Sunderland campaigners vow to fight on against asylum bill

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Wearside pressure groups say they will carry on fighting after the Government’s Nationality and Borders Act was passed.

The bill has been hailed by the Government as a solution the UK’s asylum problems, but critics disagree.

Refugee and migrant charities in Sunderland including Friends of the Drop-In, Sunderland City of Sanctuary and Amnesty Wearside are among 320 groups nationally to sign a pledge to defend the right to claim asylum in the UK, challenging the Government’s “hostile new laws”.

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Other signatories include Oxfam, Save the Children, Shelter and Crisis who condemn what they say are “anti-refugee” laws.

North East Day of Action for Refugees at Sunderland Minster in March.North East Day of Action for Refugees at Sunderland Minster in March.
North East Day of Action for Refugees at Sunderland Minster in March.

The controversial bill was passed on April 28 and contains provisions about nationality, asylum, immigration, victims of slavery and human trafficking. Failed asylum seekers will be removed quicker, rather than being allowed to make appeal claims up until their deportation flights.

Critics say the new act legalises offshore processing and the creation of warehouse-style reception centres on UK soil, and could also criminalise thousands of refugees including those fleeing Ukraine and Afghanistan.

On March 21 campaigners gathered at Sunderland Minster to demonstrate against the bill and made clear that asylum seekers were “welcome”.

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Reverend Chris Howson, chair of Sunderland City of Sanctuary, said: “We are genuinely shocked at the government’s legislation. Britain has a strong tradition of sanctuary for those fleeing persecution, and the idea of sending desperate people to Rwanda is cruel and full of legal, moral and financial minefields.”

Steve Newman, secretary of Wearside Amnesty, said: “The Nationality and Borders Bill reflects the hostile environment which the government has sought to create over a number of years and which we believe doesn’t reflect the views of the British people, who want a more compassionate system.”

But Home Secretary Priti Patel says the bill is the best way to tackle the UK’s “broken” asylum system.

She told the Daily Mail: “(People) can see the evidence with their own eyes: evil people-smugglers bringing migrants here illegally in small boats and on lorries; dangerous foreign criminals doing all they can to avoid being deported by putting in last-minute, meritless claims hours before they are due on the plane.

“Asylum reception centres, which are already in place in many European countries, will be used to process claims, rather than hotels.”