All 1 Nadia Whittome contributions to the Illegal Migration Act 2023

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Mon 13th Mar 2023

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Illegal Migration Bill

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
2nd reading
Monday 13th March 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
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Let me remind the hon. Member for Blackpool South (Scott Benton) that the reason our public services are crumbling and people cannot see a dentist, and the reason NHS workers are queuing up at food banks and parents are living on their children’s leftovers, is nothing to do with migrants, asylum seekers or refugees; it is the fact that his party has been in power for the last 13 years.

Last night, Ke Huy Quan won best supporting actor at the Oscars. In the 1970s, he fled Vietnam in a refugee crisis that saw countries closing their borders to desperate people arriving by boat. Had he arrived on our shores under this Bill, he might well have been locked up and deported. Last year, the Olympian Sir Mo Farah revealed that he had arrived in the UK under a false passport, trafficked from a war zone into domestic servitude. Had he arrived under this Bill, he might not have been eligible for access to modern slavery protections.

I raise those examples not because I think that refugees should need to win awards and medals before they are respected, but to remind the House that the refugees whom the Government seeks to ban are people, with their own hopes and dreams—people who want to rebuild their lives and be reunited with their families; people who, like any one of us, may go on to do exceptional things or lead very ordinary existences, as should be their right. I say that because it seems that some Members need reminding of refugees’ humanity. When they say “invasion” they present desperate people seeking sanctuary as a threat, when they say “stop the boats” they mean that we should turn our back on refugees, and when their policy is welcomed by far-right groups, we should all be alarmed about the direction in which the Government are taking us.

What the Home Secretary is proposing is a de facto ban on seeking asylum in the UK, because for the vast majority of refugees there is no so-called legal way of reaching the UK. If you face religious persecution in Iran, there is no scheme to which you can apply. If you are a victim of torture in Eritrea, there is no visa that you can obtain. Even if you are from Afghanistan, a country that is supposed to have a resettlement scheme, the chances of your being accepted are vanishingly tiny: only 22 people have arrived under pathway 2. It is our asylum policies that are forcing people into the arms of smugglers and pushing people into fragile dinghies in the world’s busiest shipping lane, and it is this Government who are to blame for the misery that they cause. The only one way in which to resolve this situation is to open safe and legal routes—now.