Halifax charity among coalition calling for axe of 'heartless' borders bill

A Halifax charity and the Deputy Leader of Calderdale Council are among an alliance condemning controversial plans to overhaul the asylum system.

By sarah fitton
Tuesday, 15th March 2022, 6:02 pm

More than 120 charities, faith groups and community organisations from across Yorkshire have come together to publish a joint statement making clear their support for refugees and opposing proposals in the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill.

They warn the bill, expected to come into law later this month, “will have grave consequences for people seeking safety and for our society as a whole”.

The diverse group argues the plans are “unlikely to stop people attempting to reach safety” but instead will “punish and criminalise” those most in need of help.

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Campaigners at last month's protest against the Nationality and Borders Bill in Halifax

The Government claims the bill will "increase the fairness of the system to better protect and support those in need of asylum, deter illegal entry into the United Kingdom, thereby breaking the business model of people smuggling networks and protecting the lives of those they endanger, and remove more easily those with no right to be in the UK."

But, in the statement the group, calls on the Government to withdraw the bill and take a more compassionate and effective approach that would give refugees a chance to rebuild their lives and allow Yorkshire communities to give “the welcome we are so proud to give”.

The statement follows months of campaigning against the bill, including a protest outside Halifax Town Hall last month.

Councillor Jane Scullion, Deputy Leader of Calderdale Council, said "Giving sanctuary to those fleeing war and injustice is a fundamental part of the humanity and sense of fairness that defines our country.

Last month's protest against the Nationality and Borders Bill in Halifax

"Calderdale is a valley of sanctuary, and I am proud to lend my voice to the opposition to this bill."

Sara Robinson, director of Calderdale's St Augustine’s Centre - which helps refugees and asylum seekers - said, “Here in Halifax, we support people seeking sanctuary because we believe that if any one of us needed to flee and leave everything behind due to war or persecution, we would be welcomed and given the chance to rebuild our lives.

“There are 80 million displaced people in the world, and whilst the vast majority end up in neighbouring countries, the UK needs to take its fair share and uphold our historic commitment to refugee protection.

"That means responding quickly, fairly and with compassion to the families currently fleeing Ukraine, Afghanistan and beyond.

“And yet, Priti Patel's brutal Nationality and Borders Bill, shuts down safe routes in and treats people seeking safety as criminals, leaving many to languish in segregated accommodation.

"The idea of a Bill which seeks to heap more misery and restrictions on vulnerable people who have been through so much already, and have a lot to contribute to the UK is heartless and unnecessary.”

Alison Lowe, Deputy Mayor for Police and Crime West Yorkshire, said, “In West Yorkshire, we have a long and proud history of welcoming those who are in need or who are fleeing persecution and war. The Nationality and Borders Bill is racist, pure and simple, and I oppose it.”

On Thursday (March 17) St Augustine's Centre is inviting people to join them at The Piece Hall to help them create giant heart shape which will be captured by drone photography to share as part of a national show of support for refugees.

"We need a lot of people to make it work, so please bring your friends and co-workers. Wear orange if you can - you're also welcome to bring your own orange heart or sign," said the charity.

The event takes place at 9am and will be finished by 9.30am. People should enter via the Westgate entrance. Any questions, call Amber on 07484 665044.