Coventry City Council and its partners are urging the government to throw out the Nationality and Borders Bill and to create safe and accessible routes to the UK for those seeking safety and refuge.

Today marks exactly six months since the Taliban took over Kabul.

Their takeover created one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises and left many vulnerable, seeking safety and refuge wherever they could.

As a city, Coventry has a very long and proud history of providing safety and refuge to those seeking sanctuary from war and persecution.

Alongside our voluntary and statutory partners across the city and the wider West Midlands region, we have continuously supported new arrivals to settle and integrate into Coventry so that they can begin to rebuild their lives alongside their families with dignity and compassion.

This warmth and welcome offered by the Council and its partner organisations such as Central England Law Centre (CELC) and Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre (CRMC) in the UK’s only city of peace and reconciliation stands in stark contrast to the Nationality and Borders Bill.

Deputy Leader for Coventry City Council, Councillor Abdul Salam Khan, said: “The UK asylum system whilst deeply complex, is also deeply flawed. It contains significant issues that detrimentally affect people living in Coventry including a record backlog of cases awaiting a decision as well as enforced poverty and homelessness brought about by an effective ban on working.

“We do not believe that the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill adequately addresses these issues in any capacity and instead creates a two-tier system; criminalising those seeking safety due to the method in which they arrive by threatening them with deportation or incarceration and perpetuating hateful discourse around refugees and asylum seekers.  

“Instead, we believe that this is an ‘anti-refugee’ bill that undermines not just an individuals’ right to safety but also our legal and moral obligation as a global nation to support those most in need in accordance with the precedent set out in international and domestic law.

“This bill will only exacerbate the issue of cases awaiting a decision, warehouse people in larger accommodation centres and push many refugees into temporary and precarious situations”.

Urging the government to work more closely with local authorities, Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, Councillor David Welsh, added:

“Not only do we believe that this bill contravenes international law, but it also undermines the ability for individuals to rebuild their lives here in Coventry and will drive more vulnerable people into poverty and destitution.   

“We have witnessed first-hand the profound impact of new arrivals, where they have provided unwavering professionalism and support working for our NHS during times of crisis, and in supporting our skilled workers helping to build homes, schools, and other vital services up and down the UK.

“Migrants have gone onto work at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire, enter higher education at world-renowned universities, become British citizens at the UK’s first citizenship ceremony for children and young people, and given back to the community that’s supported them by volunteering at community centres and charities throughout the city.

“This is a powerful testament to the vital contributions new arrivals make to Coventry and to the UK.

“The United Kingdom is seen as a beacon of prosperity, liberty and freedom to many around the world and it is critical that we have an asylum system that is fit for purpose and actively empowers people seeking safety so they can rebuild their lives and become actively engaging members of their community.

“This is why we’re calling upon the government to throw out the Nationality and Borders Bill and work holistically with local authorities as well as leading migration experts and organisations in Coventry and beyond, to build an effective and fairer system based on insight, reason and compassion”.

Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre (CRMC) has been supporting people who seek sanctuary from war and persecution for decades, and a high proportion of staff working at the centre have lived experience. Toni Soni, CRMC Centre Director, said:

“It was very disappointing to hear that the bill was passed, but around the UK the hard work continues to create a better, more compassionate approach for people seeking safety. We challenged the bill and called for the opportunity for fair and efficient hearings, ensuring people can live in dignity in communities while they wait to find out if they will be granted protection. We want a system that enables people to rebuild their lives and make valuable contributions to our communities.

“We have seen the terrible consequences of the lack of safe routes with the tragic loss of life as people try to cross the Channel. These deaths were avoidable, and no-one should feel like their only option to find safety is by crossing the busiest shipping lane in the world in a dinghy. If people have access to a safe route, they will use it. We need a better system based on safety and compassion that provide safe routes to people seeking safety in the UK. We need it now.”

Published: Tuesday, 15th February 2022