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Braverman’s Illegal Migration Bill is an attack on pregnant women

Cruel, racist, deeply dangerous - the bill MPs passed in the Commons is all that, but it poses a special risk to pregnant women and their unborn children. Still, the fight's not over. 

April 28 2023, 13.57pm

The ‘Illegal Migration Bill’ passed by MPs this week is an extremely cruel, harmful and racist piece of legislation. It's represents a continued attack on people seeking safety and a scapegoating of refugees by the Government for their own political gain. 

The Bill’s actual effect is the evisceration of the right to claim asylum. It will have life-or-death consequences for people seeking safety in the UK, and will set a deeply worrying precedent for refugee rights everywhere in the world.

It is not only anti-refugee, but also anti-women – undermining the Government’s own commitments to tackle violence against women and girls.  

The impact of the Bill on women, including those from the LGBTQ+ community, is extremely adverse. On the most obvious level, the Bill puts women seeking safety from persecution, rape, and torture, at risk of further harm by annihilating their right to claim asylum and their chance to rebuild their lives in safety in the UK. 

This includes penalising pregnant women. It reverses the vital protection of a 72-hour time limit on their detention, which was introduced by the Government in 2016. Being locked up and deprived of your liberty is distressing and harmful for anyone. For pregnant women, the impact can be particularly acute - presenting all too obvious risks for the unborn baby and the mother. This Bill enables the return to detaining pregnant women for weeks, or even months on end, with no idea of when they would be released. This practice was banned for seven years. Now it’s coming back. 

However, this Bill is nothing new. It fits all too well in the pattern of the relentless and deliberate ratcheting up of hostility toward people seeking safety by those in power.

The damaging and inflammatory language used by some MPs in the debate yesterday was disappointing, yet unsurprising. People seeking safety in our communities are human beings, just like me or you. The hateful rhetoric pushed by some MPs serves to divide our communities, to turn neighbour on neighbour - to stoke fear, to justify cruel policies.

But we are better than this.  

For every voice of opposition and division, there were voices of compassion and understanding. From Apsana Begum, Alison Thewliss, Stephen Kinnock to Kim Leadbeater and many more, empathetic and outspoken MPs stood up for those seeking safety and spoke out against the Government’s Bill.  

And tens of thousands of you have written to your MPs, spoken out on social media, signed petitions, and attended protests to show the Government that their cruel Bill is not in our name. And we know that campaigning works! As the so-called ‘Illegal Migration Bill’ continues to progress through Parliament, we need to take strength from previous successes and remember that it is possible to stop the injustices and harms that the Government wants to inflict.  

We at Women for Refugee Women know this because we’ve been in this fight for a very long time. The results of the votes in the House of Commons last night were disappointing, with the ‘Illegal Migration Bill’ passing by 289 to 230 votes. Yet we are emboldened by the courage, kindness, and compassion of people like you. We remain hopeful that as the Bill progresses to the House of Lords it will be met with strong resistance from peers committed to holding the Government to account, advocating for what is right and driven by their empathy for other human beings.  

We call for the entire ‘Illegal Migration Bill’, and other harmful legislation such as last year’s Nationality and Borders Act, to be scrapped and for a supportive asylum process that treats people seeking safety with fairness and dignity. 

Compassion and kindness will always win over racism, callousness, and cruelty. 

Take Action: 

  • Sign our joint petition, in collaboration with other NGOs supporting refugee and asylum-seeking people, to urge Rishi Sunak to urgently scrap the harmful ‘Illegal Migration Bill.’ 
  • Write to your MP to urge them to speak out against the harmful proposals in the Bill:
  • Follow Women for Refugee Women on social media to keep up-to-date with our fight against the Bill and how you can get involved.
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