Nationality and Borders Act

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What you need to know

The Nationality and Borders Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 6 July 2021. It was introduced following a consultation on the Home Office’s new plan for immigration.

Read our response to the new plan for immigration consultation

The bill received royal assent and became law on 28 April 2022.

The Nationality and Borders Act makes wide changes to the UK asylum system by:

  • introducing a two-tier asylum system, meaning those who arrive in the UK via irregular means may receive less protection and support
  • increasing the standard of proof for establishing someone is a refugee
  • reducing the threshold at which someone is considered to have committed a particularly serious crime and therefore may not receive refugee protection
  • removing stages of appeal or fast-tracking certain cases
  • introducing penalties for late submission of evidence, so that this is either taken to damage the claimant’s credibility or to affect the weight given to the evidence
  • giving the Immigration Tribunal additional powers, on top of those that already exist, to fine lawyers for improper, unreasonable or negligent behaviour

Our view

Throughout the legislative passage of the Nationality and Borders Act, we engaged with parliamentarians to ensure the voices of solicitors were heard.

We have significant concerns that a number of the act's measures are, or are likely to:

  • be incompatible with international law
  • damage access to justice, and
  • negatively impact on the role of lawyers in immigration cases

In particular, we're concerned that penalising refugees who arrive in the UK via irregular means is incompatible with the Refugee Convention 1951.

The ways in which thresholds relating to the UK’s obligations under the Refugee Convention are changed could also result in those entitled to protection being denied it.

We also believe the changes to procedures and appeals processes remove important safeguards and unfairly disadvantage those seeking asylum.

The changes ignore the practical difficulties of refugee and asylum cases, and risk resulting in unjust or poorly made decisions.

Moreover, additional powers to fine lawyers are unnecessary as they duplicate powers and regulatory regimes that already exist.

We're concerned they could create a conflict of interest that will drive a wedge between solicitors and their clients.

Find out more about the Nationality and Borders Act

What we’re doing

August 2022 – we set out a written submission to the House of Lords International Agreements Committee on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the provision of an asylum partnership arrangement

April 2022 – we raised our concerns with the UN in a submission to the universal periodic review of the UK (PDF 270 KB), and the bill received royal assent 

May 2021we responded to the new plan for immigration consultation

Get involved

We’ll be monitoring the effects of the Nationality and Borders Act to ensure any negative consequences are brought to the attention of lawmakers.

If you've represented a client where any of the new measures have caused concern, email our policy adviser Sinead Nowak.

Find out more about the UK's asylum partnership with Rwanda

Find out how we're building public support and political will for change in our Reframing Justice programme 

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