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We are inviting individuals and organisations to add their names to our statement. You can do so by completing the form at the bottom or emailing [email protected]

We had become increasingly concerned at the hostile and dehumanising rhetoric from the Home Office, and the Home Secretary in particular, around people seeking sanctuary. This concern was compounded with the announcement earlier this year of new government proposals which threaten the right to seek asylum in the United Kingdom – a right enshrined in international law more than half a century ago. Penalising people and threatening their asylum claims based on how they travel to seek asylum contravenes this right and undermines our history of offering sanctuary to people who need it. 

The proposals would punish people forced to take “irregular” routes to claim asylum in the UK, deeming them “inadmissible” to the asylum system. They would then be targeted for removal from the UK. If they could not be removed, then they would be given temporary protection with less entitlement to support and family reunion rights*. This temporary protection would mean that people would be regularly reassessed for removal, a system which would create a huge burden of uncertainty and fear amongst those seeking sanctuary. 

The proposals also include the possibility of offshore processing, amending the National Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 to make it possible to move people whilst an asylum claim is pending. We have seen various reported suggestions for locations but what remains is that, as we have seen in Australia, offshore processing is an inhumane and dangerous way to treat our fellow human beings. 

The policy also creates a dichotomy of deserving and undeserving; those few who are able to come through government resettlement schemes versus the majority who are forced to take irregular routes into the country. We wish that people did not have to resort to risking their lives to enter the UK and have long campaigned for safe and legal routes that take away this need. However, introducing punitive measures against people who are forced to enter through irregular routes is not the answer. 

In her speech to the House of Commons, Priti Patel referred to “illegal arrivals.” Language such as this demonises and dehumanises; no one is illegal, and it is a dangerous narrative to pursue. People seek asylum here because of war, persecution and violence; they have fled some of the most unspeakable horrors and should be offered protection, not criminalised. 

Under international law, anyone has the right to apply for asylum in any country that has signed the 1951 Convention and to remain there until the authorities have assessed their claim. It is also recognised in the Convention that people fleeing persecution may have to use irregular means in order to escape and to claim asylum in another country, and there is no legal way to travel to the UK for the specific purpose of seeking asylum. Moreover, there is no requirement under international law that asylum must be sought in the first safe country that the person encounters. 

We agree that the asylum system needs a massive overhaul. In its current state it is ineffective and inhumane; these proposals will only make that worse. Penalising people for seeking sanctuary here through irregular routes is unfair and unjust, especially when there is little other option. The Home Office says that “Britain needs a firm but fair system.” We believe that this is anything but fair.

*The wording of the Bill does not state this as definite, but allows for the possibility of differential treatment, including an attachment of No Recourse to Public Funds to any leave to remain given and whether leave to remain is given to family members. The New Plan for Immigration stated that this was the intention and we have no reason to believe that if the Bill passes, this will not be the case.

 

Initial Signatories

We are grateful to all of our signatories, especially those that signed the initial statement listed below. 

Bristol City of Sanctuary

Ashley Community Housing

Avon Fire Brigades Union

Borderlands

Bridges for Communities

Bristol Defend Asylum Seekers Campaign

Bristol Hospitality Network

Bristol Green Group of Councillors

Bristol Labour Group of Councillors

Bristol Liberal Democrats of Councillors

Bristol Refugee Festival

Bristol Refugee Rights

Caring in Bristol

Centre for the Study of Bible and Violence

Cllr Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor of Bristol

Council of Bristol Mosques

Communication Workers Union South West Region

Darren Jones MP Bristol North West

Easton Jamia Masjid

Fire Brigades Union – South West

Global Goals Centre

Hazrat Bilal Masjid

Horfield Quaker Meeting

Houria CIC

Karin Smyth MP Bristol South

Kerry McCarthy MP Bristol East

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol

Nailsea Baptist Church

Project MAMA

Redland Quaker Meeting

Refugee Women of Bristol

SARI (Stand Against Racism and Inequality)

South West Trades Union Council

St Nicholas of Tolentino RC Church

Thangam Debbonaire MP Bristol West

Unite South West

Signatories

Bristol Bike Project

The New Room

XR-Peace-Bristol

Bristol Signing Support

Bristol Muslim Strategic Leadership Group

St. Pius the Tenth RC Church

NPC Gloucestershire, Avon and Somerset

Trauma Foundation South West

Aid Box Community

St Werburghs City Farm

Bristol Salaam Shalom

Here We Grow

Lancaster and Morecambe City of Sanctuary

Womankind Bristol Women’s Therapy Centre 

St Josephs Parish Peasedown St John 

Bristol Protect our NHS 

Bristol Medact 

Art Refuge 

CHAS Bristol

Bristol STAR

Bristol Street Goat

Social Workers Without Borders

Bristol Older Peoples Forum 

Rose Savage Bridal 

Beacon Centre 

SW Agencies Ltd

Bristol Drugs Project

ARC Environmental Group, Bristol

Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls Sports and Social Club 

Holy Trinity PCC 

Tamarisk Training 

Communication Workers Union Bristol and District

Please sign as an organisation using the first form, or as an individual by using the second.

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    We will send our email newsletter to everyone on our Contact list. You will only be on the Contact list if you tell us you want to receive the newsletter. Once you are on the Contact list, we will assume you wish to remain on it until you tell us otherwise. We will store your details securely. We will not pass them on without your permission. You can change your mind at any time and ask to have your details deleted from our system. For more information, please read our Data Privacy Statement, available from the web site. By clicking on 'Submit' you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.
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