Activism

'An injustice and an outrage': MPs speak against 'draconian' Borders Bill outside parliament

The bill is entering the House of Lords for the first day of its committee stage today

Protesters hold a banner at a protest against the Nationality and Borders Bill. Image: Greg Barradale

Labour MPs spoke against the Nationality and Borders Bill at a rally outside parliament on Thursday, branding it an “injustice and an outrage”.

Organised by a coalition of 20 groups, including Sikh Council UK, BLM Coalition, CAGE, and the Association of Muslim Lawyers, over 100 people gathered opposite the Lords as part of ongoing opposition to the controversial bill.

The bill, which would allow the government to strip a person’s citizenship without notice, entered the House of Lords again as people protested outside.

Labour MP Richard Burgon, urging the scrapping of the bill, said: “What an injustice. What an outrage. What a continuation and an intensification of the hostile environment that we’ve seen.”

Burgon, MP for Leeds East, added: “Let’s stand shoulder to shoulder with the minority communities who are facing the brunt, not only of the Nationality and Borders Bill, but a complete agenda of racist scapegoating. We need to stand against it. We need to defeat the bill and build a better society.”

After police told the protest’s organisers that a noise complaint had come from inside the Lords, the crowd responded by intensifying their chanting. Aided by a group of drummers, protesters joined a refrain of “Kill the Bill.”

They earned supportive honks from passing motorists, with one lorry driver leaning out of his window to start a “Kill the Bill” chant.

Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy said the bill had no place in today’s society, and that the government should not be surprised those from ethnic minority backgrounds did not trust them.

She told the crowd: “We should never, in this day and age, be looking at a bill like that. We should never, in this day and age, be treating migrants like that.

“We should never, in this day and age, be characterising refugees in this way, when they are only trying to find a safe place.”

The Court of Appeal yesterday found that the Home Office had acted unlawfully in stripping a woman’s citizenship without notice.

Lady Justice Whipple said: “If the government wishes to empower the secretary in that way, it must persuade parliament to amend the primary legislation. That is what it is currently seeking to do under the Nationality and Borders Bill.”

Referencing this judgement, Ribeiro-Addy said: “We’ve seen that this has already failed in the courts. And that’s why they want to change it. But imagine the difficult position this puts groups in this country in.”

Up to six million Brits could be at risk of having their citizenship stripped, according to analysis by the New Statesman.

#KillTheBills protesters outside the Houses of Parliament. Image: Greg Barradale

Imran Shah, of MPACUK on behalf of Citizenship Is A Right coalition, said the protest’s organisers expected the House of Lords to stand up for the rights of existing citizens and asylum seekers.

Shah told The Big Issue: “This bill not only seeks powers to strip British citizens of their citizenship without notice, but also has punitive and inhuman barriers for those who rightly deserve asylum, leaving them at the mercy of human traffickers, whilst the Home Secretary legislates the freedom to pick and choose with prejudice.”

A legal opinion by leading firm Leigh Day found that powers in the new bill would be “unconstitutional”, and a petition to remove clause nine from the bill has been signed by 320,000 people.

Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK, which campaigns for the Windrush Generation, is one of the organisers of the protest.

National chair and co-founder Zita Holbourne told The Big Issue: “We have organised this protest as the Lords debate amendments, calling on them not to accept the most draconian racist elements to this bill which will further reduce the rights of refugees in seeking asylum contravening international laws and seeks to make revoking citizenship legal.

“No human is illegal and citizenship is a human right. This bill essentially seeks to create another Windrush scandal on a larger scale. The government published their hugely delayed Windrush Lessons Learned report in the middle of the pandemic but have learned no lessons whatsoever.”

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