The UK Borders Bill will “violate basic principles of justice” and “undermine” the Senedd, the Welsh Government has said.

In an extensive joint statement this afternoon, Counsel General Mick Antoniw and Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt said the Bill, which returns to parliament for debate this week, would “harm communities” and “severely undermine” the Senedd’s vision of Wales as a “Nation of Sanctuary”.

Making reference to this summer’s hurried evacuation of Kabul, Afghanistan, which saw desperate Afghans cling to moving planes in an attempt to escape the Taliban, they said: “Any Afghan who could not get onto an evacuation plane but was able to make the long and difficult journey to the UK, via people smugglers, will be criminalised by the proposals in the Bill, despite fleeing the very same threat.”

The National Wales: Mick Antoniw and Jane Hutt. (Source: Huw Evans Agency)Mick Antoniw and Jane Hutt. (Source: Huw Evans Agency)

Refugees arriving in Wales need to develop social support networks, and have the opportunity to be immersed in their new community’s language and culture, they said, criticising the UK government’s plan to open up further asylum detention centres, and its past use of Penally Barracks, Pembrokeshire, for this purpose.

“[The Penally centre] caused disruption to community cohesion, with protests outside the camp and damage to the mental health of the people accommodated there,” the ministers added.

“We have seen a legacy of far-right activity in Pembrokeshire, long after the closure of Penally.”

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The National understands that a Legislative Consent Memorandum has also been submitted by the Welsh Government, which will seek to block the part of the Borders Bill which would change how the age of child asylum seekers is assessed.

The Bill proposes using “scientifically verifiable” methods of determining a child’s age on entry into the UK, such as x-raying their teeth and taking DNA samples.

Charities have condemned the plans as “regressive and unethical”, asserting that the new methods proposed would be “inaccurate” and risk placing vulnerable children into inappropriate environments.

The Independent reported earlier this year that such mistakes had already been made repeatedly by the Home Office, and The Royal College of Paediatrics and British Dentist Association have both rejected the use of tooth x-rays and similar methods as lacking in accuracy.

The National Wales: Protests were called across the UK following the death of 27 people, including children and one pregnant woman, drowned attempting to cross the English Channel in recent weeks (Source: PA)Protests were called across the UK following the death of 27 people, including children and one pregnant woman, drowned attempting to cross the English Channel in recent weeks (Source: PA)

The LCM put forward by the Welsh Government today is an attempt to stop these practices being introduced in Wales, on the grounds that it would interfere with social service provision, which is a devolved matter.

“We are proud to take a ‘child first, migrant second’ approach… to providing care and support to children in Wales,” the document says.

“Any policy proposal which appears to diminish this statutory position is not one which we would support.”

The memorandum can be read in full here.

Harriet Protheroe-Soltani, spokesperson for the Welsh Refugee Council commented today: “We welcome this powerful statement from the Welsh Government.

“Wales aims to become a Nation of Sanctuary, and statements like this show that Wales really does want to do things differently.

“The key will be whether the UK government listens to the Welsh Government’s legislative consent memorandum, that rejects consent for this Bill.

“We hope the UK government listens to Wales.”

For more information on this issue, read The National’s previous article here.

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