We need your help! It takes a community to take action against the Nationality and Borders Bill

The government is planning to introduce new rules to define how our country treats refugees – in a more hostile way. St Augustine’s stand in solidarity with our partners in calling the Nationality and Borders Bill the Anti-Refugee Bill, as this is the clear message of its content.

The Bill contradicts to the Government’s purported aim of “increasing the fairness and efficiency of our asylum system”. Despite their stated intent, the Bill and their New Plan for Immigration consultation which preceded it (see our response from May 2021) is in reality peppered with fundamental flaws, and seeks to redesign the asylum system to make it harder and more complicated, with no real regard to the resulting inaccessibility and unfairness this will cause for the very people seeking safety the system is there to protect. Many of whom are our centre members. We are working with the #TogetherWithRefugees network to oppose the Bill which ignores the realities of why people have to flee and seek sanctuary and does not address any of the problems it purports to resolve. In fact, the impact of the bill is likely to be so severe that the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and many other international organisations have publicly condemned the plans, saying that they “risk undermining the 1951 Refugee Convention and international protection system, not just in the UK, but globally.”

The recent humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan is a crucial test of the UK’s refugee protection system. Recent weeks have illustrated just how quickly situations in which people who are in need of refuge can escalate – St Augustine’s featured on BBC national news about it.

We hope you will be able to support us in standing against these plans and standing Together With Refugees.

More details about the Bill and its stages in parliament can be found below at the end.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Write to your local councillor!

It is vital you make your local councillor aware of this Bill, and encourage them to publicly oppose the anti-refugee bill and call for a different approach that protects people seeking safety. Particularly if you live in Calderdale, where our local authority is an area with high asylum dispersal rates. This is unevenly distributed across the country – meaning local authorities often have to front the large costs responding to frontline refugee protection, with little government support.

This Bill will severely impact on local authorities like Calderdale. Contacting your local councillor, so they can raise this issue with their authority, is as crucial as contacting your MP. You should also encourage them to attend our ‘Refugee Celebration’ event on Tuesday 19th October. All Calderdale Councillors have had an invitation. We call for Government and local authorities must work collaboratively to have a robust and safe system.

Many MPs and local decision-makers will have heard from the small but vocal minority who oppose a compassionate approach to refugees (encouraged a lot by the media). It is crucial that they hear from people and groups in their constituencies who stand together with refugees, and that we work together to build an alternative, compassionate vision for the UK asylum system.

Lobby your MP and other decision-makers

As well as councillors, engaging with your MP, Mayors and other regional leaders is also important to put this Bill on their radar, and call on them to support a different approach. In Calderdale, our two local MPs, Craig Whittaker and Holly Lynch, are on the Borders Bill committee – so each have an opportunity to directly influence this legislation, and Calderdale therefore has a direct opportunity to get its voice heard. We need to let them know the extent of the welcoming community and great contributions from people seeking sanctuary in Calderdale, and that the harmful proposals in the Bill do not represent the wishes of our local community.

Our partner, Asylum Matters, have produced this useful set of resources for engaging with political people:

Please keep us informed about any responses you receive.

Support our community celebration event on 19th October

At the same time as the Bill progresses through parliament, St Augustine’s are coming together with the Orange Box young people’s centre and Project Challenge to celebrate community support for people seeking sanctuary at an event at the Orange Box on Tuesday 19th October, 6pm to 8pm. This event is in support of our #TogetherWithRefugees ‘Orange Heart’ campaign – which aims to show messages of support and welcome to people seeking sanctuary with orange hearts.

As part of this event, we want to fill the Orange Box foyer with orange hearts containing messages of welcome. You can help us do this by submitting your own message of welcome by filling in the form here. We will then write your message on a heart for you to be displayed at the event. You can also download your own orange heart here.

If your workplace, organisation or school would like to help as a group, we can help! Please contact amber.ray@staugustinescentrehalifax.org.uk to make arrangements.

Schools – we need you!

If you are a teacher or work in a school – we need your help! This October we want to show that Calderdale supports refugees and we want as many young people in the area to write an orange heart with a message of welcome.

The orange heart is a symbol of the #TogetherwithRefugees campaign and represents compassion for people fleeing war and persecution. Inspired by the refugee nation flag, and the colours of a life jacket, the heart symbolises hope and kindness.

Have you considered making your own display in school? Or fundraising? Anything with a display that has impact. By re-creating and displaying the heart in school, in the local community and on social media you can show your support for refugees. There are so many ideas, activities and resources for school involvement here.

We would also highly encourage you to explore becoming a School of Sanctuary, please contact Lisa for more information on schools@calderdale.cityofsanctuary.org.

Join the Together with Refugees coalition St Augustine’s are key members of a new UK-wide coalition, Together with Refugees, that is working together to call for a more humane approach to people seeking protection in the UK. You can find more information and campaign resources on their website, and join the coalition here.

There is a big national TWR ‘Week of Action’ 18-24 October, to coincide with opposing the Bill. See here for more info on how to get involved – and we will also be organising lots of things locally. Please keep an eye out on our social media.

But the biggest thing you can do…

Is SMILING, being friendly to people in your community and making everyone feel welcome. We have a brilliant, strong community of wonderful people here and will not let these hostile plans affect us. Thank you for your ongoing support.