For years, the British government has congratulated itself on its “proud history” of offering protection to those who have fled conflict and persecution. Ministers have boasted about being a “tolerant” nation that “welcomes migrants and meets our international obligations to refugees”. They have proclaimed the UK to be a “leader” in the global fight against modern slavery.
This stance has become increasingly questionable over the past decade. The hostile environment, brought in by David Cameron’s government in 2012, has wrongly branded people illegal immigrants. Brexit and the drive to “take back control” of our borders has fostered xenophobia and turned “Global Britain” into “little England”. Now, under a new raft of immigration measures being pushed through Boris Johnson’s government, the claims of being “welcoming” and “tolerant” will be impossible to maintain. The Nationality and Borders Bill, currently going through the House of Lords, is founded primarily on the basis that people who claim to be in need of our help are in fact lying and should be punished.
Imprisoning refugees, detaining asylum seekers in offshore hubs and physically turning back boats of people who have fled persecution – including those from countries such as Afghanistan and Ukraine, where civilians are known to be at risk of harm – may sound like ideas of the far right, but they are at the forefront of this Tory bill. With a clause that will see people deprived of their citizenship without notice and recognised modern slavery victims deprived of support also part of the legislation, it is set to weaken the systems designed to protect some of the most vulnerable in society.
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