The House of Lords today voted to pass the Nationality and Borders Bill after amendments that sought to improve it were eventually dropped. It is now expected to pass in the House of Commons, which has voted in favour of the bill on several previous occasions.
The bill includes clauses to allow indefinite detention, offshore processing, and pushbacks at sea, and will allow differential treatment of refugees depending on how they arrive to the UK. It will have a devastating impact on vulnerable people seeking safety and undermine the Refugee Convention.
MSF UK’s Advocacy Advisor, Sophie McCann said:
“We are utterly appalled that this despicable bill has passed. It will create a two-tier system that penalises men, women, and children for arriving to the UK via irregular means, regardless of the fact that safe and official routes are virtually non-existent.
Containing migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in large scale detention centres will not deter them from trying to find sanctuary here. Nor will expelling them to distant countries or criminalising them for reaching the UK in small boats. It will, however, further punish and traumatise vulnerable people, most of whom have already endured violence and persecution in their home countries and on their dangerous journeys to reach safety.
Our teams around the world have seen the horrendous, and sometimes fatal, consequences of violent anti-migration policies. The result is almost always intense human suffering, including mental and physical health destruction.
The Borders Bill will not work. It is as unfeasible as it is cruel. The assumption that the government will ‘break the business model of smugglers and trafficking gangs’ by shutting down safe and legal routes is ridiculous. These measures will only push people further into the hands of traffickers as there will be no alternative pathway to protection.
This bill is discriminatory, violent and blatantly racist. Any MP who voted in favour of it will be complicit in the abuse of some of the most vulnerable people in the world.”
NOTE TO EDITORS
MSF has worked with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers around the world for many years and our teams have seen the devastating impact of similarly violent policies.
On Nauru Island, where the Australian government offshores and detains refugees and asylum seekers, MSF provided mental healthcare from 2017-2018. During this period, 65% of MSF patients experienced suicidal ideation, attempted suicide or self-harmed, including children as young as nine. The leading cause of the severe psychological distress was found to be the indefinite nature of detention. More information on what MSF encountered on Nauru can be found here: https://www.msf.org/indefinite-despair-report-and-executive-summary-nauru
MSF teams have also witnessed overwhelming mental health suffering on the Greek Islands, where our teams provide medical and mental healthcare. The UK government has admitted to modelling ‘reception centres’ on the Greek approach. More here: https://www.msf.org/greece
Further information: https://msf.org.uk/issues/tell-uk-government-fix-its-inhumane-borders-bill