Minster criticises ‘damaging effects’ of UK government’s Nationality and Borders Bill
Wales’ minister for social justice has written to the UK Government highlighting serious concerns with Westminster’s proposed Nationality and Borders Bill.
Jane Hutt MS has put forward a number of amendments, stating that the Bill as it stands contains ten critical clauses which she believes will have “unintended but severely damaging effects in Wales”.
In the seven-page letter to Kevin Foster MP, Minister for Future Borders and Immigration, Ms Hutt urges the government to observe the principles of the Intergovernmental Relations Review by not legislating on certain clauses in relation to Wales, and to act reasonably to avert the ‘impending tragedy’ which the Welsh Government believes will unfold if the Bill goes through in its current form.
She writes that the introduction of accommodation centres is fundamentally incompatible with Wales’ status as a ‘Nation of Sanctuary’ as they prevent an asylum seeker’s ‘effective integration’ from the moment they arrive in Wales.
The Welsh Government believes that the differentiation of refugees – which would create a Group 2 classification of refugees who would be subject to additional restrictions that do not apply to people in Group 1 – would be incompatible with the UN Refugee Convention.
According to a report by the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights, this part of the legislation would “create different categories of refugee based on how they came to the UK would be inconsistent with the Refugee Convention and potentially a discriminatory breach of human rights.”
Right to work
She proposes that the UK Government amend the Bill to provide a right for asylum seekers to work in any occupation in the UK if their application has taken more than 6 months after their full evidence has been submitted. It is hoped that this will enable them to earn money and contribute to their communities as well as reducing the risk of trafficking into modern day slavery situations.
Ms Hutt argues for the expansion of family reunion criteria, to recognise that many families affected by war are no longer traditional parent-child units, but despite this, familial ties remain strong, and that separation is a lifelong source of trauma.
She states that the inclusion of step, and adoptive family, aunts, uncles and grandparents as well as civil and unmarried partners, as family ties for children under 18 – or under 25 if they were under 18 when they initially left their country of residence to seek asylum – will serve the best interests of the child and incorporate the ‘spirit of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)’ which is enshrined in Welsh law.
Ms Hutt emphasises the need for a four nations approach to administering funds under the immigration rules, warning that the current approach to UK Government unilaterally deciding what schemes and legislation across the UK can be considered ‘Public Funds’ and provided to migrants causes a legislative ‘chilling effect’.
The letter ends by pointing out that there is a commitment in the current Bill that the financial implications will be met by UK Parliament, but that without amendment, costs will fall to the Welsh Government ‘in relation to managing community cohesion, provision of education and health services … to ensure no one is left destitute…’and reiterates that ‘These are necessary amendments to ensure the system does not create a crisis in Welsh communities.’
The full letter can be read here.
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Any bets on how much notice the Westminster government will take of Ms Hutt’s letter?