Samantha Asumadu, founder of Media Diversified, addresses a protest outside the House of Lords. Image: Greg Barradale
A protest against the government’s controversial Nationality and Borders Bill has taken place outside parliament today ahead of its return to the House of Lords.
Protesters gathered at Parliament Square at 1pm before marching to the Lords, where the bill’s second reading was due to start.
The Borders Bill is close to the end of its legislative journey, having already been passed by MPs in the House of Commons.
The protest was initiated by Media Diversified, and included groups such as CAGE, BID Detention, and Sikh Council UK.
A host of speakers addressed the crowd, each voicing concerns over the impact of the bill.
Windrush activist Patrick Vernon told The Big Issue he hoped members of the Lords would vote against it.
“Any nation state has the absolute right to remove someone from their country. This country has this power already. So why are we wasting parliamentary time with this racist bill? We should be tackling child poverty, climate change, domestic violence, sorting the pandemic,” he said.
“Instead we are wasting time and energy just to pander to people who believe that Britain still rules the waves. People need to get real. Without the labour of black and minority ethnic people in Britain there’d be no Great Britain. You need us, and we need you.”
It’s been criticised as “the biggest threat to refugee rights we’ve seen in decades” by Labour MP Nadia Whittome, and includes measures to strip people of British citizenship without notice.
Writing for The Big Issue, Alba Kapoor of the Runnymede Trust said the clause – which would allow the government to deprive a person of their citizenship without informing them – was an “indefensible proposal”.
She told The Big Issue: “A broad coalition of organisations are coming together to protest this bill because it will hit our communities and the people we work with – who are heavily marginalised already – the hardest.
“We ask for the support and involvement of our allies across society, including white Britons who may not be directly affected, because it is vital that anyone who believes in equality and the preservation of the most basic human rights, regardless of colour or creed, stands in opposition. We need to do more than passively reject this bill. We need direct action.”
In the face of the criticism, the government has reiterated its stance that citizenship is a “privilege not a right”.
Analysis by the New Statesman has found that nearly six million British people could find their citizenship in jeopardy if the bill is passed.
Along with the power to strip citizenship without notice, the Nationality and Borders bill also includes measures to allow the government to “offshore” asylum seekers – sending them to a third country for processing and detention.
Minnie Rahman, interim chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, told The Big Issue: “We need an asylum system that grants people safe routes here, a fair hearing, and the chance to get on with their lives.
“Our government should know as well as Albania’s does that these camps are places of neglect and cruelty, and have no place in our asylum system.”
Campaigners have also warned that the bill will have “catastrophic” implications for victims of modern slavery and trafficking, by disqualifying any victims who are considered a “threat to public order” from accessing support.
It would also place a time limit on victims of trafficking or slavery to identify themselves.
“This bill might be firm, but it is certainly not fair. It will lead to fewer prosecutions of actual criminals, while those who genuinely need support, including children, will be failed by the new system,” said Tamara Barnett of the Human Trafficking Foundation.