Ministers in Scotland and Wales have jointly condemned as “barbaric” measures in the UK Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill – as well as warning the legislation may need approval from the parliaments in Edinburgh and Cardiff.
Scottish Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison and her Welsh counterpart Jane Hutt have written a joint letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel to demand the UK reconsiders its “hostile environment strategy” and develops “sufficient safe and legal routes” for asylum seekers.
And they are calling for Ms Patel to have talks with them before the end of the year, as they have been “no ministerial meetings in relation to these matters”.
The Nationality and Borders Bill – which cleared the Commons on Monday – seeks to curb these crossings and also change how asylum claims are processed.
Both the Scottish and Welsh governments have “far-reaching concerns about the impact of the provisions” in the Bill, the Home Secretary was told.
Ms Robison and Ms Hutt stated: “This legislation contains measures that will prevent migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats, including the barbaric suggestions for ‘push-back’ exercises involving enforcement officials seeking to repel small boats.
“Rather than help matters, these measures will delay rescues and endanger lives.”
Ms Robison and Ms Hutt make clear their governments “do not believe that increased marine or beach patrols, diversion, criminalisation, changes to legal status or reduced support to those who arrive in the UK” will deter people from seeking to enter the UK.
They also told the Home Secretary: “Scotland and Wales have always played their part in providing sanctuary to those fleeing conflict and persecution and we stand ready to do so again.”
Meanwhile, Welsh Ministers have now decided that a Legislative Consent Memorandum is required at the Senedd in relation to some clauses in the Bill.
Under the devolution settlement, such consent is needed where UK legislation touches on areas which the devolved administrations are responsible for – although Westminster in the past has pushed ahead with new laws without such approval,
Scottish ministers “still require urgent clarity from the Home Office to ascertain whether similar legislative competence issues need to be addressed in Scotland”, the letter adds.
A Home Office Spokesperson said: “The Nationality and Borders Bill, which has revived its third reading in Parliament, will deliver the most comprehensive reform in decades to fix the broken asylum system.
“It will make the system fairer and more effective so that we can better protect and support those in genuine need of asylum.
“The UK has a proud history of welcoming those in need of protection, and we continue to do all we can to provide asylum seekers with the safe, secure accommodation they deserve.
“This includes continued joint working across the UK, and we urge everyone to step up and play their part.”