Frances Webber, 7 April 2022
Many of the Nationality and Borders Bill’s measures are aimed at stopping uninvited refugees arriving at Britain’s borders. Anyone landing at a UK port without a visa will immediately be liable to a four-year prison sentence. The bill also criminalises anyone – including humanitarian volunteers – taking asylum seekers without visas to a port in order for them to claim asylum, with the maximum penalty now life imprisonment. (An exception for coastguards and lifeboat crews, and other rescuers in certain circumstances, was brought in during the bill’s passage.) Refugees, of course, are rarely able to get visas: you aren’t classified as a refugee under the 1951 Geneva Convention until you are outside your country and unable or unwilling to return. And once outside it, you will be told you’re not eligible for a visa because you’re in a safe third country. This is the catch-22 that results in the dangerous journeys organised by people smugglers.