In July 2021, the UK government introduced its long-trailed Nationality and Borders Bill,[ link to the consultation response and link to detailed briefings ] which is currently in the committee stage in the Commons.The proposed new law would be a hammer blow to the UK as a place of safety for people fleeing war and persecution. The Together With Refugees coalition, of which HBTSR is a member, are campaigning to show that most people want an approach that is kinder, fairer and more effective.
Together, we are calling for a better approach to supporting refugees , better than we have now and much better than the proposals in the Bill. This means standing up for people’s ability to seek safety in the UK no matter how they came here, and ensuring people can live in dignity while they wait for a decision on their asylum application. It means empowering refugees to rebuild their lives and make valuable contributions to their communities. And it means the UK working with other countries to do our bit to help people who are forced to flee their homes.
The coalition has adopted an orange heart as its logo. The heart is a symbol that we can all stand behind to express solidarity as a movement. It uses the colours of the refugee nation flag created by Yara Said for the first ever refugee team in the 2016 Olympics. The colours were inspired by a lifebelt, representing hope.
With the campaign hashtags #WhoWeAre and #TogetherWithRefugees the heart is intended to be freely adopted and widely used to express support for refugees, while underpinning a sense of unity.
This campaign isn’t going to be easy. The government has a big majority in Parliament that it can use to push through the Bill, and it has powerful allies in parts of the media. But the combined pressure of citizens coming together through organisations like ours in coordinated action can be an even more powerful force for change. At local level we must try to demonstrate public backing for a more compassionate approach.
HBTSR have decided to participate in the Together with Refugees week of action by having a public information session in Hay Market on the 21st October and a ‘Circle of Love ‘ in the heart of Brecon [ St. Mary’s Church] on the 20th October at 10.30am. The ‘Circle of Love’ concept is for people to form a ring around St Mary’s church whilst displaying the orange heart logo. We’ll need at least 80 people to be part of this circle and will try to ensure that we get maximum publicity to show that we are hospitable and welcoming. We will be united by these powerful convictions ; how we treat refugees is about who we are. At our best, we are welcoming and kind to those facing difficult times. If any one of us feared for our lives or for the lives of our loved ones, we’d want to know that others would help us to safety.
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Our petition is here
Annexe A – wording of our leaflet
The Nationality and Borders Bill , known by some as the ‘ Anti refugee Bill’ , is now at the committee stage in the Commons.
How we treat refugees reflects who we are. At our best, we are welcoming and kind to those facing difficult times. If any one of us feared for our lives or the lives of our loved ones, we’d hope that others would help us to safety.
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1. Enshrine two classes of refugees based not on why they came (what forced them
to flee their home) but on how they came (for example, if they were forced to come
by ‘irregular’ routes such as in lorries or boats). This could mean an estimated 9,000
to 21,600 people a year that the UK currently accepts as refugees would be turned
away in future. Under the new law, the government would be empowered to rule
that their claims for asylum would not be heard (no matter how valid their case) and
expel them to another country – even though the UK has no current agreements
with other nations to do this. Or, if unable to do this, the new law would mean the
government could grant such people a new limited status to be in the UK, with fewer
rights to reunite with their family or get support to live on. They would be kept in
limbo with the constant threat of being expelled from the country. The new law could
also criminalise those helping people seeking asylum reach the UK – not just people
smugglers, but refugees themselves or others providing help, such as those rescuing
people at risk of drowning.
2. Give the government powers to expel people seeking asylum ‘off-shore’ to a
country where they have no connection and before their claim for asylum has been
given a fair hearing in the UK. This would be similar to the controversial, expensive
and failed approach used by Australia. While the government does not have the
agreements or infrastructure to put this into practice now, the powers in the Bill
would enable them to move to it in future.
3. Lead to a sweeping shift to putting people seeking asylum in out-of-town
institutions, rather than housing them in the community where they can get practical
help, legal support on their claim for refugee status, and start to rebuild their lives. This is despite the disastrous recent experience of the government putting people in
segregated institutions by using disused army barracks, which was condemned by the
High Court for their appalling conditions and preventable Covid outbreaks.
4. Fail to set any clear target for resettling refugees in the UK through international
resettlement programmes. This is despite the government’s declared support for
‘legal’ routes which it uses to justify proposals to block refugees coming to the UK via
‘informal’ routes. Together With Refugees is calling on the government to commit to a
clear target to resettle at least 10,000 refugees a year through internationally-agreed
programmes. It is also pressing for the government to ensure more safe routes for people to come to the UK to seek asylum, including through enabling refugees to be reunited with their
families in safety in the UK in line with the calls of the Families Together campaign.
5 Does not address the right to work whilst seeking asylum. Overall, 71% of the public believe that it’s time to #LiftTheBan and would save money as well as restoring dignity. If 50% of people currently seeking asylum were in work on the national average wage, not getting cash support but still receiving accommodation support, it would save £180.8 million.