The government’s new Nationality and Borders Bill will criminalise the RNLI and Afghan women fleeing the Taliban. We need to throw it out. Here’s how.
It is impossible to forget the scenes at Kabul airport this summer.
Desperate husbands, wives, parents, daughters, sons, trying to save loved ones and flee to safety.
What if it was us? What would you do?
For many people calling us over the last few weeks, this was a dilemma they have already faced. People who have fled Afghanistan in search of protection in the North West of England. Over the last five years we’ve supported hundreds of people who are originally from Afghanistan, including children who are here without their parents. This summer many have been back in touch, deeply worried for the safety of family members still there.
Listen to the experience of Gulwali Passarlay (author of #TheLightlessSky) who came to the UK from Afghanistan as a 12 year old, or Dr Waheed Arian (founder of Arian Teleheal) who arrived as a 15 year old.
What is happening in Afghanistan is not a remote conflict, it is affecting people in our communities here. And the response across the North West has been clear: concern, compassion and action. Donations of clothes, acts of welcome, messages of support have all shown (again) that we’re an area that knows how to step up for others in times of crisis.
And it’s time to step up once more. The government is currently pushing a new Bill through parliament. If it goes through, it will treat people fleeing conflict in places like Afghanistan as criminals because of the way they come to the UK. It will also criminalise those who save their lives on the way.
If this law is passed, a woman who flees Afghanistan today, crosses the border and journeys across Europe to reach family in the North West, would have her claim dismissed because of the way she reached the UK. She would be housed in prison-like conditions, possibly in an off-shore detention centre. The volunteers, who rescue her when the dinghy she is in capsizes crossing the Channel, would be prosecuted.
This is utterly out of step with the outpouring of warmth and care the public has shown to people escaping the Taliban; it is out of step with the huge increase in donations the RNLI received when they refused to stop their centuries old mission to save lives at sea; it’s out of step with the government’s own consultation where three quarters of responses disagreed with the Bill.
As MPs debate the Bill in parliament we need to send a strong message from the North West that the #AntiRefugeeBill is not welcome here.
Please look up your MPs email at www.writetothem.com and send them a message to show that the Bill does not reflect the wishes of their constituents. We’ve written a briefing that you can send with more detail.
Taking action now really matters. MPs are going through the Bill line-by-line. We need to make sure that the concern and compassion that so many in our region have shown towards people arriving from Afghanistan, and elsewhere, is not undone by a law written in Westminster.
We need this Bill to protect, not punish. Thank you for your help.