Nationality and Borders Bill

The United Kingdom has a proud record of helping those fleeing persecution, oppression or tyranny from around the world. Alongside providing £10 billion a year to support people through our overseas aid, the UK is a global leader in refugee resettlement. Between 2016 and 2019 our country resettled more refugees from outside Europe than any member state of the EU.

In 2015, the Government committed to resettle 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees to flee the conflict in Syria through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS). I am sure you will join me in welcoming the fact that the Government has since met that commitment. 

In total across the full range of our resettlement schemes, the UK has now resettled more than 25,000 vulnerable refugees over the past six years, with around half children. Importantly, these refugees are resettled directly from regions of conflict and instability, not from safe European countries. I believe that it is most important to prioritise those refugees in dangerous situations, not those already in Europe.

I welcome the fact that 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 five years.

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.

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

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, which is why I welcome the Home Secretary’s announcement that £14 million of funding will support newly granted refugees to learn English, move into work, access housing and build links in their local communities. This will allow refugees to be in a position to contribute and integrate into the economic and cultural life of the UK.

Rest assured that the Nationality and Borders Bill will allow the UK to continue to resettle genuine refugees directly from places of danger and to 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.

As you will be aware, in order to protect this country, the Home Secretary has the power to deprive someone of their British citizenship where it would not render them stateless. This power has been in place for more than a hundred years and has been used by successive Home Secretaries. I would like to assure you that any decision to deprive an individual of their citizenship is only used in exceptional circumstances where there is a significant threat to the public, such as from a terrorist, and based on all available evidence, including secret intelligence, with a right to appeal.

I fully support the ability for the Home Secretary to deprive citizenship on conducive grounds. This is of course reserved for those who pose a threat to the UK or whose conduct involves very high harm.

The Nationality and Borders Bill will amend the law in order to allow the deprivation of citizenship where it is not practicable to provide notice. This could be in a case where there is no way of communicating with the individual, for example if they are in a war zone.

It is vital for national security that this power be effective and I support the Government in ensuring that this is the case.