The taxpayer will pay an extra £2.7billion a year to fund schemes to block people fleeing war and persecution from finding refugee protection in the UK under the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, reveals a new report released today.
‘A Bill at What Price?’ is being published by the campaign coalition Together With Refugees, just ahead of the first vote in the House of Lords, where the Government is facing the growing threat of defeat.
With the Government also under mounting pressure from MPs to publish a long-promised Impact Assessment for the Bill – as is required for proposed new legislation – Together With Refugees has calculated the additional spending needed to pay for five major new components of the UK asylum and refugee system proposed in the Bill. These are:
- £717.6 million a year to set up and run new large, out-of-town accommodation centres to house up to 8,000 people seeking refugee protection, instead of in the community.
- £1.44 billion a year to set up and run a completely new offshore processing system to send people seeking refugee protection to another country to be detained while they are assessed and wait for a decision on their claim.
- £432 million a year to imprison people seeking refugee protection who arrive via irregular routes – such as in a small boat across the Channel – a method of arrival criminalised in the Bill.
- £117.4 million a year to remove people seeking refugee protection from the UK to another country if the UK government says they should claim asylum there instead.
- £1.5 million a year for the cost of extra bureaucratic processing for people allocated Temporary Protection Status who have already passed a rigorous assessment recognising them as a refugee but to be required an additional assessment every two and half years.
Gulwali Passarlay arrived in the UK in the back of a lorry at 13 years old, having fled Afghanistan in fear for his life from the Taliban. He is now an author and campaigner. He said: “If I had arrived with the Bill in place I would have been criminalised and punished me for coming here in the back of a lorry. I could have been put in prison for up to four years. I could have been sent back to a country I passed through to claim asylum, even though they were not safe for me and I was arrested and treated badly. I could have been separated from my brother and uncle and sent to offshore detention facilities, where I could be stranded in limbo for years.
“This bill is inhumane. It will mean more deaths in the Channel, further limbo for people waiting their decision, people separated overseas waiting to be processed. It will cause a lot more hardship and pain.”
Sabir Zazai, Together With Refugees spokesperson, CEO of coalition member Scottish Refugee Council and a refugee himself (7), said: “This is an astonishing amount of additional public money for the unworkable and cruel proposals in the Bill – enough to pay for more than 80,000 NHS nurses a year. Having fled their homes in fear and struggled to find safety, these measures would leave women, children and men facing further hardship in prison, isolated in another country indefinitely, separated from family and facing insecurity and indecision.
“My llfe was in danger from the Taliban when I fled Afghanistan to make a long and frightening journey to safety, eventually arriving in the UK in the back of a lorry. This Bill would make me a criminal and put me at risk of significant further hardship. MPs of all parties must be ready to stand up to challenge the Bill with all their might when it returns to the House of Commons in the coming weeks.”
Fundamental to the Bill is the government’s intention to block or criminalise all people seeking refugee protection arriving in the UK outside pre-arranged schemes, including those coming via irregular routes, such as by boats or lorries. These are often branded ‘illegal’ by the government despite the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) having said this is at odds with people’s rights under the UN Refugee Convention, and the High Court recently ruling the government was wrong to claim such journeys were illegal.
Together with Refugees is calling for an end to the proposal in the Bill to treat refugees differently based on how they arrive here, rather than the dangers they face in their home countries. It is also calling for more safe routes for people to reach protection, asking the Government to agree a target to resettle 10,000 of the world’s most vulnerable refugees a year.