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Lords throw out latest proposal in Nationality and Borders Bill

08 April 2022


The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, speaks in the House of Lords, on Monday, about the Nationality and Borders Bill

The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, speaks in the House of Lords, on Monday, about the Nationality and Borders Bill

THE Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill suffered a setback in the House of Lords this week, as peers rejected plans to divide asylum-seekers into two classes, based on whether they arrived in the UK with or without official clearance, and a proposal to criminalise the act of arriving in the country without permission.

They also voted down a measure in the Bill that would open the door to offshore processing of asylum-seekers. An amendment allowing asylum-seekers to work after six months in this country was reinstated, as was a provision permitting child refugees in Europe to reunite with a family member in Britain.

Some of the more contentious elements of the Bill were rejected by the Lords last month (News, 4 March, 11 March), only for them to be reinstated in the House of Commons (News, 25 March) a fortnight later.

The Government lost 12 votes after the Bill returned to the House of Lords on Monday evening, for the latest round of parliamentary table-tennis between the two Chambers.

The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke again against what he called “the inhumanity” of the Bill as it stands. “When people arrive on our shores seeking protection, we have a responsibility to treat them as we would wish to be treated if indeed we had to flee for our lives,” he said.

“It is right that we have a process to determine who meets the criteria for refugee status, but, while we determine this, we are responsible for people’s safety, welfare, and care. If we move them to other countries for the processing of their asylum claims, I very much fear that a blind eye will be turned to their treatment.”

He introduced an amendment that would provide greater transparency on any offshore detention and processing.

“This would allow proper consideration by both Houses of the appropriateness and safety of the host country proposed, and whether it meets the Home Secretary’s assurance of being a safe third country for the asylum-seekers transferred there, including whether it can provide safe, humane, and appropriate accommodation and processing of asylum claims,” he said.

He brought forward another amendment that called for the Government to publish targets for resettlement of refugees, supported by appropriate resourcing and infrastructure in local authorities.

“The proposal in this amendment aligns, almost identically, with what the Home Office claims it wants to achieve in unlocking new safe routes. I hope that the Minister will consider what we are proposing very carefully, and recognise that this reform aims to address a significant gap in our responsibility to those seeking refuge globally.”

Both Bishop Butler’s amendments were carried.

The legislation will now return to the Commons, but time is running short, since Parliament is expected to be prorogued later this month.

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