Latest News From Tommy Sheppard MP
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‘Go home’ billboard vans, the Nationality and Borders Bill, and the Rwanda deportation policy. We know that the UK Government’s approach to asylum seekers has been inhumane and cruel for years, but their latest piece of legislation really does take things to a whole new level.
Suella Braverman's latest proposal will effectively criminalise asylum, erasing the Refugee Convention and the Human Right's Convention, as well as destroying the Modern Slavery Act protections for victims of trafficking.
There is no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker.
However, one of the most odious aspects of this bill relates to unaccompanied children. It allows the Home Secretary to lock them up indefinitely – enshrining the policy that has seen hundreds of children go missing from hotels. It also empowers her to remove unaccompanied children once they hit 18-years old, even if the only family or support they have is in the UK. A most foul and shameful policy.
Don’t just take my word for it. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has also condemned the bill, stating:
“The legislation, if passed, would amount to an asylum ban – extinguishing the right to seek refugee protection in the United Kingdom for those who arrive irregularly, no matter how genuine and compelling their claim may be, and with no consideration of their individual circumstances.”
The truth is that the problem of small boats is one entirely of this Government’s making. For years, the Tories have been playing a grotesque game of political whac-a-mole, in which the hammer of Government policy has come down on the heads of the world’s most vulnerable people every time they try to find a route through to the shores of this country.
Cartoon by Simon Kneebone
We have got to a situation where the legal routes are now so non-existent that people fleeing persecution, famine and conflict have simply no alternative but to put their lives into the hands of criminal people smugglers. Let me be clear: the only way to stop dangerous small boat channel crossings is to provide safe legal routes for asylum seekers.
Enough is enough. #SafeRoutesNow
Despite knowing this, the Tories used their majority to clear the first hurdle in the House of Commons – more interested in political culture wars and the forthcoming general election than anything else. But the fight isn’t over yet. My SNP colleagues and I are resolutely opposed to this cruel bill and will continue to oppose this Tory assault on the world's most vulnerable.
I have no doubt that we’ll be joined in our opposition by the likes of Gary Lineker, who was right to caution about the use of language during this debate. Words matter because they have power.
When the Home Secretary talks about ‘invasion’ and characterise this problem as there being ‘millions’ of people coming to ‘our’ shores, she does so for a particular reason. In order to garner public support for proposals that are so inhumane and brutal, it is first necessary to dehumanise and demonise asylum seekers and refugees.
Gary Lineker was right. No human is illegal.
The public are being invited to regard these people as some sort of threat to our way of life and wellbeing, rather than the truth which is that those fleeing conflict and persecution are an assembly of some of the most desperate people on earth. Many of whom have undergone unimaginable horror and have stories to tell that most of us would never wish to experience.
That’s why it is time end this harmful narrative around refugees and migrants. The Migrants’ Right Network launched their Words Matter ([link removed]) campaign last year. I was pleased to pledge my support and call for an end to the alienating and divisive language.
I want to see a society where everyone is respected. A country known for our kindness and compassion. Not cruelty and heartlessness. The best way to achieve this is to set up a new independent country and do it better. I know that the asylum and immigration policy of an independent Scotland would be infinitely more ethical than anything that has ever emerged from the Westminster system.
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