A group of Scottish charities have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary calling for humanitarian visas and safe routes to sanctuary, as the Nationality and Borders Bill enters its final Commons stage.
More than 80 representatives of civil society across the UK, including refugee and homelessness organisations, lawyers, social housing providers, trade unions, teaching unions, educational institutions and faith communities are signatories to the letter.
Scottish organisations and individuals include Positive Action in Housing, the Scottish Refugee Council, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, St Mungos, Unison Scotland, Edinburgh Poverty Commission, the Iona Community Migration Network and PATH (Scotland).
They are expressing serious concerns about the way the Government is handling its responsibilities under the International Refugee Convention of 1951, and how it is responding to last week’s sinking in the English Channel, when at least 27 people drowned while trying to cross to Dover.
Robina Qureshi, director of Glasgow charity Positive Action in Housing, which is dedicated to supporting refugees and migrants to rebuild their lives, said: “Mourning the dead has not stopped the UK Government from planning to break with the Refugee Convention.
“The Nationality and Borders Bill seeks to criminalise those who survive the peril of the seas and those at Dover who try to help them, and is in danger of wreaking murderous consequences for the relatively few who seek sanctuary here.
“This anti-refugee Bill does nothing to increase safe routes.
“With limited resettlement options, dangerous crossings are the only route for most people claiming asylum in the UK.
“Further, there is no evidence to support the Government’s claims that the changes proposed in the Bill will undermine smuggling networks.
“The facts are that 90% of the world’s refugees remain in their own region.
“Europe does not take its fair share of the world’s refugees, and nor does the UK.
“We are not the preferred destination in Europe. We are well down on the list.
“Furthermore, overall UK refugee numbers are currently half of where they were 20 years ago.
“The reason that boat numbers are up is that people are being driven more and more to these dangerous sea crossings.
“Our failure to provide a safe route makes us complicit with the people smugglers.
“They may make a profit, but our failure to intervene has led to innocent people drowning.”