Differential Treatment of Refugees (Nationality and Borders Bill)

Thank you for contacting me about the differential treatment of refugees and Clause 11 of the Nationality and Borders Bill. The United Kingdom has a proud history of supporting those in need of protection; our resettlement programmes have provided safe and legal routes to better futures for hundreds of thousands of people from across the globe. Since 2015, over 185,000 men, women and children seeking refuge have been offered a place in this country, which is more than any other similar resettlement scheme in Europe. This includes almost 100,000 British Nationals Overseas threatened by draconian security laws in Hong Kong, 20,000 through the Syrian scheme, 13,000 from Afghanistan, and around 50,000 Ukrainians. 

The purpose of the power to differentiate being introduced through the Nationality and Borders Bill is to influence the choices that migrants may make when leaving their country of origin, seeking to encourage them to claim asylum in the first safe country they reach and discourage them from travelling to the UK by means of dangerous journeys and instead use safe and legal routes.

The powers to differentiate as set out in the Bill are not prescriptive and the Secretary of State is under no compulsion to use them – which provides for flexibility in the fair and lawful implementation of the provisions. Differentiation may relate to length of leave, requirements for settlement, family reunion, and recourse to public funds.

I would like to reassure you that the proposals in the New Plan for Immigration and the Nationality and Borders Bill fully 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. After looking into this, 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.

Under the provisions in the Bill, therefore, those who meet the terms of the refugee convention will be granted refugee status. There is no question of this clause making it harder to be a refugee or otherwise enabling the Government to refuse refugee protection to those who need it. That is simply not true. What the clause does is enable the Secretary of State to distinguish between refugees based on whether they came directly and claimed without delay, but anyone considered under this policy will be a refugee.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.