Punishing refugees who seek asylum in the UK at odds with voter views reveals new poll

A clear majority of people in the UK reject the rationale underpinning the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill which singles out those who have to take a clandestine route to safety, a new poll by the Law Society of England and Wales shows.

Under the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, refugees who make their own way to the UK would be given only temporary protection, with very few rights (to work, receive support or healthcare), while the very few refugees who manage to apply for asylum before travelling to the UK would receive the full level of support available. But currently it is very difficult for people to apply for asylum before arriving in the UK.

“The Lords have made valuable changes to the Bill, most importantly removing punitive measures that would so severely disadvantage refugees just because they arrive in the UK without prior permission,” Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said.

“We’re really concerned that if Lords amendments are rejected by the Commons the Nationality and Borders Bill may not comply with international law or uphold access to justice for refugees.

“Almost two thirds of people (65%) said refugees who have to take clandestine routes to reach safety in the UK should have the same rights as refugees who are brought here by the government (just 33% said they should have fewer rights).

“When parliament votes on the Bill on 22 March MPs should follow the will of the people and support the Lords’ amendment.

“Punishing refugees who arrive in the UK without prior permission would also almost certainly put the UK in breach of the United Nations (UN) Refugee Convention, which the UK helped form.

“The government is warned: they have scant support for breaking Britain’s word – 71% of the population said the UK should honour its commitments in the convention. Just 13% said it was ‘OK’ to deviate from the UK’s international commitment to refugees.

“The UK helped create the United Nations Refugee Convention after the second World War. The Nationality and Borders Bill would undermine this, damaging the rule of law and Britain’s reputation for justice and fairness,” said I. Stephanie Boyce.

“Let’s instead have an asylum system that is fair and fit for purpose – that makes decisions which have a profound impact on people’s lives in line with British values and our international commitments.”

Notes to editors

Law Society public opinion poll, 1 March 2022, 1,954 respondents, weighted to reflect the UK population.

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