Thank you for contacting me about the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill.
As you know, this Bill contains changes to current legislation that would allow asylum claims to be processed outside of the UK. I believe plans for offshore processing are unconscionable. This is just one of the reasons why I voted against the Bill at its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 20 July. The Bill was meant to tackle the problems created by the Conservatives during the last 11 years, however, it disappointingly only worsens the crises.
As I am sure you have seen in the news at least 27 people lost their lives last week attempting to cross the English Channel.
It is desperately sad to hear that 27 people, including a pregnant woman and children, lost their lives in such dangerous circumstances. This is a heart-breaking tragedy and even more so because it was entirely predictable and predicted.
These people were fleeing terrible situations both in their home countries and in the camps in France, which is why they risked their lives in this terrible way – to find safe haven in Britain.
The Government and the international community have a responsibility to prevent people from being forced into such situations. That’s why we have consistently called for safe legal routes to be established and maintained so that people don’t have to turn in desperation to the people smugglers.
Enough is enough, we must all work together to ensure that tragedies such as this do not happen again. Safe passage must be delivered, and this must be done now.
The UK has a proud history of helping people fleeing violence and persecution. Sheffield is proud of its welcoming and open tradition as the UK’s first city of sanctuary. As people are driven from their homes in the most desperate circumstances, the UK must always stand with those seeking safety. Unfortunately, I believe the Government’s approach to this long-standing obligation has been lacking in competence and compassion.
I am deeply concerned that the Government’s plan appears to emulate a failed system that has been widely condemned for its human rights abuses. In 2015, a United Nations report found that Australia’s offshore detention regime was systematically violating the international convention against torture. In addition, in 2020, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said the regime was “cruel, inhuman or degrading”, and unlawful under international law.
At least 12 people are reported to have died in Australia’s offshore detention camps, and the impact of offshore detention on mental health cannot be overstated. Offshoring in large accommodation centres poses particular risks to LGBT+ people seeking asylum because of their particular vulnerability.
Furthermore, the financial cost of the Australian system is astronomical and regularly more than $1 billion a year. According to the Refugee Council of Australia, offshoring cost the Australian Government $8.3 billion between 2014 and 2020. The annual cost per person of holding someone offshore has been estimated to be $3.4 million per person.
I recently voted against the relevant clause of the Nationality and Borders Bill during its Public Bill Committee on 26 October. Unfortunately, the Government defeated this effort and blocked its removal from the Bill. Instead of chasing headlines about offshore processing, the Government should address ongoing failures. There is no effective deal in place with the French authorities to tackle criminal people smuggling gangs and, instead of providing properly managed safe and legal routes, the Government closed the Dubs scheme that helped unaccompanied children.
The Nationality and Borders Bill returns to the House of Commons for further consideration on 7-8 December. I can assure you I will be supporting efforts towards meaningful action to improve the asylum system, support those in need and bring criminal gangs to justice.