Speaking in Parliament this week, Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, spoke out strongly against Priti Patel’s proposed Nationality and Borders Bill which she said is even harsher than the Home Office’s long-standing abysmal treatment of asylum speakers.
Wera Hobhouse said:
“I believe everyone wants to tackle people smuggling, human trafficking and dangerous trips across the Channel. The only way to do that is the one thing that the Bill does not do: to provide safe legal routes to sanctuary in the UK. Instead, the Bill treats asylum seekers more harshly, despite no evidence that such an approach will stop them trying to come here.
“The Home Office has been treating asylum seekers abysmally for years, keeping them in unsafe accommodation, making them wait months for a decision on their claim, banning them from working and forcing them to rely on little more than £5 a day. If cruelty were the answer, the problem would have been solved long ago.
“What about the legal routes to asylum that the Government promised? The number of people granted asylum in the UK fell by 46% last year. The number of children granted asylum fell by 55%. The Government’s new scheme, which opened in March, resettled 25 refugees in its first month—just 25. That compares with 477 per month on average under the previous schemes. The proposals under the Bill are not just cruel; they undermine the UK’s commitments under the refugee convention. We cannot simply rewrite them to suit ourselves.
“The Liberal Democrats are calling for a fully funded commitment to resettle 10,000 vulnerable refugees each year. We should resettle a further 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees from elsewhere in Europe over the next 10 years, and we must guarantee the rights of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Europe to be reunited with family members in the UK.
“Another historic injustice that the Bill fails to address is comprehensive sickness insurance. A few years ago, many EU citizens had their application for a permanent residence document refused. Those refusals were down to an obscure need for CSI, which they had never previously needed to live in the UK or to use the NHS. At the time, the Government insisted that they were powerless to change the requirement as it stemmed from EU free movement laws. The requirement was removed from the EU settlement scheme, but CSI is still hidden deep within our rules. Many thousands of children have been cut off from their rights to be citizens of this country, all because of some obscure insurance requirement that no one was told they needed to have. The Government must come clean and use the exit from the EU for some good, as they so often claim they do. There is no more excuse to hold on to the CSI requirement for those seeking to become UK citizens.
“Rather than fixing the problem, the Bill will make the problems worse and fail those most in need. I will vote against it.”
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