On Tuesday 21 September, Zoe Gardner, Policy Manager at JCWI spoke to MPs about the dangers of the anti-refugee Borders Bill. Zoe was giving evidence to the Bill Committee - 17 MPs from a range of parties, whose role is to scrutinise the proposals line by line.

Zoe spoke to MPs about these cruel, dangerous plans, setting out how they will fail, even on their own terms. Watch the full session on Parliament TV or catch up on the highlights below.

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MP questions answered

Will the Nationality and Borders Bill fix the broken asylum system? - Bambos Charalambous 

The short answer is no.

The government says it has two aims with this Bill - firstly, to make the asylum system 'fairer'. But a fair system would be one that grants refugee protection based on need, not how someone travels. 

The second aim is to discourage people from using 'irregular' routes to claim asylum, such as crossing the Channel in a dinghy. But evidence from countries that have tried similar policies - including previous attempts in the UK - show this 'deterrence' model simply does not work

So no, the Bill will not fix anything.

Will this Bill reduce the number of people using 'irregular' routes to claim asylum? - Bambos Charalambous

Both Zoe and fellow witness to the committee, Lucy Moreton, argued that there is no evidence to support a 'deterrence' model of refugee protection. All the evidence shows that people don't have extensive knowledge of the asylum regime in different countries, instead, they travel to places they feel safe, where they have friends, family, former colleagues, or they speak the language or have cultural ties.

So taking away the rights of refugees - for example, reducing how long refugee status lasts for, or removing the right to be reunited with your family - is unlikely to work as a 'deterrent'.

Zoe told the story of a JCWI client who travelled to the UK from Syria to be reunited with his two sisters. But instead of processing his claim, the Home Office has refused to look at it for at least 6 months, while it seeks to send him 'anywhere but here'. The UK has no deals to make this possible but his life is on hold while he waits to learn his fate. This is not a fair or effective system.

What makes you say that smugglers will be ‘celebrating’ this Bill? - Stuart McDonald

Whenever we try to close down a route – like the Channel – the people who are desperate to come to the UK do not simply disappear. All the evidence shows they are just redirected, often to more dangerous and complicated journeys – with smugglers charging even more.

“Until we provide people with a real alternative – a regulated means of travel to the UK – then every round of security spending we throw at this, and every repeated attempt at this failed model of deterrence and pushbacks is celebrated by the smugglers because it simply lines their pockets.”

The Government says it wants to take action on smugglers, and in the Bill its sets out new powers to criminalise gangs, but it already uses its powers against the wrong people. Several asylum seekers have spent time in prison on the basis that they were “facilitating entry” of others, on the same boat as them. Official figures show 98% of people making Channel crossings claim asylum when they arrive. If the Government wants to tackle smuggling gangs it needs to focus on credible intelligence and international cooperation, not bringing bogus charges against refugees.

Policies in the Bill are designed to ‘disincentivise’ refugees – what do you think the consequences will be? Stuart McDonald

The policies set out in the Bill won’t reduce the number of people making irregular journeys, but will make life extremely difficult for those who claim asylum when they arrive.

For example, under the proposals, asylum seekers who arrive by irregular routes will typically be granted refugee status for just 30 months (2 and a half years) instead of the usual 5, and there will be no guarantee of permanent settlement at the end of that period. That makes it extremely difficult for people to rebuild their lives and goes against the Government’s aim of “integration”.

Zoe told MPs about a JCWI client who has been given just 6 months' refugee protection - that's bad for him and inefficient for the Home Office, which has to review repeated renewal applications.

People given this ‘second tier’ refugee status will have no right to family reunification. That means that their partner and children will make dangerous journeys to the UK in the hands of smugglers, instead of being able to safely rejoin their loved ones.

It also makes no sense to deny refugees any access to the public safety net. There are huge delays in the asylum system already, and the new proposals extend that. During that time, asylum seekers cannot work. It is almost inevitable that many people will be destitute when they are granted refugee status, but instead of providing a support system the Home Office wants to force refugees to complete another application to get even the most basic support.

This is hugely inefficient for the Home Office and deeply harmful to people seeking refugee protection.

We welcome refugees. Together we must resist the anti-refugee Borders Bill.

Join us and stand up for a fairer immigration system

Will 'offshore processing' deter refugees? - Jonathan Gullis

Australia opened detention camps for refugees. They were a humanitarian disaster, with UN workers saying detainees were the most traumatised people they had ever met.

The camps were medically evacuated in 2019. The Australian Government spent 6 billion euros on this brutality. The camps did not achieve the stated aim of deterring refugees. "That is an absolutely disastrous model for the UK that we absolutely should not pursue."

Why don't people just claim asylum in France? - Jonathan Gullis 

Yes, an MP really asked that. Zoe's answer is a masterclass. So we broke it down into 5 steps.

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Will the Bill 'speed up' asylum claims through the judicial process? - Tom Pursglove

No. The proposals are confusing, complex and will likely lead to further applications.

The Bill introduces a split standard of proof, which means different parts of a person’s asylum claim have to meet different thresholds. That will be challenged and tested in the courts, and it will slow things down.

The Bill also puts into law an existing policy where the Home Office refuses to even look at an asylum application for 6 months, while it seeks to send them 'anywhere but here'. 

You can't just stick a 'priority' sticker on a case and expect it to rush through the courts. If you want to speed up the asylum system, you need well-resourced court systems and a fair and efficient system. The Bill does none of that.

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A fair system is one that grants refugee protection based on need, not how someone travels. 

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