Farron: Nationality and Borders Bill impact on LGBTQ+ refugees

While the main attention in parliament yesterday was on tributes to Jack Dromey and Michael Gove’s statement on Levelling Up, an important debate also took place in Westminster Hall. Olivia Blake, Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam had secured a debate on the impact of the Nationality and Borders Bill on LGBTQ+ asylum seekers l. Tim Farron made a major and passionate contribution to the debate. It is notable that no Conservative MPs spoke during the debate.

Farron described the Nationality and Borders Bill as a peculiarly awful piece of legislation that is designed to solve problems that do not exist and to ignore problems that do. It is playing to the gallery rather than seeking to make a difference. The negative impact the Bill will have on LGBTQ+ asylum seekers is a prime example of what is wrong with it.

Speaking in Westminster Hall, Tim Farron said:

The Nationality and Borders Bill is a peculiarly awful piece of legislation, designed to solve problems that do not exist, ignore problems that do, and play to a gallery rather than seek to make a difference. The negative impact that this Bill will have on LGBTQ+ asylum seekers is a prime example of what is wrong with the Bill. LGBTQ+ people will be disproportionately affected by clause 11, which is the Government’s choice to differentiate on the basis of method of entry into the United Kingdom. They are much more likely, as we have heard, to be categorised as group 2 refugees, and experience second-class treatment at best…

The reality is that creating a second tier of refugee, which the Government sometimes refer to as “illegal route”—there is no such thing as an illegal refugee—is in contravention of international agreements on the matter…

Cameroon, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria and Uganda—these are the most common countries of origin for people claiming asylum on the basis of their sexuality. They are also countries where many individuals are persecuted because of their sexual orientation, but they are not seen as areas of conflict or instability and as such do not warrant inclusion in the UK resettlement scheme. As the hon. Gentleman just mentioned, as a result, those people will be treated as second-class asylum seekers…  Those fleeing those countries can therefore come here only by the so-called illegal routes—irregular, informal routes.

It is important to recognise that even if those people were in a region where they could access the UK resettlement scheme, they may still remain at risk, due to their sexuality, in neighbouring countries that they would pass through on the way to safety, which for other refugees might be places of safety. They would obviously prefer to move on to safety rather than wait in camps in a country that is unsafe for them. Further to that, it is highly likely that LGBTQ+ people will not feel safe coming forward and identifying themselves as a person eligible for resettlement… The Government’s choice to penalise further the late production of evidence will disproportionately impact LGBT people. It is therefore wrong.

Intervention by Alex Sobel, Leeds North West. Tim Farron:

The hon. Member is absolutely right. That is what is wrong with the Bill. He sums up the problem of having this nonsense, immoral, two-tier system. We do not want people to use criminal gangs to get here, but if the Government will not provide safe routes for those people, they will have to do that and we should have compassion for them.

Irregular journeys and the fact that we are an island mean that people will travel through other countries before reaching the United Kingdom. Data shows that most refugees remain in neighbouring or other European countries. Many countries take more asylum seekers per capita than the United Kingdom.

The international refugee system relies on countries sharing the refugee population. We cannot rely on certain countries to host all the refugees who reach them just because they happen to be the first point of arrival in Europe, for example. It is not fair on Greece, Italy and so on. It does not work. We need to do our bit. Treating certain kinds of refugee as second class or worse is wrong, and likely to be against international law.

How can we look Putin in the eye at this terrible moment and challenge him over his breaches of international law when we risk doing so ourselves?

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  • Jacqueline Bell 3rd Feb '22 - 5:10pm

    Well said Tim

  • Katharine Pindar 4th Feb '22 - 10:07pm

    It’s great to see concurrence between our ever-hardworked MPs and the much more numerous but very active Lib Dem peers. While I was pleased to watch the video here of Tim making such important points on the Nationality and Borders Bill, I was also happy to read in Sunday’s Observer of Lord William Wallace tabling an amendment to the bill in the House of Lords requiring the Government to halt its ‘golden visa’ scheme, which allows people investing £2m the right to live in Britain, until they have completed a review of the scheme. Campaigners have pointed out that the government has created a hostile environment for illegal immigrants while selling residency to the super-rich, with lax checks on illicit funds. Supremely illiberal practices being fought against here by our admirable Liberal parliamentarians.

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