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Nationality and Borders Bill

The Nationality and Borders Bill

The Nationality and Borders Bill has now passed through the legislative process and has become law.

UNHCR will continue to work with and for asylum seekers and refugees, regardless of how they arrived in the UK. We will work to ensure that the harm this Bill could cause to asylum seekers and refugees is minimised, and that international law is respected.

"UNHCR regrets that the British government’s proposals for a new approach to asylum that undermines established international refugee protection law and practices has been approved.

The UK is a nation that rightly prides itself on its long history of welcoming and protecting refugees. It is disappointing that it would choose a course of action aimed at deterring the seeking of asylum by relegating most refugees to a new, lesser status with few rights and a constant threat of removal."

During the course of the Bill's passage through Parliament, UNHCR raised serious concerns. 

Through the publication of comprehensive legal analysis and media statements which can be viewed below, UNHCR warned that the Bill undermines the 1951 Refugee Convention, the agreement which has protected refugees for decades and of which the UK is a signatory. At the same time, if implemented, the policies will risk the lives and well-being of vulnerable people. UNHCR believes this Bill will undermine, not promote, the Government’s stated goal of improving protection for those at risk of persecution. 

Statements and legal opinions released by UNHCR, 2021 - 2022

Watch: UNHCR Representative to the UK Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor explains some of our key concerns as we urge the Government to rethink.

March 2022

January 2022

UNHCR's legal observations have been updated to reflect recent changes to the Nationality and Borders Bill.

The first 23-page section summarizes UNHCR’s main concerns with the legislation, while the subsequent annex provides detail and evidence of the findings.

Key changes to the Bill reflected in this publication include:

  • The removal of any deadline for how long an asylum claim can be suspended on the grounds that it is "inadmissible", which risks leaving people in limbo indefinitely.
  • Allowing the Secretary of State to act without regard to the law of the sea, as well as to try to return people to other countries, such as France, without that country's consent.
  • Welcome, but still troublingly limited, protections against criminal prosecution for people saving the lives of asylum-seekers at sea.
  • Details of new rules about age assessments for children and young people seeking asylum in the UK, including the use of unreliable and potentially harmful medical methods of age assessment, as well as powers for the Home Office to override the decisions of local authorities about young people in their care.
  • Deprivation of nationality without notice, leading to risks of statelessness, including for children.

October 2021  

September 2021  

UNHCR’s Representative to the UK, Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, gave evidence to the House of Commons Bill Committee outlining UNHCR’s legal analysis of the Bill. 

“This Bill would undermine, not promote, the Government’s stated goal of improving  protection for those at risk of persecution. It seems to be aimed at deterring refugees, but  there’s no evidence that would be the result.” 

-Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, UNHCR Representative in the UK 

May 2021   

“It is entirely possible for the UK to protect its borders, and security, while implementing  fair, humane and efficient policies towards asylum-seekers in line with the 1951  Convention. These are not mutually exclusive.” 

-Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, UNHCR Representative in the UK