LONDON: A bill being debated by British MPs would cause “more suffering” and “less protection” for asylum seekers, Human Rights Watch warned on Wednesday.
“Perhaps the most draconian immigration bill in the United Kingdom’s history is moving swiftly through parliament, currently in its final days of scrutiny in the Commons,” HRW said in a statement.
The Nationality and Borders Bill would see London introduce new measures that would crack down on a range of methods that asylum seekers use to enter the UK, including by introducing offshore processing for asylum seekers and introducing pushbacks at sea.
The bill “seeks to dismantle core tenets of the international refugee regime, one which the UK helped establish,” HRW said.
“It would see vulnerable Afghans and other asylum seekers being criminalized and imprisoned for up to four years; pushed back at sea; sent abroad for offshore asylum processing, and afforded lesser rights as refugees simply for exercising their basic right to seek asylum in the UK.”
The recent exodus of NATO allies from Afghanistan, HRW said, is an example of how these new rules are not fit for purpose.
“Less than two weeks ago, at least 27 people died after their boat capsized crossing the English Channel. Among those rescued and brought safely to British shores was an Afghan soldier who had served alongside British forces in Afghanistan and his family,” the rights group added.
“Under the proposed law, refugees like this Afghan soldier would face the prospect of being pushed back at sea or taken to an offshore detention site … Many Afghans are at imminent risk and don’t have the luxury of waiting to see if they’ll get a place under the UK’s resettlement scheme, forcing them to hastily flee by boat or on foot.
“Under this bill, they would face pushbacks and, if lucky enough to arrive, criminalization, and discriminatory treatment in the asylum system.”