why they are doing this.
Number one: Stop the practices of people smuggling.
By increasing criminal sentences, and adding more border controls, ministers claim the stricter controls would be a deterrent to those seeking financial gain by smuggling people across borders.
This doesn’t address the problem of said practices, and according to Amnesty International this will have an opposite effect. All it will do is create more dangerous conditions which smugglers will use to exploit desperate people.
This is similar to the way the harsher drug laws have failed to reduce the use of drugs, and instead have had an overwhelmingly negative impact on users and wider society.
Number two: Better protect those in need of asylum.
Once again, Amnesty claims the bill will have the opposite effect. There is nothing in the bill that talks about making it safer for those seeking asylum. The policy makers say that criminalising those that risk their lives getting here will simply stop or ameliorate the issue. This couldn’t be further from the truth. People are willing to risk their lives for a reason, therefore trying to deter people who are in a desperate situation won’t stop them. A better way is to make it safer to get here; that is how you protect them.
Number three: The Bill is in accordance with international law
As I explained before, the stripping of citizenship breaches international and domestic law according to human rights lawyers. The UNHCR states that, “The Bill would create a two-tier asylum system that undermines international co-operation and delivers unjust penalties to refugees in need of protection”.
Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, a representative of UNHCR says: The bill is based on the notion that asylum-seekers should seek sanctuary in the “first safe country” they arrive in – however the UNHCR said there was no such requirement under international law, and the principle was not in the 1951 Refugee Convention.
The case of Shamima Begum was a precursor to this. Regardless of your personal view of her, as soon as the government broke international law to strip Begum of her citizenship, with no repercussions, it was only a matter of time until they would do it again on a wider scale.
The slide into authoritarianism always begins with the pretext of national security. Once successfully orchestrated, governments will radically change laws that clamp down on our civil liberties.
We have seen recently the government attacking free speech with the assault on our right to protest; now they are gunning for more of our hard-fought for human rights. We must stop this slide toward fascism before it’s too late.
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