Fears are growing that the Westminster government will use increasing attempts by desperate refugees to cross the English Channel for a better life in the UK as an excuse for attacks on the Human Rights Act.
Leaks to right-wing newspapers suggest Boris Johnson told a meeting of the so-called Common Sense group of Conservative MPs that reforms of the Act are on the agenda.
The connection between the Act and the Channel crossings may seem tenuous. In fact arguments used by yesterday’s Sunday Express barely made sense. It said that the Act was used by ‘’left-wing lawyers to prevent deportations and force the government to provide accommodation and spending money to illegal migrants’’.
Westminster’s Human Rights Joint Committee are already worried about the UK government’s Nationality and Borders Bill which comes before the Westminster parliament this week. They say some clauses may breach the Human Rights Act.
Priti Patel wants to increase the maximum penalty for overstaying a visa from six months to four years’ imprisonment
The Bill aims to make it easier to deport people who overstay their visas. It is known that UK home secretary Priti Patel wants to increase the maximum penalty for overstaying a visa from six months to four years’ imprisonment.
The Scottish Refugee Council says the Bill represents’’ the biggest threat to refugee rights in the UK we have seen for decades’’. They say one of the most worrying aspects of the legislation is that it would create a two-tier system of refugee protection.
The refugee council says it will discriminate between people seeking asylum based on how they arrived at the UK, not their fear of persecution It adds: ‘’People who do not arrive in the UK through a so-called ‘safe and legal route’ like a resettlement scheme or arrive in the UK via whichever route they could, will no longer be eligible for refugee protection.’’
Powers over the asylum and immigration system are not devolved to Scotland and remain reserved to Westminster. The new Bill, however, includes clauses which will impact upon actions which government and local authorities in Scotland do have control over, such as the criminal justice system, human trafficking law and Scottish government policy on New Scots’ rights, ending destitution and homelessness and mental health policy.
Only independence would give Scotland power over its own immigration policy and truly protect the rights of refugees in this country
The Scottish Refugee Council and Just Right Scotland have commissioned and will soon publish expert legal opinion on key devolved impacts of this Bill and how Scotland can use its powers to help refugees in Scotland.
Only independence would give Scotland power over its own immigration policy and truly protect the rights of refugees in this country.
The Home Secretary’s rush to deflect the blame for the UK’s harsh treatment of refugees has already seen her falsely blame Scotland for ‘’not doing its part’’ to help asylum seekers.
She said it was a “disgrace” that only one council out of the 32 in Scotland had agreed to participate in the Home Office dispersal scheme. Scottish local government organisation COSLA immediately hit back that Glasgow City Council has taken in more asylum seekers than any other council in the UK. But, after a stabbing incident in a Glasgow city centre hotel used to house asylum seekers, Scottish councils suspended their participation in the Home Office hotel scheme.
Some critics have claimed that problems arising from so many more people now risking their lives by crossing the English Channel are made worse by Brexit.
When the UK left the EU it also left an agreement among member states that if anyone sets foot in another EU country first, they can be returned to that country.