Nationality and Borders Bill Committee Stage Day 4: Refugees

There will be many climate—ecological—emergencies over the next decade or so and, given that we have contributed a large part of the world’s accumulated CO2 emissions, we have to understand that we have a moral duty to take our share of climate refugees. It is already happening. There are parts of Africa that are now almost uninhabitable because of climate change, and other places will shortly follow. We have to understand that refugees are not a temporary problem but a permanent problem, and there will be a lot more. This Bill should be setting out safe routes and establishing ways to get people to the UK safely and legally. At the moment, we do not have that because the Government are pulling up the drawbridge.

The Government are trying to unilaterally rewrite international law

I have been here for only eight years, which is not long in this House, but I have never seen so many attempts to delete clauses from a Bill—and of course that is completely the right thing to do here. With this Government, I always look for dead cats being thrown on the table to distract us from something much worse that is happening under the table, but there are so many dead cats in this Bill that I am assuming they are all genuine bits of the Bill that the Government want to pass, which is quite disturbing.

Here the Government are trying to unilaterally rewrite international law, and they are doing so to appease the far right, both in their party and in the country. That is a pointless thing to do; you will never appease the far right. It is an example of the Government throwing away decades of international progress on domestic and international policies only to appease a segment of society who are outspoken and noisy—like the Greens, I suppose, but, unlike the Greens, they actually have malign intent.

We are sending a signal to the world that we are not competent to run our country any more, and certainly not worthy of being part of any international grouping that believes in progress and the rights of the human being.

This is a naked attempt to stop refugees

Later in the debate: The idea of people being able to arrive here without going through a third country has been debated before in the course of this Bill—I cannot remember whether it was last week or another time. When we queried how people could get here, the Minister explained that they could come by aeroplane. That might be possible for some, but it is not possible for everyone who might need to be here in Britain rather than somewhere in Germany or France. Perhaps the Minister could give us a better explanation about how people get here, if there are not enough safe routes or aeroplanes.

To me, this is a naked attempt to stop refugees. I do not understand why the Government cannot see this as well. We are taking advantage of our geography and saying, “We’re too far away, you can’t come”. This is ridiculous. As I have pointed out before, we have a moral duty to many of these people. We have disrupted their politics, their climate and their lives—therefore, we owe them. It is not as simple as saying that they want to join their mates.

This Bill should be setting out safe routes and establishing ways to get people to the UK safely and legally. At the moment, we do not have that because the Government are pulling up the drawbridge.

 

Reuniting families

Later on: Going through the amendments this morning in preparation for this evening, I got quite tearful when I read these amendments because my family is incredibly important to me—every single one of them. I love them and I do not want to lose them or break up in any way from them. The thought that we in Britain could be the cause of families separating made me very upset.

I have signed two of these amendments, but they are all good amendments. The Government really ought to look into their own hearts and think about how they would feel if their families were broken up, through no fault of their own, because of despotic powers or other reasons. It is time to be a little bit kinder in this Bill, so please will the Government accept these amendments?

The Government treat refugees as criminals and unwanted people

Later on: If the Government saw refugees as human beings, they would already have written these amendments into the Bill. We are pushing at a closed door at the moment. We should be taking more refugees and creating more safe routes.

I have a word of warning, which is that there will be many climate—ecological—emergencies over the next decade or so and, given that we have contributed a large part of the world’s accumulated CO2 emissions, we have to understand that we have a moral duty to take our share of climate refugees. It is already happening. There are parts of Africa that are now almost uninhabitable because of climate change, and other places will shortly follow. We have to understand that refugees are not a temporary problem but a permanent problem, and there will be a lot more. If we prepare well and put the programmes and the funding in place, we can cope and do it well. However, while the Government treat refugees as criminals and unwanted people, I am afraid that I see this simply as another reason why the Government have to go.

Read the whole debate in Hansard