In the same week that Russia invaded Ukraine, precipitating the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War, the Nationality and Borders Bill entered its latest stages in the House of Lords.
With public support for refugees surging in response to the conflict, Parliament responded in kind. In a string of impressive victories for refugee campaigners, the Government was repeatedly defeated on a wide range of votes.
Over the course of three days of debate, members of the House of Lords voted for a number of changes to the Bill that would improve refugee protection in the UK.
How the House of Lords voted
Peers showed their support for numerous changes and additions, including:
- Deleting clause 11, the part of the bill that would punish refugees depending on how they arrive in the UK.
- A commitment to an ambitious refugee resettlement target, bringing 10,000 refugees to the UK each year.
- Removing provisions that would see people seeking asylum held in offshore detention centres.
- Cancelling the elements of the Bill that criminalise those seeking asylum.
- Allowing people who are seeking asylum to work in the UK.
- Adding important safeguards to the process in which separated children who are seeking asylum have their age assessed.
The size of the votes to support refugees, and the number of different issues that were won, show how strong current feeling is that we can create a better asylum system. It also reflects an understanding about how destructive the Nationality and Borders Bill would be to the UK’s history of supporting those seeking safety.
The regressive measures in the Bill that peers voted against would apply to all refugees, whether they were families fleeing Putin’s bombs or women and girls escaping the Taliban in the hope of an education and a future for themselves.
What happens next
The coming weeks will be crucial as these amendments are taken back to the House of Commons to be voted on by MPs. Typically, the Government would seek to vote down amendments made to its own legislation, but there is a clear opportunity now to take the huge wave of support for Ukraine and use it to pressure Government to think again.