Last week all of the Sussex MPs responded to the second reading of the Nationality and Borders Bill which is in response to asylum seekers who have been welcomed into our nation in many generations. Sadly, all of the Conservative MPs supported the Bill and they also rejected the amendment which the two Labour MPs and Caroline Lucas approved, but which was unsuccessful. However, two of the Sussex MPs did speak up and although they voted to accept the Bill and stated concerning aspects, they also made comments that indicate challenges that the Bill includes. The amendment from the Labour Shadow Home Secretary was very clear and it included the following words
the Bill breaches the 1951 Refugee Convention, does not address the Government’s failure since 2010 to competently process asylum applications which has resulted in a backlog of cases and increased costs to the taxpayer, fails to deal with the serious and organised crime groups who are profiteering from human trafficking and modern slavery, does not address the failure to replace the Dublin III regulations to return refugees to safe countries, fails to re-establish safe routes and help unaccompanied child refugees.
This challenge which is very clear did not prevent the two Sussex MPs from making the following appalling comments. Tim Loughton from East Worthing stated
the [asylum and immigration] process is now being routinely bypassed by those who come across the channel illegally, usually because they can afford to pay people traffickers.
Later on Sally-Ann Hart from Hasting stated
It is well known that refugees seeking asylum in the UK are not penalised for entering illegally.
This is one of the most extreme aspects of what the Government claims and they need to be challenged as it is clearly not the case as our nation has welcomed asylum seekers. However thankfully Tim and Sally-Ann did also make some comments which need to be promoted. Tim stated
it is a controversial Bill and it will need close scrutiny in Committee. But something desperately needs to be done, because our asylum and immigration system is broken.
He also said
for genuine refugees, especially children in potentially dangerous situations, the process takes far too long. There is a lack of urgency from immigration officials on the ground in the country of application or from the Home Office here.
The positive comment from Sally-Ann was
Every day, thousands of migrants and refugees leave their countries in search of refuge, safety and better lives. Refugees are unique in their plight. They have fled their country and are unable or unwilling to return because of war, violence or fear of violence, or being persecuted because of their race, religion, sexuality, nationality or political opinion.
All of these words deserve our applause and all of the Conservative Sussex MPs should acknowledge them, and reflect on the words fitted into the Labour amendment. They may have voted against it but the words were very clear and they have time over the Summer now that Parliament has closed down for the next five weeks to reconsider that statement.
Clearly this is a time for all of the MPs along with members of the Government to have a break and refresh themselves as well as to spend longer periods in their constituencies. Last Summer was the first time for many years that meeting activities did not take place in the usual way and indeed this Summer may also be very limited, despite the fact that most of us have had one or two vaccines. However, let us hope that some opportunities will arise so that we can connect with our MPs, even if we cannot invite them to our public events. It was interesting to read a few days ago that the Roman Catholic Churches across the UK and particularly here in Sussex and Surrey have been working very hard to provide opportunities for local churches to meet with their MPs using video conferencing techniques such as Google, Zoom and Teams. I hope this will encourage all of our local MPs who are prepared to engage with their electors to ensure that groups such as charities and community groups including churches along with business networks can either meet with them face to face or take part on video conference facilities. At the end of last week I attended a very enjoyable Chamber of Commerce event for the first time since the beginning of 2020 but understandably several people who had planned to attend had to cancel at the last minute. One of the speakers mentioned that she had also been to another event a few days earlier and people enjoyed meeting after so much time. It would be helpful for MPs to let their communities know if they will take part in meetings or online events this Summer.