PEERS FROM the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) have raised the negative impact of the proposed Illegal Migration Bill on non-religious asylum seekers, as well as concerns about the Bill’s catastrophic consequences on human rights more broadly.

Humanists UK welcomed the intervention from peers and urged the Government to withdraw the Bill to respect and uphold its human rights obligations to those seeking asylum.

Peers in the Group spoke out against the Bill dubbed the Refugee Ban Bill, which would severely curtail the right to claim asylum in the UK. Many peers raised the fact that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees stated that the Bill, if enacted, would breach the UK’s obligations under the Refugee Convention and other international human rights laws. As well as disapplying Section 3 protection of the Human Rights Act to those seeking asylum – which requires public bodies to apply laws and policies in a way that upholds human rights – it also enables ministers to ignore interim measures from the European Court of Human Rights to stop a deportation, among other proposals giving rise to concern.

APPHG Treasurer and Humanists UK Patron Lord Dubs of Battersea, a refugee who fled Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia as a child and a renowned asylum advocate, drew attention to the Bill’s list of 57 so-called ‘safe’ countries for people to be deported to, highlighting that Humanists International’s Freedom of Thought Report found that ten have on-book prison sentences for blasphemy.

APPHG member Lord Rooker said: “It is worth repeating that, of the so-called safe countries in the Bill, at least 10 have on-book prison sentences for blasphemy and apostasy. As my noble friend said, the president of the Nigerian Humanist Association, Mubarak Bala, is serving 24 years for blasphemy – you would have to be a pretty nasty piece of work to support that as a policy.”

APPHG member Baroness Whitaker asked: “How can the Government describe Nigeria as safe for a humanist refugee when the Nigerian Government maintain the death penalty for blasphemy – along with 10 other countries on the Bill’s ‘safe country’ list in Schedule 1 – and when they have sentenced the president of the country’s humanist association to 24 years in prison?”

Humanists UK responded to the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ inquiry on the Bill. As well as expressing concerns about the so-called ‘safe countries’, and the wider human rights impact of the Bill, it also told the Committee of the multiple barriers faced by non-religious asylum seekers.

Humanists UK Public Affairs Manager Karen Wright commented: “The Illegal Migration Bill is a poorly thought through piece of legislation. Instead of offering solutions, the heartless Bill would effectively extinguish the right to asylum in the UK. We call on the Government to repeal the Bill, and commit to uphold its human rights obligations to protect those fleeing from persecution.”

* Read Humanists UK’s response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the BIll here

* The Freedom of Thought report can be downloaded here.

* Source: Humanists UK