“Immigrants are the foundation of this country, we’re here for them”: Inside the Nationality and Borders Bill protest

Hundreds of people descended on London to protest the controversial Nationality and Borders Bill. We spoke to a number of demonstrators to find out why they’re there and what impact the bill could have on society.

“Immigrants are the foundation of this country, we’re here for them”: Inside the Nationality and Borders Bill protest
Words and photos:
Chris Bethell

Three-hundred people turned up to the Home Office on Sunday in support of refugees and migrants, rallying against the draconian measures proposed in the Nationality and Borders Bill. The bill's main focus is to criminalise asylum seekers arriving into the country that have come by an 'irregular route', without any attempt to create so-called 'regular' routes. Under this bill, refuges and asylum seekers would face prison sentences of up to two-and-half years and would undoubtedly lead to more deaths in the channel, forcing them to take even more dangerous routes.

The bill isn't only a danger to refugees, though. Already established British citizens would be at risk of having their citizenship stripped from them without any notice or chance to appeal.

Last night, however, this bill suffered four defeats in The House of Lords. Most crucially, clause 11 of the bill, which was designed to criminalise the refugees arriving by irregular routes. This is a big win for everyone who has been demonstrating to against the bill. We spoke to some of the people at the anti-bill demonstration this weekend (before it was was read in the Lords) to hear just how important it is to protect people's rights.

Ioana and Lotta

Why are you here today?
"Well, it just seems ridiculous not to. This is the worst bill I've ever seen put forward, how can you not protest it? It's ridiculous."
"As someone whose family is full of migrants – my grandfather is a refugee and I've had family members who have had to flee countries – it feels so upsetting to see now. A country that has been rebuilt on the shoulders of migrants, to then try to kick them out is disgusting."
"It's absolutely baffling that this would even be thought of."

How important is it to you that this is shut down immediately?
"The most important thing. We have so many people at our universities and who we live with who would be directly impacted by this. As Lotta said too, family members. People who have lived here for generations will just have their rights taken away from them. So the quicker we get this shut down, the better off everyone will be."

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get involved?
"Staying active on social media is probably the easiest thing you can do; oftentimes people will be sharing and posting things. You will find a protest to go to in your area. It's also very easy to communicate with other people and organisers."

Any tips for someone going to their first protest?
"Stay hydrated."
"Wear comfy shoes! The amount of times I've been walking in heavy shoes, it's not worth it. And cough sweets for the screaming and chanting."


Why are you here today?
"We are here because of the Nationality and Borders Bill, which is trying to remove people from the country and not let refugees in. I'm particularly holding a sign against Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And Syria. It's all related. They wage war and then close the borders to refugees, which leads to people drowning in the Mediterranean."

Do you think the war in Ukraine will change the outcome of this bill?
"I hope so. It's a good opportunity to link the struggles, because clearly it has been noted by many that there's a hypocrisy about the way they treat Ukrainians due to their white skin. But it's not about that really, it's about connecting the struggles. We should use this as an opportunity to connect the struggles and put pressure on the government to not only remove the bill but cut all contracts with Russia. People have to push because governments want the money to flow."


Why are you here today?
We're here to get rid of the Borders bill, which will essentially criminalise being a refugee. People have the right to claim asylum but for years now this right has been blocked for them. We have this real, nasty situation where fundamental rights are being stripped from people. We have to stand up to this now. People think it will only affect refugees, and it's true that we have to concern ourselves with people from everywhere, but people don't realise that when rights are stripped from others they are also in danger of them being stripped from us. I'll give you an example: people are being stripped of their citizenship. Citizenship is a set of rights that could be stripped away from you under this bill, it lays out that citizenship isn't a right but is a privilege that could be taken away by people in power at any time."

Chairman of The Irish Rights AssociationJim Curran

Why are you here today?
"Well, I came here to join this protest because I'm opposed to the two bills: the nationality bill and the police bill. I think they're an infringement of people's rights. I'm more than surprised that the home secretary [Priti Patel] has the cheek and the audacity to put them forward. If they were applied to her own family – that as I understand, came here as refugees from Uganda – I do not know whether they would have been allowed into the United Kingdom. So it's ironic that the home secretary, who should have some consideration for people who have a great plight in their lives, should put forward either of the bills.

"I'm Irish, and we were the first people to give citizenship to people in these islands. In 1920 when Ireland was partitioned, the Irish Free State set up citizenship. The British tried to stop us from having our own passports, then when we had our referendum and became a republic, the Irish were the first to issue passports on a nationality basis. Because all of the passports issued here in the UK were a subject of the monarch, it was much later in 1948 that the Labour government in the UK passed the British nationality act. That was the first time citizens of the UK were referred to as citizens rather than subjects of her majesty."

Them Nonconformist

Why are you here today?
"I'm here to protest the Nationality and Borders Bill and to stand up for the human rights of everyone. Especially with what's happening in Ukraine. Immigrants are the foundation of this country, we're here for them. As well as the the Borders bill, there's the anti-refugee bill, which means that no-one will be allowed into the country that doesn't have a British relative. We're trying to stop that."

How important do you think it is to be on the street? Would you encourage other people to do so?
"Definitely. I think it's really important that different groups come together. I'm trans and queer, so I'm from a marginalised group and I understand. We've been shouting about this for ages and no-one is listening."

What tips would you give to someone who wanted to get involved but didn't know how?
"There are protests happening on a national scale so I'd look at what's happening online. I'd recommend coming with friends, but I've come by myself and it doesn't feel like you're alone. Everyone's so supportive because everyone is here for the same purpose."

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