Stephanie Harrison QC, Chair and Joint Head of Garden Court Chambers, comments on the Nationality and Borders Bill receiving Royal Assent

Friday 29 April 2022

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“This is such a dark moment that it should be marked. The Nationality and Borders Act 2002 is one of the most regressive pieces of immigration legislation since the 1960’s. It undermines and reverses key legal protections for asylum seekers and refugees established over the last 40 years.

Many people have worked tirelessly to try and overturn or amend the worst aspects of this Act which includes increasing the evidential burdens on asylum seekers, outsourcing the determination of claims to Rwanda, reintroducing unfair fast track detention, undermining protection for refugee women, girls and victims of human trafficking, and no notice deprivation of British citizenship.

This legislation has been rightly referred to as an act of vengeance and a revenge Act. It is profoundly racist, xenophobic and populist. Shocking when judged against the recent backdrop of people fleeing persecution and conflict, hoping for safe haven in the UK whether from Afghanistan or Ukraine. The contrast in response has been marked and this legislation will entrench and give licence for discriminatory practice in the right to seek asylum. This most precious of rights was conferred on all in 1948 in recognition of the backs turned and doors closed on Jewish people seeking to escape fascism and the holocaust. It is the centre piece of universal human rights protection in international law.

This government has already thrown down a gauntlet to the judiciary not to stand in its way and knowing that legal challenge is inevitable given the Acts incompatibility with the rule of law and humanity.

The  Act will be challenged and on many fronts. It is hoped that the public will see that the ability to open the door and offer a hand to people like those from Ukraine, at a time of dire need,   must be defended and will recognise the gross injustice of slamming that door  in the face of others whose lives are equally threatened by war, tyranny and abuse of power."   

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