We cannot cross our fingers and hope that post-war agreements will beat this toxic bill… Instead, we will have to call on every available resource to force the government to U-turn.Joshua Kelly
By Joshua Kelly
Today will see a vital demonstration against the most disturbing pieces of modern legislation debated in British history. The Nationality and Borders Bill, currently passing through the Houses of Parliament, will make sweeping changes to immigration and asylum law.
This Bill will devastate lives, cost a fortune and it exists for no reason other than to placate the extremist right that Boris Johnson’s political power rests on. It makes preparations for the off shoring of migrants and will divide refugees and migrants into the deserving and undeserving based on how they arrive.
This is a major break from established immigration law. These changes will put up further barriers to migrants seeking legal advice and feed extreme right-wing talking points about criminal gangs and do-good lawyers.
Grotesquely, these changes are described as being part of measures to “deter people smuggling” when the government knows it could solve this problem any time they liked with safe and legal routes. Instead, the government wants to rip up the basics of maritime law (and basic human decency) by pushing back desperate people into one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
But this Bill does more than attack people imperilled in the English Channel. It also grants new powers for the government to remove a person’s citizenship without telling them and potentially leave them stateless.
Despite it being illegal under the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights to make a person “stateless”, the government has already developed workarounds of creaking international agreements, most of which were made in the post-WW2 period, that often form the last line of defence against authoritarian hostile environment immigration policy. Alongside contorted legal arguments, the Tories claim that these declarations are ‘outdated’ or no longer fit for today’s world. Quite what elements of these treaties on universal human rights and the rights of refugees, signed after the mass displacement, destruction, and death of the second world war is ‘outdated’ is frankly beyond me. If anything, they seem more relevant than ever before.
We cannot cross our fingers and hope that post-war agreements will beat this toxic bill. Nor can we rely on Keir Starmer and the Labour Party to block this bill in the House of Commons. Instead, we will have to call on every available resource to force the government to U-turn. We need devolved administrations, like the Scottish and Welsh governments and the London Assembly to stand up to this Bill and campaign against them.
We need to support migrant and refugee solidarity groups that bravely oppose the Hostile Environment. And last but certainly not least, we need large, noisy, impossible to miss demonstrations and protests to shows the government that this Bill in no way represents the will of the British people.
Joshua Kelly is an activist with Labour Against Racism and Fascism
- Join the Protest TODAY, Sunday 27th February. Assemble at 12pm, the Home Office, SW1P 4DF, and march to Parliament Square.