Yet another immigration Bill, the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill, is making its way through Parliament at the moment bringing us up to a whopping total of 8 immigration bills since 1997! The Government has been working on a simplification project over the past couple of years, trying to codify and simplify all immigration law, but they are running behind schedule and have put forward a Bill containing issues that they consider to be ‘urgent’ before this larger Bill is introduced in October.
However, very few of the issues in this current Bill are urgent. There are many more pressing issues that the government should be addressing – the plight of destitute asylum seekers, the restrictions on permission to work, the lack of protection safeguards in our borders, the discriminatory voucher system… the list goes on.
The one urgent thing that the Bill does do (and about time too!) is introduce a duty on UKBA staff to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, as is the case for staff working for all other government departments. Supportive Peers are working hard to convince the government that this should also apply to UKBA staff based overseas, and are probing the Government to find how children’s lives will be improved in practice.
We have many serious concerns about the rest of the Bill. Our main one is that the Bill is introducing a ‘probationary citizenship’ period as part of a person’s route to citizenship which will increase the time they have to wait to apply for citizenship from 5 years to 6 to 8 years depending on whether they engage in voluntary activity. Refugees have come to the UK for protection and so should be given permanent residence as soon as they are granted status so they can rebuild their lives in peace and security. We believe that these extra hurdles being placed in a refugees’ path to citizenship are unnecessary, unfair and unduly harsh, and many supportive Peers are making sure our views are heard in Parliament.
You can read our full Bill Briefing here.