While you’re here – we’re raising funds for the Disasters Emergency Committee in Ukraine, which will go towards shelter, food and water for refugees. Please consider donating https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/culaukraine
And writing to your MP using the draft provided by Cambridge University Ukrainian Society: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FJfxcTwYSIowJ7U98_JStpQpDYRy4uy_/edit
Keep an eye out for consultations and/or planning applications in your local area, and comment on them in favour of new housing. Prefer flats to run-down car-parks, houses to bits of fenced-off grass.
Greater Cambridge Local Plan (sign up for updates): https://greatercambridgeplanning.org/emerging-plans-and-guidance/greater-cambridge-local-plan/
CULA Blog post on NIMBYism and Homeownership: http://cula.org.uk/2021/04/13/dont-hate-the-nimby-player-hate-the-homeownership-game/
The Policing Bill (Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill)
CULA Blog post on the PCSC Bill when first proposed: http://cula.org.uk/2021/03/14/the-right-to-protest-and-the-conservative-steamroller/
The right to peaceful assembly and protest is a fundamental human right, and has always been a crucial part of our democratic society. The provisions of the PCSC Bill (Part 3) undermine that right. The Bill would:
- Give police officers the power to impose a start and finish time and set noise limits on almost any protest or mass events – even single-person protests, or Pride marches and vigils. In effect, we would be allowed to protest freely and without conditions only if state machinery chooses to let us.
- Criminalise people for breaching protest conditions they should have known about. At present, you can only break the law if police officers can prove that you knew any conditions attached to the protest, and then broke them. The PCSC Bill would remove the need for somebody to have knowingly breached these police-imposed conditions to commit an offence. The punishment for breaching such conditions, and ‘intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance’, will now earn you up to ten years in prison, thanks to the new statutory offence brought in by the bill.
- Criminalise any ‘nuisance’, including noise that causes ‘serious unease, alarm, or distress’. These terms are almost meaningless, and can easily be misinterpreted or misused.
Protests are in their nature designed to be noisy or disruptive. When the Bill proposes criminalising noise, or setting police limits on the start- and end-time of even silent, single-person protest, it is difficult to see how it can possibly, as the government claims it does, respect our right to protest.
The Bill would also effectively criminalise the way of life of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people (Part 4) by creating a new offence of residing on land with a vehicle when this causes ‘significant disruption, damage, or distress’. Again, these are vague words incredibly open to misuse or misinterpretation by private landowners who are now able to trigger a criminal charge. For ‘trespassers’ removed from land, the period of time before they are allowed to return will be increased from three to twelve months. These provisions would discriminate against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, essentially criminalising their way of life and breaching their rights to privacy and the home.
Furthermore, the Bill would expand police powers to stop and search without reasonable grounds to suspect a person of having committed a crime (Part 10). This would exacerbate the problematic existing use of stop and search, which is disproportionately used against Black men. Meanwhile, increasing jail times, as Part 7 of the Bill proposes to do, doesn’t reduce crime, but does disrupt rehabilitation, disproportionately impact Black, Asian, and minority ethnic people, and cost the taxpayer more.
In other areas, the Bill fails to tackle crucial problems. Conservatives have lauded the Bill as a way to tackle Violence Against Women and Girls, citing provisions for longer jail times for serious sexual offenders. Yet various women’s groups have criticised this as a ‘cynical’ means of quelling opposition, and pointed out that the proposals will not address the causes of VAWG.
This bill is clearly the government’s anti-democratic attempt to silence opposition to its policies, and has been described as ‘oppressive and wrong’ by Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights.
What can I do?
- Join the protest. CULA has been represented at regular #KilltheBill protests in Cambridge. Follow us on social media to be updated on when we’ll be marching next.
- Write to your MP. The Bill was heavily amended by the House of Lords, but at the beginning of March MPs voted to reinstate many of the restrictions that peers had removed. However, the Bill is controversial, even among Tory MPs – especially the line on ‘noisy’ protests. We can keep the pressure up by writing to MPs and reiterating our opposition while the Houses continue to hammer out the final wording of the Bill. Find out who your MP is here and write to them asking to accept the Lords’ amendments or vote against the Bill. Remember, as a university student, you can write to the MP of your home constituency, or your university constituency – just remember to include your address at the end of the email!
- Sign petitions. Check out the following petitions hosted by the Liberal Democrats, by Liberty, by Amnesty International, and by 38 Degrees.
The Nationality and Borders Bill
The Nationality and Borders Bill will overhaul the asylum system in the UK. While the government claims that this will make the immigration system fairer, the Bill has been strongly condemned by legal and human rights bodies on the dangerous impact it will have on both British citizens and those seeking asylum here.
Eroding citizenship rights
The recent practice of stripping people of their British citizenship began in 2002: Labour’s Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act changed the law so that all (not only naturalised) British citizens could be stripped of their citizenship. To do this, the Home Secretary had to believe the person had done something ‘seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the UK’. In 2006, this standard was lowered – the deprivation merely had to be considered ‘conducive to the public good’. It is illegal under international law to make somebody stateless, meaning that until recently these amendments effectively only applied to dual-nationals. But in 2014, an Amendment allowed the Home Secretary to strip British citizenship if the person is considered eligible for citizenship elsewhere. At this stage, the UK already has significantly more power to deprive an individual of their citizenship than any other G20 country.
The Nationality and Borders Bill would further erode citizenship rights, by effectively removing our right to appeal. Article 9 would remove the requirement of the Home Secretary to give notice when using this discretionary power, as soon as it ‘appears’ to them that it is ‘not reasonably practicable’ to give so. Without notification, the 28-day appeal period in which citizens can argue their case is defunct – how would you know you need to appeal? In summary, Priti Patel would only have to decide that your holding British citizenship is not conducive to the public good, that you have a chance of getting citizenship elsewhere, and that it isn’t practicable to let you know – and you could be made stateless without knowing it. This would disproportionately impact people of colour, as 39% of Black Britons and 50% of British Asians are considered eligible for citizenship elsewhere. It would also risk breaching the UK’s obligations under international law, particularly under the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Restricting the right to claim asylum
Numerous provisions in the Bill would also make it almost impossible for people to claim asylum in the UK: closing official routes, pushing more people into making dangerous crossings, and skirting our duty to assist those in greatest need. The Bill would:
- Create two tiers of refugees (Clause 11). Only those arriving through the extremely-restricted ‘official’ routes, such as limited refugee resettlement schemes, would be allowed to claim full protection. Those arriving via lorry or boat, or travelling through ‘safe’ third countries (‘Group 2’ refugees) would receive only a ‘temporary protection status’, with no possibility of settlement for at least ten years and regular reassessment on their residence here. Creating two classes of refugees is inconsistent with the Refugee Convention and has no basis in international law.
- Punish and penalise refugees who travel through other countries before arriving in the UK (Clause 36), despite this being allowed in international law. This undermines the cooperative principles on which the refugee system is founded.
- Criminalise the act of arriving in the UK without leave, effectively criminalising the act of seeking asylum altogether (Clause 39). It is impossible to claim asylum without already being in the UK, but the Bill would make arriving without leave a criminal offence punishable by four years in prison. This is inconsistent with the concept of non-penalisation at the core of the Refugee Convention.
- Make assisting asylum-seekers, even to save their lives, a criminal offence (Clause 40). Currently, assisting a refugee is only a crime when done ‘for gain’ (i.e. smuggling or trafficking). The new Bill would remove ‘for gain’ – any assistance, including from RNLI lifeboat crews, would be criminalised.
This Bill cannot be allowed to pass. We need to rebuild protection from executive discretion, not remove some of the only safeguarding checks we have left to protect people from being arbitrarily stripped of their citizenship. Anybody deprived of their citizenship must have a genuine ability to appeal the decision and the decision must be closely scrutinised. The Liberal Democrats have called for the right to appeal to be strengthened, the power to be restricted, and the government to publish annual reports on its use of this power.
We also have a duty to assist refugees who want to rebuild their lives here. We are taking fewer than half the number of asylum seekers than we did 20 years ago; Germany takes three times more than we do. The closing-off of safe routes of entry into the UK will only push people into more unsafe routes and into the hands of traffickers and smugglers. The Liberal Democrats are calling for a fully-funded commitment to resettle 10,000 vulnerable refugees each year.
What can I do?
- Write to your MP asking them to accept the House of Lords amendments to the Bill, or vote against it altogether. The Nationality and Borders Bill is passing through the House of Lords. Once the Lords have finished scrutinising the Bill, it will return to the House of Commons. Write to your MP asking them to accept the amendments added by the House of Lords, especially:
- Amendment 20 – deletes clause 9, which allows the removal of British citizenship without notice, from the bill;
- Amendment 28 – deletes clause 11, which creates the differential treatment of refugees, from the bill;
- Amendment 35 – deletes powers to remove an asylum seeker to a safe country while their claim is pending;
- Amendment 62 – requires that powers of immigration officers and enforcement officers can only be used when they do not endanger life at sea;
- Amendment 59 – maintains that helping an asylum seeker enter the UK is only an offence when done for gain.
Find out who your MP is here (remember, university students can write to the MPs of both their home and university constituencies – just remember to include your address at the end of the email!).
- Sign petitions. You can sign petitions organised by the Liberal Democrats, by the Refugee Council, and by Refugee Action.
Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill: https://www.ceebill.uk/
CULA Blog post on the right way to combat climate change: http://cula.org.uk/2021/08/09/the-socialist-distraction-from-our-dying-world/
Vote with your wallet: Money is one of the most powerful ways to make changes. If you are in a position in which you are able to do so, buy more sustainable things. Eat less meat. Save your money in sustainable accounts. Take the train. Invest in long-lasting reusable items rather than single-use disposable ones. Above all, make sure that your money goes to companies with your best interest, and the best interest of the planet, at heart.
Vote with your… vote: Voting is one of the most powerful ways to make changes (or at least it should be). Think about what policies each candidate is putting forward at the next election (5th May 2022 if you’re in Cambridge, London, Wales, Scotland or one of the many other places across the UK with local/devolved elections. If you’re a student, you can register to vote at both your “home” and “university” addresses, and you can vote at both (if they’re in different places) in local elections, but only in one or the other in general elections). This is possibly the most effective way of having an impact on government-level decision-making, which is vital to stop climate change.
Freedoms & Civil Rights
A City Council motion on Drink Spiking that we contributed to: https://www.cambridgeindependent.co.uk/news/demand-for-action-on-drink-spiking-crisis-in-cambridge-9243936/
CULA Ex-Chair on the police: https://www.varsity.co.uk/opinion/23108
Ed Davey and LGBT+ Lib Dems on trans rights: https://www.libdems.org.uk/liberals-for-transrights
Donate to Liberty: https://liberty.netdonor.net/page/57626/donate/1
Donate to Stonewall: https://donorbox.org/support-stonewall
Lib Dem Petitions on:
Changing the Voting System: https://change.libdems.org.uk/fairvotes
Legalising Cannabis: https://www.libdems.org.uk/cannabis
Welcoming Refugees: https://www.libdems.org.uk/refugees
Join us in protest – follow CULA on our social media and we’ll let you know about protests going on in Cambridge.