Around 600 anti-racists protested in Parliament Square, central London, on Wednesday to show resistance to the Tories’ Nationality and Borders Bill.
The protest was organised by Together With Refugees—a coalition group of refugee charities—as the bill goes through the committee stage in the House of Commons.
Home secretary Priti Patel’s new bill will criminalise refugees who travel to Britain using so-called “illegal” means. Refugees who travel on boats or in the back of lorries could face prison and their asylum applications being rejected. And so could those who travel through a “safe country” on route to Britain.
The proposed law also criminalises those who “assist” refugee crossings—such as rescuing people who are drowning.
Sarha arrived in Britain a few weeks ago on a plane out of Kabul, Afghanistan. “I wish no one was forced to leave their homes because of war,” she told the protest. “War shows how anyone could be a refugee.
“Give us a chance to rebuild our lives.”
A refugee speaker from charities One Strong Voice and Freedom From Torture told the protest, “We have no choice but to flee. The reality is in the place we’re seeking safety—we’re criminalised for fleeing.
“But in that moment, you have no time to look for a passport, or ask your torturers if you can get a certificate of confirmation from them.”
Hundreds of people protested in towns and cities across Britain on the same night.
At the protest placards read, “No one is illegal,” and, “Refugees are welcome here.”
Labour peer Lord Alf Dubs—who campaigned to let child refugees into Britain—slammed the bill as a “disgrace”. “It treats refugees like criminals, not victims,” he told Socialist Worker. “It sets a terrible standard for how to treat those fleeing for safety.”
Dubs slammed the Tories’ myth that the bill will prevent people smuggling—he called this a “lie”. “Legal routes to safety would take those forced to use people smugglers and give them aid,” he explained.
“We can’t close the door on the vulnerable, especially after what they’ve been through.”
He added, “We were told places like Napier Barracks are okay to use, but they’re not. This isn’t how we treat our fellow human beings.”
Alice, who heard about the protest through Student Action for Refugees (STAR), came because she “does not want the bill to go through”. “It’s terrifying,” she told Socialist Worker. “It gives different rights aimed at creating a second tier of refugees.
“The government creates fear and spreads blame over to refugees to scare people.
“We have to protest because we’re not getting listened to, it’s easy to ignore people online. But now they can’t ignore us.”
Andy from the Refugee Council told Socialist Worker that clause 10 of the bill would “create two classes” of refugees based on how they came to Britain. And this would see “the lower class having much less rights”.
“The 1951 UN Refugee Convention states a refugee cannot be penalised for the method they used to claim asylum,” he explained. “The bill will introduce a dangerous precedent, and the harmful narrative used to justify it demonises refugees.
“We also have to mobilise public support.”
Anti-racists must resist the whole bill and the Tories’ attempt to demonise and criminalise refugees.