UK Government's plans to ban migrants from re-entering UK condemned by Church of Scotland
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The Church of Scotland has condemned the UK Government’s plans to tackle small boat crossings in the Channel, saying it "goes against everything that we uphold and value".
The church joined the Scottish Refugee Council in calling on ministers to drop the Illegal Migration Bill, which the SRC said would leave people fleeing violent regimes with no way to claim asylum. The legislation is expected to allow authorities to remove asylum seekers and ban them from re-entry if they arrive in the UK through unauthorised means.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiled the plans on Tuesday, saying it would "stop the boats". She told MPs: "For a government not to respond to waves of illegal migrants breaching our borders would be to betray the will of the people we were elected to serve."
But the Rev Karen Hendry, convener of the Church of Scotland's faith impact forum, said: "I am deeply concerned by the growing hostility towards people seeking safety both in the way they are viewed and as displayed today, in policy by the UK Government. The proposed Illegal Migration Bill goes against everything that we uphold and value in our faith and communities – the dignity and value of all humans and their right to seek safety when their lives and threatened and torn apart. We urge the UK Government to rethink their proposal and take a sharp U-turn."
She continued: "This Bill will not just strip people fleeing war and persecution of their right to seek safety in the UK but punish them, based simply on how they came here, not whether they need protection from war and persecution." The Bill will allow the detention of illegal arrivals without bail or judicial review within the first 28 days of detention, according to the Home Secretary.
Scottish Refugee Council chief executive Sabir Zazai said: "The Bill is a further attack on the right to seek asylum. The proposals would leave people fleeing violent and oppressive regimes with no legal way to claim asylum. But seeking asylum is a human right, and the UK has made international agreements to uphold that right. We can't see how the Government will be able to make these proposals work. Instead of grabbing headlines with a cruel and unworkable Bill, the UK Government should focus on building a compassionate, fair and workable asylum system."
The Home Office said the Bill would remove the incentive for people to risk their lives through dangerous crossings of the Channel and pull the rug from under the criminal gangs profiting from the journeys. Ms Braverman said: "It is completely unfair that people who travel through a string of safe countries then come to the UK illegally and abuse our asylum laws to avoid removal. It has to stop. If you come here illegally, you won't be able to claim asylum or build a life here. You will not be allowed to stay. You will be returned home if safe, or to a safe third country like Rwanda.”