Last night MPs voted against five amendments which represented a little light in an otherwise dark and nasty piece of legislation, the Immigration Bill 2015-16.
The amendments concerned unaccompanied children seeking sanctuary, indefinite detention, detention of pregnant women, the rights of overseas domestic workers, and asylum seekers’ right to work. See below for more details.
Tonight, the debate will return to the House of Lords. Some of these decisions may be voted against, some may have compromise alternative amendments, and then it will return again to the Commons where MPs will have another go. But whatever happens, MPs will eventually be voting on an Immigration Bill that, even if some of the compromise amendments go through, will represent another piece of the “hostile environment”. Another piece of legislation designed to discourage or prevent people from coming to the UK to seek sanctuary or for work, study or family reasons. More rules to make life so unbearable for those who are here that they choose to leave, or to criminalise their residence in order to imprison and deport them. More cuts to legal assistance or an appeals process, to prevent legal challenges to injustice.
This is all done in our name, by our elected representatives. So what can we do about it? Here are seven things to get started. If you have more suggestions for people, leave a comment.
Seven things you can do for refugee and migrant rights
1. TODAY: sign the petition to show support for the new Lord Dubs amendment to Save Lone Child Refugees In Europe. This is being voted on in the House of Lords this evening, 26 April. Sign the petition here.
2. Support people suffering in fortress Europe. People seeking sanctuary are in dire need of help to deal with the increasingly violent border enforcement of fortress Europe. There are many ways you can help people who are in France, Greece and across Europe. To get started check out some of these Facebook groups (and search online for more – these are just a few examples, and you will find local projects near where you live)
- Calais People to People Solidarity
- Help Refugees
- Calais Kitchens
- Calais Migrant Solidarity (No Borders)
3. Northern England solidarity network. If you are in the north of England, register for the migrant solidarity gathering this coming Saturday 30th April in Newcastle. Groups, activists and volunteers will be coming from all over the north to discuss working together for refugee and migrant rights. Facebook event here.
4. Day of action against detention. Saturday 7th May is a national day of action against immigration detention, with protests outside all the UK detention centres. Find your nearest action and more info here.
5. Support people at risk of detention. If you are involved in a community project supporting asylum seekers or other migrants, you can set up a scheme to help people to prepare for, avoid, or better deal with detention and the threat of detention. Read about signing support and detention action plans here.
6. Join a detention visiting group. Detention can destroy lives. You can volunteer as a visitor at detention centres to help people to get through this traumatic time. Contact AVID, the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees, for information on visitors groups you might be able to join.
7. Support the domestic workers campaign. Justice 4 Domestic Workers is one of the campaigning groups calling for justice and rights for Britain’s sixteen thousand foreign domestic workers. Find out more about this issue, and how you can support their campaign, here.
WHAT THE MPs VOTED AGAINST
Amendment 87: The Dubs amendment on unaccompanied children in Europe
That 3,000 of the very many unaccompanied children across Europe who are seeking sanctuary should be relocated to Britain for protection. 294 MPs voted against, 274 voted in favour. You can find a list of those MPs who voted here.
Amendment 84: Judicial oversight of detention more than 28 days
This proposed that in order to lock someone up in immigration detention for over 28 days, the Home Office would in most cases need to seek permission from the courts. MPs voted against this, 302 votes to 266, supporting instead the government alternative amendment which proposes an automatic bail hearing for people detained for over 6 months.
Amendment 85: Detention of pregnant women
The Lords voted for an amendment for an absolute ban on the detention of pregnant women. MPs defeated this proposal by 302 votes to 266, voting instead for a government amendment which allows pregnant women to be detained for 72 hours, and up to one week in some circumstances.
Amendment 60: Overseas domestic workers
This Amendment would give overseas domestic workers the right to change their employer. Under the current rules, overseas domestic workers are incredibly vulnerable to exploitation and slavery as their options to leave their employer, even when abusive, are extremely limited. This was a chance to help end modern day slavery in the UK, but MPs voted 304 to 268 against.
Amendment 59: Right to work for asylum seekers
Asylum seekers are effectively banned from working while their claims are examined, a rule brought in under the last Labour government. This amendment would have allowed people to work (and pay taxes) if they had waited for over 6 months for a decision on their asylum claim. It was proposed by the Labour Party and voted for by the Lords, but Labour MPs abstained, making the vote 303 to 60 against.
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On reaching the UK, people face a hostile environment. Without help, many will be forcibly sent back to the wars, persecution and misery they have fled.
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