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Tell the UK Government to protect the rights of refugees

Tell the UK Government to protect the rights of refugees

An MSF and Greenpeace rescue team respond to a sinking rigid inflatable boat carrying 45 Afghan refugees crossing from Turkey to the north shore of Lesvos, Greece. 2015. Caption
An MSF and Greenpeace rescue team respond to a sinking rigid inflatable boat carrying 45 Afghan refugees crossing from Turkey to the north shore of Lesvos, Greece. 2015.

Our staff have seen some of the world’s worst examples of the abuse and mistreatment of vulnerable refugees.

From the Greek islands, where children are packed into dangerous, filthy open-air prisons at a terrible cost to their mental and physical health, to Libya, where people, including pregnant women and babies, are rescued in the Mediterranean and pushed back into terrifying detention centres – Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) medical teams have seen the worst.

“I've seen first-hand the horrifying physical and mental suffering of men, women and children trapped in the Greek islands, created by cruel migration policies like those contained in the UK Government's Nationality and Borders Act"

Sophie McCann
|
MSF advocacy officer

That is why we are so worried that the UK Government has legalised these inhumane and potentially lethal approaches in this country.

We need your help to stop these harmful policies from being implemented.


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The measures are contained in the Nationality and Borders Act, which became law in April 2022.

This Act opens the door for the Government to transfer its Refugee Convention responsibilities to another country in return for money by forcibly expelling people seeking asylum to Rwanda and other countries, just like the Australian Government has done on the island of Nauru, where one-third of MSF’s patients had attempted suicide. (The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Australia’s offshoring regime is unlawful and described it as “cruel, inhuman or degrading”.)

It is likely that the first asylum seekers will be permanently and forcibly expelled from the UK before the end of June. 

The Nationality and Borders Act also allows the Home Secretary to force people seeking safety into isolated quasi-detention centres, which may lead to a deterioration in mental health and will likely impact people’s ability to access appropriate, timely and quality physical and mental healthcare.

An MSF medic attends to a man In the Dahr-el-Jebel detention centre, near Yefren, Libya. When MSF began working in the centre in May 2019, we were horrified to discover that at least 22 migrants and refugees had died of diseases, mainly tuberculosis. Caption
An MSF medic attends to a man In the Dahr-el-Jebel detention centre, near Yefren, Libya. When MSF began working in the centre in May 2019, we were horrified to discover that at least 22 migrants and refugees had died of diseases, mainly tuberculosis.

The Act will also punish desperate people fleeing conflict and persecution for arriving in the UK in the ‘wrong’ way.

These journeys – like crossing the Channel in flimsy inflatables – are deemed ‘illegal’, yet all the while the UK continues to shut down safe and legal routes.

“So long as the British government continues to play political games with the lives of those seeking our help and protection, we will continue fighting these abhorrent policies and standing with our fellow human beings. They are worthy of thought, care, consideration and respect, and deserve to be treated with humanity, not cruelty and contempt.”

Sophie McCann
|
MSF advocacy officer

When you look at the detail, Home Secretary Priti Patel’s claim that the Act “will increase the fairness of our system so that we can better protect and support those in genuine need of asylum” is shown to be dangerously untrue.

Indeed, almost one in four people crossing the Channel in the first quarter of 2022 were Afghan, despite 91 percent of Afghan asylum claims being granted at initial decision in the last 12 months. This suggests that the UK government’s existing schemes are wholly insufficient in responding to the protection needs of Afghans fleeing violence and persecution.  

With your help we raised our concerns with the Government and with MPs during the Nationality and Borders Bill passage through Parliament but, unfortunately, we couldn't get the Home Secretary to change course.

That is why we need your help now more than ever to raise your voice with members of parliament.

The more we can show that people in this country do not want to see vulnerable people being needlessly made to suffer, the better chance we have of stopping policies of the Act from becoming a reality.

 

We need your help  

 

We urgently need you to write to your MP – you can find their contact details using the tool below – and ask them to protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and voice their opposition to the law. The Government can still choose not to implement its cruel policies. We must stop Priti Patel from expelling people to Rwanda by force.

Using your own words will carry more impact, so we have not provided a template letter. However, you may wish to make the following requests:

  • Demand this government immediately halt their cruel plans to forcibly expel men, women and children to Rwanda. This will cause terrible suffering and misery, as MSF teams have seen elsewhere in the world, and undermines the spirit of the Refugee Convention.
     
  • Ask the Government what analysis has been carried out to assess whether men, women and children will be put at risk of self-harm, suicide or mental distress as a direct result of being put in pseudo-detention centres, or being forcefully expelled from the UK to Rwanda.
     
  • Request this government open safe and legal routes. Punishing refugees, who are forced to use irregular routes, harms men, women and children seeking safety.
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Sign our petition

By signing this petition, you're telling Home Secretary Priti Patel that you stand in opposition to the Nationality and Borders Act. Specifically, you are against:

  • punishing refugees based on how they arrive in the UK
  • potentially deadly 'push-backs' at sea
  • allowing refugees and asylum seekers to be indefinitely detained in offshore processing centres.

You support:

  • the opening of safe routes for all refugees to come to the UK, regardless of whether they have family here.
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This page was last updated on 28 April 2022

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