Nationality and Borders Act 2021 - NDRC's response
Updated: Aug 2, 2021
There has been much hype around what will be the Nationality and Borders Act 2021 which is currently at the second reading stage in Parliament.
Seen as the Home Secretary’s attempt to ‘make our borders more safe and secure’ most of the changes are in fact only around asylum system. The crux of which will be imposing criminal charges on those who arrive in the UK, without permission, to claim asylum. In this scenario, the asylum claimant may be served a fairly lengthy prison sentence, and if the asylum claim is successful, the claimant would only be granted an inferior status to refugee status i.e., less than five years limited leave to remain, no rights to family reunion, a No Recourse to Public Funds condition on their stay and more restrictive requirements in applying for settlement [Indefinite Leave to Remain].
There are also vague details of accommodation in asylum camps for those who are deemed to be non-compliant or whose claims are thought to be clearly unfounded.
Despite the bill promising to ‘deter illegal entry’ into the United Kingdom, so far there has been no proposed expansion of any legal routes that potential asylum seekers might use to come to the UK. Currently there is no valid visa application that would allow an asylum seeker to enter the United Kingdom for the express purpose of claiming refuge. The existing resettlement scheme is projected to only resettle 3000 asylum seekers within the 2021/22 period, as opposed to the 5000 per year of recent years.
Fortunately, there will be no changes, for now, to the requirements for Human Rights application made under Article 8 ECHR – private and family life which makes up the bulk of our casework at NDRC. However, as many of our clients have come through the asylum system, they may well fall victim to the draconian measures proposed under the new bill. Also, we do a fair amount of family reunion cases which could be only available to the very few who will qualify for refugee status as defined under the Geneva Convention.
There is no doubt that the bill is a clear sign of the Home Secretary’s obsession to curb migrant crossings over the Channel. The bill includes provisions to remove the requirement of assisting an asylum seeker into the UK to be ‘for gain’ in order for it to be an offence. This throws into doubt the legality of volunteers for organisations such as the RNLI assisting asylum seekers in distress at sea. This is when asylum claimants in the UK are at an all-time low [around 25,000 when in France it’s around 125,000 and in Germany 135,000].
The new immigration act will just fill our overcrowded prisons with asylum seekers deemed as criminals and make the asylum decision process even longer with a much more complex system. Small charities like NDRC will be left to deal with refugees stamped with a no recourse to public funds condition, and more casework to renew a plethora of varying grants of limited leave to remain. All in all, it will make life even more frustrating and unsettling for the refugees and migrants seeking a safer and more dignified life on these sunny shores.
Co-written by Alice Chalkey (Advice worker OISC3) & Brian Mitchell (Senior Advice worker).