Major faith and community leaders in Finchley and Golders Green sign letter calling for local MP Mike Freer to challenge the Nationality and Borders Bill





Local faith leaders, community representatives and residents in the constituency of Finchley and Golders Green, including Senior Rabbis and Quakers, have written to their local MP Mike Freer to express concern and request a meeting about the Nationality and Borders Bill [see Appendix A]. Convened by René Cassin, the Jewish voice for human rights, the letter outlines the harm posed to migrants and refugees by the Bill, due for return to Parliament next week.

Debora Singer, Finchley resident and René Cassin campaigner said:

‘As local community groups and individuals, we represent a range of opinions, but we are united in our conviction that human life is sacred, and that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. The UK has previously displayed this conviction, as an early and trailblazing signatory to the Refugee Convention.

‘However, the proposed changes to migration and asylum process undermine this belief, by preventing people from accessing the support they need and criminalising them for taking dangerous routes without creating safe alternatives.’

‘The unthinkable and tragic loss of 27 people in the Channel trying to reach safety last week must be a wakeup call regarding the harm this Bill can do, and we have expressed a desire to meet with our local MP Mike Freer, to raise this in Parliament.

The cross communal letter states that:

  • The Nationality and Borders Bill fails to safeguard the rights of those who are seeking sanctuary.
  • The Bill distorts the definition of the word ‘refugee’ so that it no longer meets international legal standards, or the needs of individuals seeking sanctuary on our shores
  • The ‘expedited process for claims and appeals made from detention’ completely undermines asylum seekers’ right to access fair legal representation
  • The plans to set up offshore processing ‘others’ asylum seekers and fails to comply with the UK’s own non-discrimination obligations under Articles 3 and 31 of the Refugee Convention

For more information and comment, contact: Esther Raffell, esther.raffell@renecassin.org

Notes for editors

  • The Nationality and Borders Bill is due back in the House of Commons for the Report Stage, where MPs are to vote on the amended version of the Bill, next Tuesday 6 and Wednesday 7 December
  • The Bill brings into law the Government’s New Immigration Plan, which expert organisations have repeatedly shown to be ineffective at achieving its own stated aims, whilst breaking international law and wasting public money
  • The Government’s own equality impact assessment has suggested the Bill carries ‘significant scope for indirect discrimination’, and ‘could encourage these cohorts to attempt riskier means of entering the UK’
  • For the full text of the letter and signatories, please see Appendix A

Appendix A

Mike Freer MP

Finchley and Golders Green Conservatives

212 Ballards Lane

Finchley

London

N32LX 

25.11.2021

Dear Mike Freer MP,

We write to you as individuals, organisations and faith groups based in your constituency who have concerns about the Nationality and Borders Bill currently making its way through Parliament, and the broader erosion of human rights threatened by the review of the Human Rights Act. As we see every day in our constituency, refugees and asylum seekers have always contributed to British society, socially, economically, and culturally, and this Bill flies in the face of those contributions.

We believe that the Nationality and Boarders Bill fails to safeguard the rights of those who are seeking sanctuary and criminalises them for taking perilous journeys for reasons outside their control. We write to you from the variety of backgrounds and faiths in our wonderful constituency, some of us are the children and grandchildren of refugees, and others are simply concerned constituents. What unites us is an unshakable belief in the dignity of the individual and a conviction that we can reach out and find common ground with those who may, at first glance, appear so unfamiliar to us. The UK has led the way in this regard before, being an early signatory to both the Refugee Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We believe that this Bill, as well as the pending review of the Human Rights Act, fail to live up to those standards and actively take us in the opposite direction.

First, the Bill distorts the definition of the word ‘refugee’ so that it no longer meets the standards of international law and more importantly, will fail to meet the needs of individuals seeking sanctuary on our shores. In clauses 28-32 various terms in the 1951 Refugee Convention are redefined including: persecution, well-founded fear, reasons for persecution, protection from persecution and internal relocation. Yet there is little suggestion that existing definitions either in case law, or primary and secondary legislation, are unfit for purpose.

Second, the proposal of “an expedited process for claims and appeals made from detention” completely undermines the rights of asylum seekers to access the justice system and legal representation fairly. A similar fast track system for people in detention was found to be unlawful in 2015 by the High Court with Mr Justice Nichol stating that the system was ‘structurally unfair, because their abbreviated timetable and the restricted case management powers….created a serious procedural disadvantage’. The current proposals threaten not only a return to this process but will also remove the right of appeal entirely. Such changes will lead to the denial of asylum and sanctuary to those who need it.

Finally, we are troubled by the plans to set up offshore processing of asylum seekers including plans to ‘amend sections 77 and 78 of the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 so that it is possible to move asylum seekers from the UK while their asylum claim, or appeal is pending’. This system fails to comply with the UK’s legal obligations of non-discrimination and non-penalisation under Articles 3 and 31 of the Refugee Convention. The offshore process also further ‘others’ asylum seekers, already marginalised by economic and cultural barriers and societal prejudice. Refusing to afford them the dignity of settling in the country they have sought sanctuary while making their asylum case is cruel and unnecessary.

The unthinkable and tragic loss of 27 people in the Channel trying to reach safety this week must be a wakeup call regarding the harm this Bill can do. The Government’s own impact assessment of the Bill has suggested ‘encourage these cohorts to attempt riskier means of entering the UK.’ It is for these reasons that we would welcome the chance to meet with you, either virtually or in our constituency of Finchley and Golders Green to talk through these concerns and urge you to vote against the Bill at any opportunity.

Yours sincerely,

Mia Hasenson-Gross, Executive Director, René Cassin: the Jewish voice for human rights

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism, New North London Synagogue

Michael Newman, Chief Executive, The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR)

Claire Farrier, Clerk, Golders Green Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Abubakar Ali, Chairman, the Somali Bravanese Welfare Association

Richenda Solon, Clerk, Finchley Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Rabbi Oliver Spike Joseph, Masorti Judaism, Rabbi New North London Synagogue,

Rabbi Zahavit Shalev, New North London Synagogue

Rabbi Miriam Berger, Finchley Reform Synagogue

Rabbi Deborah Blausten, Finchley Reform Synagogue

Rabbi Colin Eimer, Emeritus Rabbi, Sha'arei Tsedek, North London Reform Synagogue

Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director, The Jewish Council for Racial Equality, JCORE

Lara Balsam, Director: The International Jewish Vegetarian & Ecological Society

Debora Singer, Finchley and Golders Green resident, Human Rights lead at René Cassin

Esther Raffell, Campaign Officer, René Cassin: the Jewish voice for human rights

Michael Goldin, Finchley and Golders Green resident & solicitor at Wilson Solicitors LLP

Sabine Nierhoff, Freedom from Torture, Local Groups Manager, Finchley and Golders Green

Harriet Radley, Finchley and Golders Green Resident, Lawyer and Mediator in Training

Lawrence Radley, Finchley and Golders Green Resident, Lawyer at Reed Smith

Sophie Max, Finchley and Golders Green Resident

Sophie Hasenson, Finchley and Golders Green Resident

Eve Jackson, Finchley and Golders Green Resident, Yachad UK

David Snyder, Vintage Wealth Management, Finchley and Golders Green

Joely Axelrod - Finchley and Golders Green resident

Claire Disbrey, resident, Finchley and Golders Green

Rabbi Dr Elliott Karstadt, Alyth North Western Reform Synagogue

Rabbi Josh Levy, Alyth North Western Reform Synagogue

James Brooks, Finchley and Golders Green resident

Vanita Rasiah, Finchley and Golders Green resident, paediatrician

Press release distributed by Pressat on behalf of René Cassin, on Tuesday 30 November, 2021. For more information subscribe and follow https://pressat.co.uk/


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Major faith and community leaders in Finchley and Golders Green sign letter calling for local MP Mike Freer to challenge the Nationality and Borders Bill