Statement on the Nationality and Borders Bill from the Rape Crisis Movement
The Rape Crisis movement in Scotland stands together in opposition to the dangerous, dehumanising, and discriminatory Nationality and Borders Bill.
If implemented, this law would cause severe harms upon survivors of persecution and human rights abuse, including of sexual violence and trafficked exploitation.
It will mean that tens of thousands of people each year from countries with oppressive regimes, like Syria, Afghanistan or Iran, that kill, torture and subject people to abuse, including women and children, LGBT people and disabled people - will now be blocked from the UK asylum system and punished for seeking safety.
The regimes that refugees flee will not give them safety, never mind the option to apply for visas, which leaves them no choice but to arrive through lorries and boats. The Bill criminalises unofficial routes, and further seeks to categorise people seeking sanctuary as “Group 2” refugees, a dehumanising label.
This includes women fleeing the Taliban, for example, who will not be protected but subjected by the UK Government to interlocking penalties from criminalisation and even prison. They may be stuck indefinitely in harsh accommodation centres, left in UK state-sanctioned poverty and enforced destitution with £8 a week at worst or £39 a week at best; well below social security minimum and what all of us need to be able to live healthily and well. There is no prospect of refugee status or settlement.
The proposed legislation does all that by focusing ruthlessly on how someone got to the UK for safety, rather than the actual suffering and abuses they escaped. By pushing survivors of sexual violence, persecution and trafficked exploitation into the margins, away from the safety, trauma-skilled support and recovery they need, this Bill will gift opportunities to those who seek to exploit, traffic and abuse.
They say that you can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable. We want to live in a country that welcomes refugees and people seeking asylum, and identifies, supports and protects trafficking survivors, as a value and pride. We strive to live in a Scotland that recognises the atrocities and horrors that people are fleeing from and offers safety. We should do whatever we can to offer what all of us need and deserve: a home, security, community, and resources and support to heal from trauma, not a system that inflicts it further.
Multiple pieces of legal advice have set out the disproportionate damage that this Bill will inflict on women and girls at a point of international concern for their safety and status. This includes forcing victim-survivors to disclose trauma to unknown individuals within a very short timeframe, else risking their personal ‘credibility’ for application for asylum. Women who would be recognised now as refugees may well not be recognised under the newly defined provisions which include changing the standard of proof and making it more difficult to show gender as being the reason for persecution. These clauses disregard the reality and manifestations of trauma, and the persecution that women and girls face internationally. This disregard will result in loss of life.
The demand that would be made upon survivors – including those who have been trafficked to the UK – are unreasonable, unfathomable from any dignified view. It must be opposed but, if passed, mitigated relentlessly.
The Nationality and Borders Bill does not offer protection, far from it, it is punishment. It will actively put people who are already at a point of extreme vulnerability in more danger and criminalise survivors. As a country that values compassion and fairness we must both raise our voices against it, and act practically to prevent or mitigate in Scotland, its worst harms.
We stand and act in solidarity with all survivors of sexual violence, persecution and abuse.
Rape Crisis Scotland
Argyll and Bute Rape Crisis Centre
Dumfries & Galloway RASAC (South West)
Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre
Fife Rape and Sexual Assault Centre
Forth Valley Rape Crisis
Glasgow & Clyde Rape Crisis Centre
Lanarkshire Rape Crisis Centre
Moray Rape Crisis
Orkney Rape & Sexual Assault Service (ORSAS)
Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre Perth & Kinross (RASAC PK)
Rape and Sexual Abuse Service Highland (RASASH)
Rape Crisis Grampian
Scottish Borders Rape Crisis
The Compass Centre (Shetland)
The STAR Centre (Ayrshire)
Western Isles Rape Crisis Centre
Women's Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (Dundee and Angus)