THE UN HIGH COMMISSIONER for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has called on the UK Government and legislators to ensure that the proposed Nationality and Borders Bill avoids undermining protection of human rights for refugees and other migrants.

Among other provisions, the bill as it had been introduced, proposed treating asylum seekers differently depending on how they arrived in the UK, when they applied for asylum, their route of travel, and their connections to so-called safe third countries. It also proposed criminalising irregular entry as well as the facilitation of irregular migration and giving the authorities the power to strip United Kingdom nationals of citizenship without notice. It also proposed establishment of offshore processing centres for asylum seekers.

The proposed law originated in the House of Commons and has been under consideration by the House of Lords, which recently rejected by substantial margins its key provisions on these issues of concern and introduced a range of further amendmebnts, bringing the bill into better compliance with international standards.

“The Lords’ resounding rejection of the bill’s key provisions should send a compelling signal to the UK Government that it indeed requires significant amendments. I urge the Government and MPs in the House of Commons to act on this signal and bring the proposed legislation into conformity with international human rights law and the 1951 Refugee Convention”, said Bachelet.

“If not amended, the resulting law will penalise people who enter the UK by irregular means as if they were criminals, in contravention of international law and standards, and separate asylum seekers arriving in the UK into two tiers, violating the right of each person to an individual assessment of their own protection needs,”

“I am also concerned that the Bill as originally formulated would allow for British nationals to be deprived of their UK citizenship without notice and in an arbitrary manner risking increased statelessness, and that efforts to broadly criminalise those who facilitate irregular migration could punish and deter people from rescuing migrants in distress at sea, potentially resulting in dire consequences, including more tragic loss of life in the Channel.”

“Furthermore, the proposed offshore processing centres would expose asylum seekers to real risks of forced transfers, extended periods of isolation and deprivation of liberty, violating their human rights and dignity.”

* Source: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights