New Plan for Immigration

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:57 pm on 24th March 2021.

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Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control) 12:57 pm, 24th March 2021

There is so much wrong with these proposals that distilling it into two minutes is impossible. What person and what Government with an ounce of compassion or respect for international law would even consider casting vulnerable people off to an island using an offshoring system that, in Australia’s case, has been described by the UN as an affront to “common decency”? Who, with any regard to the rule of law, would limit the right to appeal? The high success rate of asylum appeals clearly shows that the Home Office is getting these decisions wrong too often.

Are we or are we not still a signatory to the UN refugee convention? Is the Home Secretary aware of article 31, which prohibits penalising someone for the way in which they reached a country or, for that matter, arriving so-called illegally? Does she know that nowhere in there does it say that someone cannot transit through another country to get here? That was never the intention of the convention, and to say it is is simply untrue. Does she remember that Nicholas Winton—rightly hailed as a hero for rescuing hundreds of children from Nazi refugee camps—was reported to have forged documents because the Home Office was too slow? Those children would today be classed as illegal and he would be a criminal, but he was a hero, because he recognised that desperate people have no choice, and the same is true today for many who reach our shores.

The Home Secretary should be ashamed to make this statement today. There is nothing pretty about this—it is ugly dog-whistle politics, and I can tell her that the SNP wants no part in it. More importantly, Scotland will not live with the associated shame of this. Scotland recognises its international and moral obligations, but we also recognise that we are prevented by the UK Government from living up to them. I despair for those having to live under this toxic environment, and I will always offer my solidarity, but I will also work even harder to ensure that Scotland votes yes to independence, so that we at least can continue to treat vulnerable people with compassion and dignity.