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‘Overhaul Britain’s racist hostile environment,’ campaigners warn government

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows MPs gathering in the House of Commons in central London on September 25, 2019 after parliament resumed. (Photo by AFP)

British activists and members of parliament have called on the government to abolish its “racist hostile environment” policy and repeal proposed laws that could affect Afghans fleeing persecution, following the crisis in the war-torn country.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) wrote an open letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel on Thursday, urging her to abandon the “resettlement-only” plan stipulated in the Nationality and Borders Bill, which would criminalize or deny full refugee status to asylum seekers in the UK.

Supported by more than 90 signatories, including Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), Hope Not Hate and the Institute of Race Relations, which are campaigners and charities for immigrants’ and refugees’ rights, the development also called on the British government to immediately grant asylum to Afghans already awaiting their status in the UK.

Speaking to The Independent on Thursday, Zoe Gardner, policy researcher at JCWI, asserted that “many Afghans and others who have been wrongly refused end up undocumented and living under the hostile environment,” adding that a set of rules and checks “entrench racial discrimination throughout our society, pushing Black and brown people without papers into destitution and exploitation.”

Criticizing the government’s response to the refugee crisis, Gardner said, “If government cared about equality and showing a compassionate response to people seeking sanctuary, it would abandon its anti-refugee bill and scrap the hostile environment.”

She stressed that the bill and the hostile environment “both promote discrimination and push vulnerable people into the hands of those willing to exploit them.”

In addition to the campaigners, about 40 MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and Claudia Webbe, have also written to the Home secretary, calling for adequate protection for Afghan citizens and amendments to some parts of the bill.

“Reports confirm extrajudicial killings have already begun… In light of this crisis we urge the government to drop its current inadmissibility rules and its decision to criminalize refugee journeys that are not undertaken through regulated resettlement routes,” the letter reads.

The move comes as UK government has rejected more than 32,000 Afghan asylum seekers since the Western invasion of the country in 2001.


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