Plaid Cymru Westminster leader joins forces with refugee activist against Borders Bill

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, has today (Monday 19 July) joined forces with activist and refugee Joseff Gnagbo, from Cardiff, in opposition to Priti Patel’s “callous” asylum legislation, which will be debated in Parliament this week.

The Second Reading of the Nationality and Borders Bill, which is the cornerstone of the UK Government’s hostile ‘New Plan for Immigration’, will start on Monday in the House of Commons.

The far-reaching Bill will introduce penalties for people who arrive in the UK in ways the government considers to be illegal. This undermines one of the basic tenets of the 1951 Refugee Convention – that someone’s mode of arrival should have no influence on whether they have a right to make an asylum claim, or whether they are recognised as a refugee.

It will also expand the asylum accommodation estate, which would likely lead to more people being housed in unsuitable accommodation sites such as the Penally barracks in Pembrokeshire, which was described by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) as “impoverished, run-down and unsuitable for long-term accommodation”.

The Bill also makes provision for the offshore processing of asylum applications, despite several European countries, including France, having already ruled out striking bilateral deals of the return of asylum seekers. Rwanda recently responded to reports it would host an offshoring hub for Denmark and the UK by clarifying that there is no such agreement.

Joseff Gnagbo, originally from Côte d'Ivoire, works as a carer, a translator and a teacher, and volunteers for Cymdeithas yr Iaith, the Welsh Language Society. He has criticised the “callous approach” taken by the UK Government, which he says “will undermine Wales’s ambitions to become a Nation of Sanctuary” and will “encourage tensions between and within communities”.

The Plaid Cymru Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, who will today speak against the Bill at Second Reading in the House of Commons, said ahead of the debate that the Bill “rips up the UK’s international commitments under the Refugee Convention” and “formalises state-sanctioned cruelty against vulnerable people.”

The Refugee Council has described the legislation as an “anti-refugee bill” which is “likely to criminalise and punish many people seeking protection in this country, while also reducing one of the main ways that refugees can legally reach the UK.”

Speaking ahead of the debate in Westminster, Liz Saville Roberts MP said:

“Wales says with a united voice today: not in our name.

“Not only does Priti Patel’s callous Borders Bill rip up the UK’s international commitments under the Refugee Convention, it also formalises state-sanctioned cruelty against vulnerable people.

“Priti Patel’s approach is to see asylum seekers as a nuisance that should be pushed away from arriving here safely in the first place, and to hide those who do from the rest of society. Now, by treating asylum seekers as criminals that should be punished in inhabitable accommodation rather than helped to integrate into society, the Home Secretary is undermining the Welsh Government and wider Welsh civic society’s ambitions of being a Nation of Sanctuary.

“This Bill is also totally unworkable, expecting other countries to agree to process the UK’s asylum claims. It’s time the Home Secretary faces her own responsibilities and provide humane and serious solutions to help refugees and asylum seekers integrate into society.”

Joseff Gnagbo added:

“The callous approach taken by the UK Government will undermine Wales’s ambitions to become a Nation of Sanctuary and will encourage tensions between and within communities.

“We are already treated as an inconvenience under the current asylum system. Under these reforms, we will be treated as criminals. Women and children will find it impossible to seek asylum under these policies, which will lead to more families ripped apart.

“Since arriving in Wales in 2018 as an asylum seeker, I have immersed myself in the language and culture, becoming fluent in a year. The welcome I have received by the people of Wales in that time is in stark contrast with the Home Office’s cruel policies. I want refugees and asylum seekers to have more help in integrating into Welsh society. Sadly, this legislation seeks to make that almost impossible.”