Greenwich and Lewisham councils have passed motions in the last month rejecting the Nationality and Borders Act and offshoring policy as laws that are “anti-refugee”.
Both south London councils now call upon the government to withdraw the UK-Rwanda agreement, repeal the Nationality and Borders Act and work with local authorities and communities to build a refugee protection system based on the values of ‘dignity and compassion.’
Schedule 4 of the Act includes criteria for the removal of asylum seekers to a safe country, specifying a place where they will not be exposed to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
However, this stipulation is at direct odds with Amnesty’s assessment of human rights violations in Rwanda, the government’s country partner.
Councillor Denise Scott-McDonald of Greenwich Council, an authority seeking to become a Council of Sanctuary, proposed the motion against the bill is “an extremely strong message of support for many vulnerable people in our communities”.
She was supported by councillors who expressed sympathy for the families of those who lost their lives in the English Channel on Wednesday.
Juliet Campbell, the Communities, Refugees and Wellbeing Cabinet member for Lewisham, proposed rejection of the perceived ‘anti-refugee’ laws in her borough.
She said: “As a borough of sanctuary, we have a responsibility to uphold the commitments outlines in this motion and to actively protect sanctuary seekers in our borough.”
In August, the Law Society made a statement representing the legal community’s response to the bill, identifying a number of the Act’s measures as likely to: be incompatible with international law, damage access to justice and negatively impact on the role of lawyers in immigration cases.
This month, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: “There is no single overnight solution to what is a global problem. You’ll know we’re taking action in a number of areas, whether that’s the Rwanda partnership, the latest deal with France, but as I’ve said before, there is more work ongoing.”
One Greenwich councillor supporting rejection of the bill, described the new Act and Rwanda offshoring policy as ‘an absolute disgrace’.
They added: “I do not wish to see a single Greenwich Resident put into a more vulnerable position as a result of this policy.”
Featured image courtesy of Pond5 stock