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#TogetherWithRefugees – Time to Mobilise

We know this is a difficult time for all of us who support and work with people seeking sanctuary. We hope that you will be able to find comfort, support, reassurance, and power in the Together With Refugees Coalition, City of Sanctuary networks and the wider movement, who firmly believe in standing Together With Refugees. 

Nationality and Borders Bill update

The Together With Refugees campaign (alongside other campaigning organisations/coalitions) have been preparing for the new Nationality and Borders Bill ahead of the first reading of the Nationality and Borders Bill (most likely in the week beginning Monday 5th July).

The first reading will be the first time the bill will be published as a House of Commons paper and is when we will have a better idea of what changes we can expect to see (it is important to note that many changes can also be introduced without going through the Parliamentary process through changes to Immigration Rules or Policies). 

To find out more Together With Refugees is organising a Nationality and Borders Bill webinar, on Thursday 8th July at 5PM. Please join via this zoom link.

Together With Refugees will also be sharing resources to support campaigning work, including a Together With Refugees local campaigns pack.  

The second reading of the bill will likely be a week to ten days later (possibly the 14th July 2021); this will be the first opportunity for MP’s to debate the general principles and themes of the bill. It will be important for groups with existing relationships with MP’s to encourage them to attend to get a better sense of what is proposed. 

During the summer plans will be developed for engaging with MP’s, both in terms of encouraging them to oppose the bill, as well as gaining support for amendments. At this stage we do not know what will be in the bill, but it is likely that there will be little in it that will be effective, fair or humane. City of Sanctuary UK is actively discussing and collaborating with others as part of the Together With Refugees Campaign Coordination group. Internally we’ve had some discussions regarding key priorities for City of Sanctuary UK (which will of course depend on the content of the bill), they currently include:-

  •         Right to Sanctuary – (No to the three tier system and change to temporary protection which includes elements of NRPF and family reunion restrictions);
  •         Everyone should be adequately supported (No to asylum support changes from 2016 Immigration Act & any further extension to NRPF)
  •         People seeking sanctuary should be welcomed and housed within communities (No to Reception Centres/Offshore options).

As soon as we have further information on the Together With Refugees priorities, and our other coalition/campaigning organisations, we will share with the City of Sanctuary networks. It is important to note that Autumn will be a crucial time for mobilising opposition to the bill as the report/committee/third reading stages will offer opportunities for MP’s to scrutinise and lay amendments. It will be vitally important to engage with MP’s. We will keep our networks regularly updated with information. 

The bill will then go to the Lords, we will update with further information when this happens. We will likely see the bill passed into legislation in early 2022.

A call for local mobilisation

From the end of July, and for the rest of the year, in support of the Together With Refugees campaign, we will be encouraging local mobilisation activities which will enable groups and our supporters to show their support for people seeking sanctuary (as well as encouraging the lobbying of MP’s as the bill passes through Parliament).

There is much we can do:

  1.   Celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the UN Convention and promote this as a standard to uphold.
  2.   Continue to build the movement for welcome through ongoing streams and awards work.
  3.   Continue to build pledges of support and promote the #TogetherWithRefugees orange heart symbol to reflect the growing level of support for people seeking sanctuary amongst your networks and the public (the local campaign pack will be published shortly with ideas for activities, we will update this article with the information);
  4.   Use the Celebrating Sanctuary toolkit to engage your MP (and encourage them to oppose the bill and support amendments). Set up meetings, talk to MP’s, include people with lived experience, promote the positive contributions of people seeking sanctuary and remind them of the UK’s history of welcoming people seeking safety. Provide the evidence of support for people seeking sanctuary in their constituency and engage as many people as possible to talk with the MP, especially key allies such as leaders of faith groups, communities, businesses, trade unions and professional associations. 
  5.   Encourage your MP to pledge support to the #TogetherWithRefugees vision for a kinder, fairer and more effective approach to supporting refugees and use the opportunity of a meeting with them or a public event to photograph them holding the orange heart symbol. 

 We need to be realistic and strategic; the road to securing an effective, fairer and humane approach to the asylum process will be long haul. We do not expect, with a government majority, to overthrow the bill completely. However, working together in coalitions and alongside our partners in multiple networks, we hope to see some positive gains, not least a growing movement for welcoming people seeking sanctuary and a move closer to realising our vision.

If your group or organisation has not yet joined Together With Refugees, alongside more than 250 organisations, then head over to their website. See our original callout and rationale to join here.

Keep alert to campaign developments and be prepared to mobilise public support in the coming months. Please do also share your plans and ask for support and help if required.