How the No Evictions Network is fighting the Nationality and Borders Bill
Standing on the steps of Buchanan Street in Glasgow, Lana, who first arrived in Scotland as an asylum seeker, said: “if someone is not desperate, why on earth would they ever risk their three-year-old child’s life in the ocean? We left our country because there were no human rights, and after taking so much risk and arriving here, now this Bill will again take our human rights away from us”.
Last Saturday, she was one of the speakers at a protest against the Nationality and Borders Bill organised by the No Evictions Network in Glasgow.
The No Evictions Network has been central to vital community organising, especially over the past few months. From campaigning for asylum seekers’ housing rights to playing a crucial role in resisting the deportation of two locals at Kenmure Street in May, the Network’s activity reflects the kind of Scotland many residents hope is in our future. Most recently, they have been working to fight Priti Patel’s proposed new “Nationality and Borders Bill” that would impose draconian immigration rules.
The Nationality and Borders Bill (see here for an explainer by Minni Rahman for gal-dem), which will receive its second reading in the house of Commons on Monday 19th July, has received heavy criticism from activists for its criminalisation of refugees and asylum seekers. No Evictions highlight that “The UK signed up to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which gives a strong legal basis to claim asylum” — a commitment that this bill fails to uphold.
The UN Refugee Agency describes the 1951 Refugee Convention as centred on the principle “that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. This is now considered a rule of customary international law.”
- The right not to be expelled, except under certain, strictly defined conditions (Article 32);
- The right not to be punished for illegal entry into the territory of a contracting State (Article31);
- The right to work (Articles 17 to 19)
- The right to housing (Article 21)
- The right to education (Article 22)
- The right to public relief and assistance (Article 23)
- The right to access the courts (Article 16)
- The right to freedom of movement within the territory (Article 26)
- The right to be issued identity and travel documents (Articles 27 and 28).
Conversely, No Evictions point out that the N&B Bill could refuse asylum seekers entry to the UK if they have not gained prior permission to enter– a process that is extremely difficult for those facing urgent and immediate danger– even criminalising them and sentencing them to anything between six months and four years in prison. It would also limit their right to appeal or challenge a court decision. Furthermore, it would limit their rights to access public benefits by imposing ‘no recourse to public funds’ and put an end to family reunification for those coming to the UK through other countries. By criminalising asylum seekers, the Bill would push many to seek more dangerous channels of entry to the UK, thereby putting their lives at increased risk.
In response to this Bill, the No Evictions Network, which is run by people with first hand experience of the asylum system, has been organising for a community and governmental response from Scotland. Initially, they released a statement condemning the Bill, explaining its violation of human rights, noting that “crossing borders is not a criminal offence” and highlighting the lack of a safe route for asylum seekers to enter the UK. They also note plans to hold refugees in “concentration camps” abroad– they are referring here to the part of the Bill that enables the Home Office to send asylum seekers to offshore centres– removing them from any possible integration into a community and keeping their living conditions out of sight from the general public. Finally, they put forward demands asking for clarification of the relationship of the Bill to the 1951 Refugee Convention, details of how much enacting the Bill will cost taxpayers, an estimate of the number of asylum seekers that will be jailed as a result, a commitment to introducing safe routes for asylum seekers, and abandoning any part of the Bill found to be unlawful or unsafe.
Later, they released a petition open to the community and local organisations to demand that government representatives take a firm stance against the bill, stating:
“We have had enough with the sound bites, and the gestures of welcoming refugees. As a dispersal city First Minister, MPs, MSPs and this devolved government needs to take more direct action, and to take more responsibility as the lives of vulnerable people are at further risk… We need our political representatives to stand up for the principle of refugee protection for everyone seeking asylum in the UK. It is vital that all the Glasgow MPs take a firm stand, and strongly oppose every stage of the Nationality and Borders Bill when the Second Reading takes place.”
They plan to present this petition to both the Scottish and UK governments.
On Saturday the 17th of July, they organised a protest on the Buchanan Street steps in Glasgow. Here, the community gathered to listen to speeches from supporting organisations and members of the No Evictions Network, including a twelve-year-old refugee. The speakers emphasised that those who take already dangerous routes to enter the UK do so because their lives depend on it. MP Chris Stephens also spoke, stating his commitment to keep fighting this Bill and asking fellow Glaswegians to do the same as “it’s not what Scotland stands for”.
No Evictions say that the community response has been very supportive. Savan Nielson, a member of the network, says his inbox has been flooded with messages from people in Scotland that have encouraged him to keep fighting, emphasising the value of the work they’re doing and the belief that “if you live in Scotland you are Scottish”. They plan to keep campaigning and holding rallies. To get involved or find out more details, follow the No Evictions Network on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.