The Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill will harm and discriminate against women. The women we work with have shared their views. We have spoken out in Parliament. Leading barristers have advised that the Bill is discriminatory and incompatible with the law. Organisations working with women survivors of abuse have said the Bill will force women into further danger.

Yesterday and today, MPs debated and voted on the Bill. With their large majority, the government was able to force it through this stage in the Parliamentary process. But the Bill is not law yet. After Christmas, it will be debated in the House of Lords.

We will keep standing together, speaking up alongside women seeking asylum and calling for a humane and kind approach.

We want to thank the 231 MPs who voted against this cruel Bill. Here, we highlight a few of their warnings:

MPs warned against the overall sentiment of this Bill which has been designed to punish people seeking safety and will force more people into danger:

Stuart MacDonald (SNP), who tabled crucial amendments for the protection of women, said:

“Rather than fixing the broken asylum system, the provisions in this part of the Bill risk breaking it all together, endangering, criminalising, delaying, warehousing, offshoring and depriving of their rights those who simply seek our protection…Numerous legal opinions show these provisions are a blatant assault on the Refugee Convention, and the most vulnerable in the world will suffer.”

Bambos Charalambous (Labour) said:

“This Bill is a sham… [it] creates unworkable policies, lets down victims who have been trafficked, and breaks our international obligations.”


He went on to highlight how the Bill will punish some people seeking safety based on how they travel to the UK and when they claim asylum:

[S]eeks to criminalise some refugees according to how they arrive in the UK. Criminalising people who are seeking our protection is a clear breach of the Refugee Convention and our obligations under international law… it is cruel to criminalise people who are escaping torture or death.”

MPs called on the government not to use offshore detention and to introduce a time limit on immigration detention:

David Davis (Conservative) argued against measures in the Bill that would allow the Government to replicate the previous Australian model of detaining people in other countries while their asylum claims are processed. He highlighted the harms that this system caused people :

“[The Bill] would allow children, modern slavery victims and torture survivors all to be detained offshore in a place where we have little legal control… From May 2013 to October 2015 [in Australian offshore detention camps], there were 2,116 documented assaults, sexual abuse cases or self-harm attempts. More than half of them applied to children. I say that more than half applied to children; only one fifth of the asylum seekers were actually children. So that is an astonishing humanitarian record for that policy… if this were to happen on our watch, just imagine how the public would respond to serious harm being done to a child nominally in our care.”

Former Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes (Conservative) warned specifically against detaining women in offshore detention camps:

“I also seek assurances from my hon. Friend that we will not seek to offshore women, who will perhaps be pregnant women. If pregnant women are making these dangerous crossings, what are we doing to make sure they are safeguarded and not shipped off to another country? That is crucial.”

Paul Blomfield (Labour) called for a time limit on detention, recalling what he heard as Vice-Chair of a cross-party inquiry into detention in 2014:

“Time and again, we were told that detention was worse than prison, because in prison someone knows when they will get out, but that sense of hopelessness and despair leads to hugely deteriorating mental health.”

We are grateful to all MPs who tabled and supported amendments to challenge particular areas of the Bill that will harm women seeking asylum. We hope that Peers from across the House of Lords will listen to women seeking safety and speak up for them when they debate this dangerous Bill in the New Year.