Nationality and borders bill
A new bill currently going through Parliament threatens significant and harmful consequences for thousands of refugee and asylum-seeking children and young people.
Instead of making things better, we believe that the Nationality and Borders Bill
abandons thousands of young people abroad who cannot access formal resettlement routes.
ignores the rights of child refugees, instead recklessly depicting young people as adults trying to ‘cheat the system’.
makes life immeasurably more difficult for young people in the UK, inhibiting the integration of those who have bravely travelled to a place of safety.
You can read our full response to and briefing for the proposed plans by clicking the button below, or scroll down to our top three recommendations below.
We celebrate the UK’s long history of welcoming refugees. This week, however, the House of Commons is debating a bill which will prevent our country from offering protection to those who most need it.
The proposals set out in the Nationality and Borders Bill claim to ‘fix our broken asylum system’. However, having studied the proposals and applied decades of sector experience from within our team, REUK believes that they will have the opposite effect.
3. Embark on a comprehensive anti-racist training programme for everyone involved with REUK.
All staff at REUK have undertaken diversity, equity and inclusion training but we are looking to improve our efforts in this regard. We are commissioning an external stakeholder for specific anti-racist training for staff. REUK is also committing to providing anti-racism training for all mentors as part of their volunteer training. We are also committing to providing anti-racism training for the young refugees who sit on our Youth Advisory Board.
4. Create an alternative pathway to diversity.
We are committed to making our staff vacancies more visible to a more racially diverse group of candidates. In addition, we are committing to creating at least one pathway to employment to make our team more diverse. REUK will be launching a paid traineeship programme for young people from forced migration backgrounds to join our staff team, as well as paid Lived Experience Advisors to inform and contribute to our strategic vision. The scheme aims to give young people invaluable, extended paid work experience and the skills to work in the charity and refugee and asylum sector. We also hope to launch an ambassador programme that will allow young refugees to take responsibility for REUK projects and initiatives and to boost their experience as they try to make progress in the labour market.
5. Reviewing and taking action in recruitment.
Last year REUK’s senior leadership team committed to reviewing our recruitment processes and updating our equal opportunities policy. We are now committing to a comprehensive, external review of our processes through an anti-racist lense, the findings of which we commit to taking concrete action on. The first steps have been taken to arrange this audit process and we look forward to enacting the recommendations.
What can you do?
Should the proposals be implemented, the unforeseen (and potentially unintended) consequences for refugee children and young people, and for the UK as a whole, will be devastating.
Now is the time to speak out.
Here are three simple actions you can take in support of those in need of safety in the UK:
1. Read our full response and briefing about the impact of these proposals on young refugees (or just scroll down for our top three recommendations).
2. Write or speak to your MP to oppose the proposals and explain why they will have such a horrific impact on the children and young people who need safety and welcome in the UK.
3. Share this page and our key reccomendations with your friends and family and promote positive stories on social media.
REUK key recommendations
We are pleased to be a part of Together with Refugees, a large coalition of organisations who oppose the plans and are calling for a kinder, more compassionate approach to refugee protection in the UK. REUK’s three top recommendations contribute to these wider responses by focusing on the proposals’ impact on children and young people.
1. The Home Office must ensure safe and legal routes are accessible to all refugee children and young people
The plans being debated in the Nationality and Borders Bill ignore the urgent and life-threatening reasons why children and young people flee their homelands (often without parents or guardians, including family-related violence and the risk of trafficking, sexual violence and female genital mutilation (FGM)).
Many unaccompanied asylum-seeking children lack the ability, knowledge and resources to access safe and legal routes and will have no option but to flee through routes deemed to be illegal. Children and young people should not be penalised for the manner in which they enter the country and their best interests must be prioritised.
2. The Home Office must prioritise children’s rights and change their negative depictions of unaccompanied children
Refugee and asylum-seeking children, including those who arrive in the UK on their own, are not adequately considered by the bill; they are treated as an afterthought. Although the UK has a long history of treating children as children first, migrant second, the bill raises serious questions about whether asylum-seeking children’s rights will be maintained and upheld going forward.
Where unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) are mentioned, the narrative is typically harmful, focussing on age assessments and on adults ‘posing’ as children. At REUK, we have seen the devastating impacts of such depictions on teenage boys’ lives: such narratives fuel fear, discrimination, and hostility towards them.
3. The Home Office must provide for meaningful integration, including access to education
The proposed new category of ‘temporary protection’ for refugees will push thousands more young people into limbo. Such unstable immigration status profoundly undermines young people's mental health and wellbeing and forces them to live in a state of precarity.
We know that education is essential for integration but it does not appear once in the government’s plans. ‘Temporary protection’ status would make it very difficult for refugee students to enter and remain in further and higher education and to access the tools they need to successfully integrate.
REUK is concerned about the proposals to prioritise those who are resettled to the UK based on their ability to integrate, over their need for protection. This contradicts, if not the letter, the spirit of the Refugee Convention. We have supported children and young people who may have, on paper, appeared difficult to integrate, but in reality have excelled and adapted to life in the UK.
REUK Statement in response to 'offshoring asylum' plans
During a holy and meaningful time for followers of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, it is very challenging and disturbing to see plans announced today which would see those arriving in the UK in search of safety removed to Rwanda. The plans do not respect the dignity or wellbeing of those seeking asylum. They deny our responsibility to welcome those seeking sanctuary, and are the antithesis of the recommendations we made in the consultation process around the New Plan for Immigration. REUK’s Youth Advocacy group have called the plans ‘inhumane’, and our Youth Advisory Board have expressed their concern about differential treatment of refugees from Europe elsewhere.
The proposals also distinguish between single men and ‘genuine women and child refugees’. This is deeply wrong and misrepresents the reality of forced migration. Refugees are refugees because of what they have experienced, not because of their gender, age or method of arrival. We have worked with many young male refugees who have travelled to the UK as asylum seekers to join family members who have already sought safety here. By sending these young men to Rwanda, the plans put a wedge between refugees, their families here and their families at home. They drastically reduce the likelihood of family reunification, which is and must always be a central feature of refugee protection.
Over the past ten years we have met hundreds of refugees who have fled for their lives but filled ours with happiness and hope. These plans reject those experiences and journeys, and so we reject them wholeheartedly. We stand in solidarity with every young refugee whose lived experience is denied by these plans. Now, we are focused on supporting young people as they process this news. We are also working with our organisational partners in the Together with Refugees coalition on a coordinated sector response. We recommend writing to your MP to oppose these plans as soon as you can, especially as the Nationality and Borders Bill is still moving through parliament. Our friends at JCWI have also put together this resource which collates in-person demonstrations across the country. We hope to see you there.