Let’s take a stand at conference against the cruel Braverman Bill

The Conservatives are intent on dragging our country off a cliff with their Small Boats Bill. As Liberal Democrats, we must do everything in our power to stop it – starting at Conference this weekend.

Suella Braverman’s Bill says that anyone who enters the UK via a small boat will be immediately detained and deported to another country as soon as possible. Just like their botched Rwanda plan, this is immoral, unworkable and incredibly expensive for the taxpayer.

We all want to tackle people smuggling and prevent people from making dangerous attempts to cross the Channel, but this bill will do nothing of the sort. The Conservatives are still refusing to provide safe and legal routes to sanctuary in the UK. Instead, they are demonising vulnerable people and giving impunity to the real criminals – human traffickers.

At the same time, they are stripping back hard-won protections for the most vulnerable. The ban on child detention was a Liberal Democrat policy that we proudly put into law in 2014 – now under threat from this government. Important legal limits on how long pregnant women can be detained are also at risk.

The consequences go even deeper. By using the bill to exclude certain groups of people from accessing their rights – whether it is the protections under the Modern Slavery Act, the Human Rights Act or the European Convention on Human Rights – the Conservatives are setting a dangerous precedent.

They are acting like they can pick and choose what rights our government must protect, while also picking and choosing who can stand up for their rights if they are harmed. Small wonder, then, that backbench Conservative MPs are rumoured to be plotting to use this legislation to push for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights. Their dangerous rhetoric has only been emboldened by the Home Secretary.

The UK has a long, proud history of offering sanctuary to vulnerable people fleeing war and persecution. Our party has always stood up for refugees. We must do everything we can to protect that legacy.

That is why I have tabled an emergency motion for Spring Conference, setting out how Liberal Democrats can offer a fairer, more compassionate way to stop these dangerous small boat crossings, by scrapping the Conservative’s callous, cruel legislation – and finally implementing safe and legal routes for refugees.

We cannot wait to enshrine this in our party policy. This is the way we will stand up to the Conservatives, protect the most vulnerable, and defend our country’s proud legacy.

* Alistair Carmichael is the MP for Orkney and Shetland and Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Steve Trevethan 17th Mar '23 - 1:03pm

    1823 Foundation of the Anti-Slavery Society by William Wilberforce

    2023 Removal of legal protection from modern slavery for people trafficked into the U. K.
    (Thanks to Home Secretary, Suella Braverman)

    (From Private Eye)

  • Protection from modern slavery is a little more nuanced. Our International and moral obligation is to free those enslaved and wherever possible to facilitate their return to their families, if that is their wish and it is safe to do so, while arresting and trying the slavers.
    The most important active British anti-slavery naval force, in the first half of the nineteenth century was that based in West Africa which freed slaves and took them to Freetown in Sierra Leone, a British colony founded for free black people. They could not be returned to their homes, as they would only be captured anew by fellow Africans and sold as slaves. Indeed, in 1862, Viscount Palmerston, the Prime Minister, observed:

    “Half the evil has been done by the time the slaves are captured in the American waters. The razzia [devastating raid] has been made in Africa, the village has been burnt, the old people and infants have been murdered, the young and the middle aged have been torn from their homes and sent to sea.”

  • Steve Trevethan 17th Mar '23 - 3:48pm

    “Bad people need nothing more to compass their ends than that good people should look on and do nothing.”
    (From leading Liberal thinker John Stewart Mill)

  • Mel Borthwaite 17th Mar '23 - 4:26pm

    Once again, an article speaking about people ‘fleeing war and persecution’ and about ‘refugees’ – that argument is already won…most people support giving refuge to those trying to flee from war and persecution.

    The difficult bit is dealing with the issue of economic migrants who simply wish to get to the UK for a better life and not to escape war or persecution. The public does not support having an open border so that anyone who wants to come to the UK to live can do so. Indeed, taking that extreme position would be a vote-loser.

  • Mel Borthwaite 18th Mar '23 - 8:08pm

    @Ian Shires
    Actually the opposite. I think the Liberal Democrats should start to argue the case for extending our compassion beyond those who are afflicted by war and persecution. That is different from arguing for open borders, which would be a vote loser, but is a case that could and should be made. Sadly, it appears that our spokespeople just want to fight the easy fights rather than seek to lead public opinion.

  • Peter Martin 20th Mar '23 - 8:17am

    Someone needs to take a stand. I don’t know you’ll get much support from the present leadership of the Labour Party. Keir Starmer didn’t manage to lodge a vote against any of the motions relating to the recent Migration Bill.

    He’s been sitting on the fence rather a lot recently. I’ve just read a claim from what is normally a reliable source, but I haven’t been able to personally verify it, that he hasn’t voted on any Commons motion since January. That is the last 27 motions.

  • Nonconformistradical 21st Mar '23 - 3:28pm


    US calls conditions in Rwanda’s detention centres harsh to life-threatening
    Ally’s criticism will be hard to dismiss as UK tries to push through £120m migrant scheme

    Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor
    Tue 21 Mar 2023 12.59 GMT
    Britain’s closest ally, the US, has criticised Rwanda’s dire human rights record, describing conditions in the country’s detention centres as harsh to life-threatening.

    The British home secretary, Suella Braverman, took a group of journalists on a trip last week to reveal details of her £120m scheme to send all migrants arriving in the UK through irregular means to Rwanda whether they claim asylum or not. The legality of the scheme is due to be tested shortly in the UK court of appeal.

    But the US, in its annual human rights assessment published on Monday said Rwanda operated a system including harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, arbitrary detention, serious restrictions on free expression including the imprisonment of journalists, and no effective system of collective bargaining…”

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