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The Anti-Refugee Bill is a traffickers’ charter

March 23, 2022 1:23 PM
By Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland & Lonsdale
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

A child refugee with teddy bear in backpackOver the past month, as more than 3.5 million innocent Ukrainians have been forced to flee their country to escape Putin's war, people across the UK have responded with enormous compassion and generosity.

More than 150,000 have offered to open their homes to Ukrainian refugees.

Yet the response from Conservative Ministers has been slow, bureaucratic and inadequate, granting just 15,800 visas after weeks of war.

And at the same time, Priti Patel is still pushing her Anti-Refugee Bill through Parliament. An awful piece of legislation that flies in the face of the incredible spirit of the British people.

Among other things, this Bill would:

  • Criminalise refugees simply for coming to the UK to seek asylum.
  • "Offshore" asylum seekers by sending them to another country while their claims are processed.
  • Create a second class of refugees with fewer rights and only temporary protection.

So under these new laws, a refugee from Ukraine - or anywhere else - who comes to the UK to seek asylum would face up to four years in prison, be sent abroad for processing, and then - if their claim is approved - be relegated to second-class refugee status.

Thanks to the heroic efforts of Brian Paddick and other Liberal Democrat peers, the House of Lords passed amendments to remove those laws from the Bill. They also added new clauses to require the Government to resettle at least 10,000 refugees a year, and to give asylum seekers the right to work if they have to wait more than six months for their claims to be decided.

At a time when protecting refugees has never been so important, Conservative MPs have voted for more tragic deaths in the Channel.

Yesterday, Conservative MPs voted to overturn all of those amendments. We voted to keep them. Now the Bill will return to the House of Lords next week, where we will continue to oppose it.

By voting to stop refugees from taking safe and legal routes to the UK, and forcing them to take dangerous ones instead, Conservative MPs have voted for more tragic deaths in the Channel.

Priti Patel's Anti-Refugee Bill is a traffickers' charter. It beggars belief that she is still trying to push it through at a time when protecting refugees has never been so important. She should listen to the British people and ditch it now.

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