‘No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.’ Warsan Shire, writer.

Forget the illegal prorogation of parliament, tearing up international treaties, even last week’s shameful spectactle of Owen Paterson’s and Geoffrey Cox’s moonlighting. This Tory government is on its way, if it gets its way, to killing people seeking refuge. 

Under the radar, aided by cowardly opposition, the Nationality and Borders Bill is nearing completion. It is, without doubt,  the most reprehensible piece of legislation I have ever seen. And if Mrs Windsor signs it off, the Act will breach the 1951 Refugee Convention to which the UK is a signatory. 

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The Law Society could not be clearer. ‘We believe this bill contains a number of measures which are, or are likely to be incompatible with international law, damage access to justice, and impact on the role of lawyers in immigration cases.’

These draconian measures are as much a response to refugees coming across the English channel as they are to the far-right bellowings of Nigel Farage et al. And they mark a new low in UK political leadership. Societies and their leaders are judged by the way they treat those who are vulnerable. On that basis we are failing miserably. Too often refugees are treated like animals. And that’s before this heinous bill becomes law. 

Let’s not forget why so many refugees are on the move. Not because they want to take our jobs, even though there are plenty of vacancies, but because they are fleeing wars, often with roots dating back to colonial times when Britannia ruled the waves, trafficking slaves and plundering other people’s countries. Abandoned after the colonists had had their fill, many countries across Africa and Asia fell prey to corruption and mismanagement and have failed. Much of the world is in chaos.

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People have no choice but to leave and, thanks to the legacy of British imperialism, many are coming here. Instead of offering succour, Priti Patel’s new bill will crimininalise them. 

And, as Somali-born Warsan Shire’s words make clear, refugees will certainly not be deterred by changes in legislation. So what will Patel do next when they keep coming? The Times gives us a chilling clue in its headline of 13 October: ‘Patel seeks immunity for Border Force if new tactics kill.’ 

The Home Secretary has already sanctioned the use by Border Force operatives on jet skis to intercept and turn back small boats towards France, which will inevitably lead to dangers for people in overcrowded vessels. Boats will capsize, passengers left to drown. Lifeboats may well be prevented from intervening. 

We all have a responsibility to stop this bill becoming law. In the words of Albert Einstein ‘the world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.’

For more information and ways to protest this inhumane bill, why don’t you tune in to my next podcast out on Monday 14 November when I’ll be joined by Rocio Cifuentes, chair of the Welsh Refugee Coalition and CEO of the Ethnic Minorities &  Youth Support Team (EYST). 

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