Nationality and Borders Bill: July 2021

Dear constituent,

Thank you for contacting me about the Nationality and Borders Bill.

The UK is a global leader in refugee resettlement. As a country, between 2016 and 2019 we resettled more refugees from outside Europe than any member state of the EU. The Government provides safe and legal routes for people needing protection or seeking to reunite with their families. In the year ending December 2020, over 5,400 refugee family reunion visas were issued to partners and children of those previously granted asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK. Over 29,000 family reunion visas have been issued in the last 5 years.

The new Nationality and Borders Bill will allow the UK continue to resettle genuine refugees directly from places of danger and offer refugee family reunions. It will improve support for refugees to help them build their life in the UK, integrate and become self-sufficient members of society. The Bill also seeks to introduce a new temporary protection status for those who do not come directly to the UK or claim asylum without delay once here but who have, in any event, been recognised as requiring protection.

The New Plan for Immigration (NEW PLAN FOR IMMIGRATION - Consultation on the New Plan for Immigration: Government Response (publishing.service.gov.uk)) and the Nationality and Borders Bill comply with the UK's global obligations including commitments to the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Refugee Convention. As you will be aware, through the Bill, whether people enter the UK legally or illegally may also have an impact on how their asylum claim progresses, and on their status in the UK if that claim is successful. The UN Refugee Convention does allow for different treatment where, for example, refugees have not come directly from a country of persecution. For example, if someone enters the UK via a safe country, where they could have claimed asylum, they are not seeking refuge from imminent peril. Therefore, returning them to a safe third country is not inconsistent with the UN Refugee Convention.

I have always believed that resettlement is vital as a safe and legal pathway to protection for vulnerable refugees fleeing persecution. It is right that the Government continues to offer safe pathways for those in need, and I will continue to ensure that this is the case. The launch of a new global UK Resettlement Scheme will now build on the success of previous schemes and continue resettling refugees who need our help from around the world.

The Government has committed to review safe and legal routes to the UK for those who need protection and has a statutory duty to conduct a public consultation on family reunion for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the EU. I understand that Ministers have met the statutory commitment to seek views on this issue through the New Plan for Immigration consultation. The Government wants to listen to responses on this issue and reflect before deciding the future approach on this and on wider safe and legal routes to the UK. I welcome the fact that the Government is now analysing the feedback received.

It is also the case that refugees in the UK need to have the freedom to succeed as they settle. This means ensuring refugees have access to the tools required to become fully independent and provide for themselves and their families. This will allow refugees to be in a position to contribute and integrate into the economic and cultural life of the UK. I was pleased by the Home Secretary’s announcement of £14 million to help newly granted refugees to integrate in the UK. This fund will pilot new approaches across the country to support newly granted refugees to learn English, move into work, access housing and build links in their local communities. Lessons learned from these pilots will inform future support available to all refugees.

In my speech in the debate for the second reading of the Nationality and Borders Bill, I raised the need for the Bill to ensure a system which includes a culture of getting to the truth, rather than a culture of disbelief and a system that shows compassion, and in particular compassion for victims of slavery, the treatment of children and particular issues that women may face in the asylum system and called for an end to indefinite detention. You can find this on my website here: Richard speaks in the Nationality and Borders Bill Second Reading debate | Richard Fuller and you can read the full debate on the following link, [1st Allocated Day]: 19 Jul 2021: House of Commons debates - TheyWorkForYou

With reference to my point about compassion in the asylum system, it may be helpful to set out my background on immigration detention. As Member of Parliament for the area of the country that contains Yarl’s Wood, I have a particular responsibility for the oversight of the administration of that facility and the broader framework of laws that underpin detention as part of our immigration policy.

I am strongly against the use of detention in immigration which is ineffective, unjust and costly. Previously as MP for Bedford I was a co-author of a Parliamentary report on Immigration Detention which is available here. I have spoken in Parliament against the use of detention; in favour of community centred alternatives; against the detention of pregnant women; against indefinite detention; for greater availability of psychological and legal support for asylum seekers at the point of claim.

I have worked with Medical Justice, Women for Refugee Women, the local group Yarl’s Wood Befrienders and Detention Action.

I am an officer on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Immigration Detention and in April, I held a Westminster debate on the use of immigration detention for potential victims of trafficking, which you may be interested in watching on the following link, Richard leads debate on immigration detention | Richard Fuller.

Although there is an asylum process in place, I am aware that there are challenges within it. There is, in principle, much to be gained by improving the current system which has some absurdities that can prolong specious applications, but this is also, in my view, an opportunity to create change to improve the sensitivity, accuracy and humanity of how we handle asylum seekers and refugees. I will be working with MPs of all parties to see how we can ensure the new Bill can make these changes and ensure a humane approach to the asylum system.

Further, you may wish to read the following article on the situation in Afghanistan and the measures being taken to support resettlement of Afghans in the UK - Richard Fuller’s Views on the Situation in Afghanistan | Richard Fuller

Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

Yours sincerely,

richard fuller

Richard Fuller MP