The Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, Rene Cassin and World Jewish Relief have released a joint statement in response to the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill.
‘As British Jewish organisations, we share a common desire that the UK must protect and support those in need of asylum.
‘Many people in the Jewish community originally came to the UK as frightened and vulnerable refugees – some on the Kindertransport – and were welcomed into this country.
‘In the Torah, we are commanded, “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love them as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt”
‘We share the Government’s desire to reform the asylum system. We would want the UK to demonstrate being a proud and principled sanctuary for the relatively small number of people who seek safety here from persecution and war. Like others in the refugee and asylum sector, we want to see a fair and effective asylum system that treats people with compassion, dignity and respect.
‘There are few safe routes for those seeking asylum to get to the UK and for those that are here, decision making is slow and accommodation conditions are unsavoury limiting the support that those most in need require. Reform should focus on greater investment in the capability and capacity to assess and make decisions on asylum claims in a humane and informed way and be part of a greater global effort around resettlement.
‘We are concerned that the Nationality and Borders Bill seeks to assess those seeking asylum differently based on their means of arriving in the UK rather than on what they have fled from, and their respective protection needs. The assumption that by restricting the rights and entitlement of those seeking asylum here will reduce the scale of people smuggling is not clear. In reality, this attempt at deterrence will not protect those fleeing persecution, oppression or tyranny. It will do little to prevent dangerous Channel crossings nor undermine the efforts of people smugglers.
‘We have concerns about the proposals to limit access to family reunion for many people granted refugee status, because of how they arrived in the UK. These proposals are likely to reduce the number of families being reunited and increase the risk of families taking dangerous journeys to be with their loved ones.
‘While the Bill celebrates the UK’s recent positive past resettlement success as a safe route to seek protection, it is a missed opportunity that the Bill does not set targets or seek to expand on the number of those being resettled.
‘Finally, we are worried by the suggestion to expand the UK’s indefinite immigration detention system into offshore facilities, and we encourage the Government to consider the proven community-based alternatives to detention.
‘Together, we urge the Government to give consideration to these concerns as the bill makes its journey through Parliament. The UK has a proud tradition of providing refuge to those fleeing conflict and persecution and this must be upheld.’