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Nationality and Borders Bill: Compatibility with International Law

Volume 706: debated on Thursday 6 January 2022

6. What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on the compatibility of the Nationality and Borders Bill with international law. (904919)

To be clear, the UK prides itself on its leadership within the international system and the fact that it discharges its international obligations in good faith. The Nationality and Borders Bill brings in vital changes to enable this Government, and our immigration and Border Force operatives, to stop the illegal and dangerous trafficking of illegal migrants. I encourage everybody in this Chamber to get behind this vital Bill and support it.

Happy new year, Mr Speaker. The Attorney General may well pride herself on international leadership, but does she therefore agree with the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who recently corrected the Home Secretary’s claim that British citizenship is a privilege, not a right, and pointed out:

“Having a nationality is not a privilege—it’s a human right”

that is protected by UN treaties to which the UK is a party and which the UK is obliged to protect?

What is clear is that we need to take tangible action to deal with the problem of illegal migrants crossing our channel and dangerous traffickers exploiting some of the most vulnerable people in the world, while we also need to fix our broken asylum system. That is why the Nationality and Borders Bill addresses some of these very important issues through tangible proposals. The Home Office will continue to evaluate and test a range of safe and legal options for stopping small boats, and I support that activity.

Does the Minister agree that the Bill helps protect our fight against human trafficking? It will be very interesting to see what the Lords sends back to us, but will the Government continue to commit themselves to ending this evil trade?

There are no two ways about it, and I am proud to say to my hon. Friend that I really support this Government’s attempts to end this evil trade, as he puts it. It is immoral that the criminal people traffickers are taking advantage of people and putting their lives at risk. The people making these crossings do not have the skills or the equipment to traverse some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world safely, and it is of fundamental importance that the Government disrupt this business model and make it untenable.

Over the Christmas holidays, I read “The Lightless Sky”, the account by Gulwali Passarlay of his journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan to the UK. After reading that book, I would ask the Minister—and I recommend that she reads it, too—whether she accepts that human traffickers only exist because of the absence of the safe and legal routes that this Government continue to deny to those who are in desperate need and fleeing for their lives?

We are subject to international obligations that make it clear that, if people have legitimate claims for asylum, there are safe and legal routes through which they may pursue those. To get on an illegally manned vessel and to try to break through our borders illegitimately is dangerous, immoral and unlawful.