Ukraine: Yorkshire charities join together to condemn Government's refugee Bill that 'punishes asylum seekers'

A coalition of over 120 charities, faith leaders and councillors across Yorkshire has warned that the Government’s refugee policies will “have grave consequences for people seeking safety and for our society as a whole.”

It comes as the Home Secretary Priti Patel was forced to u-turn on visa requirements for displaced Ukrainians desperately fleeing the war-torn country earlier this week.

In a statement seen exclusively by the Yorkshire Post, the charities, led by Asylum Matters, wrote: “As leaders, charities, communities, businesses and faith groups from Yorkshire, we are proud to be a place of welcome.

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“The recent outpouring of support across our region for people fleeing Ukraine and Afghanistan is testament to this.

Protestors campaigning against the Bill last month in Halifax. Photo: Veeca Smith Uka

“Our spirit of care and solidarity with people seeking safety is stronger than ever, regardless of their method of travel.

"The tragic loss of human life, to war, persecution, or in the Channel, is utterly devastating.

“Instead of allowing these avoidable deaths to continue, the UK must alter its course, showing global leadership by establishing a compassionate, humane protection system based on the right to seek asylum, safe routes and international cooperation.”

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The much criticised Bill is currently working its way through the legislative process, and last month elements of it were voted down in the House of Lords.

Campaigners say the Bill will mean all those who claim asylum after arriving in the UK through an irregular route - for example in small boats across the Channel - would face removal to a third country.

The Bill will also give the Government powers to strip people of British citizenship without warning if it is in the interest of “national security, diplomatic relations or otherwise in the public interest.”

Alison Lowe, deputy mayor for police and crime, said, “In West Yorkshire, we have a long and proud history of welcoming those who are in need or who are fleeing persecution and war. The Nationality and Borders Bill is racist, pure and simple, and I oppose it.”

Sara Trewhitt, the regional co-ordinator for Yorkshire’s cities of sanctuary which include Ripon and Sheffield, said: “The crisis in Ukraine underscores how quickly situations for individuals can change.

“This has happened, unfortunately, sadly, all too often in recent years in places like Syria and Afghanistan. The legislation that the government is bringing in will make it incredibly difficult for individuals who are facing similar situations.

“I would say it’s probably unrealistic to see that the whole Bill get reworked, but I do hope all of this forces the Government to reflect a lot more carefully on what they were originally planning.”

The Home Office was approached for comment.

Under Home Secretary Priti Patel’s proposed Nationality and Borders Bill, it will become a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK illegally without permission to be here and prison sentences of those who stay in the UK knowing it is illegal will be increased to a maximum of four years.

The Bill is currently being scrutinised in the House of Lords, where this week it was defeated 14 times as members grappled with amendments.

On Wednesday an amendment supported Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium saw Lords agree that the Government must have restrictions its power to carry out age assessments of asylum seekers.