PROTESTERS gathered outside the Sub Rooms in Stroud this morning to demonstrate their worry about the UK Government’s new Nationality and Borders Bill.

This Bill, which is at the committee stage, is described by the Government as the “cornerstone” for the New Plan for Immigration.

According to the UK Government, it would “make the system more effective and fairer”, “deter illegal entry into the UK” and “remove people from the UK with no right to be here.”

But it has been described by today’s protesters as an ‘anti-refugee Bill’.

“It is a kind of violence against refugees,” said Caroline Beatty, one of the organisers of the event.

“The way people come into the country will have a bearing on how their claim is decided. It’s always been understood that the reason people are fleeing is the main thing to consider”, she added. 

Another area of concern for the protesters was that this new Bill would make it a criminal act for people to help asylum seekers arrive into the country, even on humanitarian grounds.

“Many suffer from nightmares and PTSD as a result of their journeys. To detain them on arrival would be a grave injustice and flagrant disregard for their well-being,” added Marina Bielenky, a psychotherapist based in Stroud who has worked with unaccompanied minors.

As part of today’s protest around 150 postcards were handed in to the office of Conservative MP Siobhan Baillie.

Due to the death of Conservative MP David Amess on Friday, protesters did not carry out the original procession as planned.

They also observed a moment’s reflection out of respect for both Sir David and for refugees worldwide who are at perilous risk.

Commenting on the Bill, Siobhan Baillie MP said: "The UK has a long and noble tradition of giving sanctuary to those in danger. Just a few weeks ago we gave refuge to thousands from Afghanistan.

"Over the last six years, in addition to Afghanistan, the UK directly resettled 25,000 people from places of danger - more than any other country in Europe. The Nationality and Borders Bill will not change this policy.

"However, voters have often made it clear they want the Government to tackle illegal immigration, especially as people come across the English Channel in small boats.

"Many of these people are not refugees but economic migrants. Many have paid thousands into the hands of unscrupulous people traffickers to get to the UK. Many face an uncertain future in the dark economy or being forced into modern slavery and worse.

"The Bill is addressing many of these complex issues and it is a welcome reform of a system that is not working well.

"It will look to make the UK’s asylum system based on need, not on the ability to pay those people smugglers.

"Jail terms for those who people smuggle will be increased to life imprisonment.

"Those with no right to be in the UK should be removed without the substantial delays which are now commonplace. Those in genuine need will be protected.

"The Government also intends to implement an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme, similar to the USA ESTA programme to block the entry of those who present a threat to the UK.

"These measures have widespread support in the country and they have my support."