Over the last six months Tom Nguyen, has been coordinating the coalition’s parliamentary team, and drawing on the expertise and contacts of our members to lobby MPs and peers on the Nationality and Borders Act. We’re doing a deeper assessment of our parliamentary work as part of a wider reflection of the coalition’s activities over the last year, in the meantime Tom provides some immediate thoughts on what we have achieved together.
Through your contributions to the Together With Refugees coalition, we have radically improved the quality and quantity of the refugee sector’s political relationships, credibility and capacity to shape outcomes through the parliamentary process.
My father arrived in the UK in 1979 as a boat refugee escaping the Vietnam war. His stories about the gratitude he felt to NGOs and individuals that welcomed our family to this country have never been far from my mind as we fought the legislation . His experience reminds me how our work is as important as ever where even incremental gains we make can have life-changing impacts for potentially tens of thousands of people.
Highlights of our influence
Here’s some of the highlights of how we’ve had impact as Together With Refugees over the last six months:
- We’ve been able to forge new relationships with key Conservative figures and to inspire a handful of champions prepared to speak out on our causes. Their support in the press (The Telegraph and The Guardian) and privately in cajoling colleagues has been crucial in providing political cover for other MPs and even for sparking a mini-rebellion of including six former ministers and one 2019 intake.
- We held our first meeting as a collective with Yvette Cooper soon after she took on her role as Shadow Home Secretary. This gave us the opportunity to test and solidify Labour’s long-term support for our priorities and converted into a more concrete commitment from the party to fight against differentiated treatment, which will see refugees punished because of how they arrive in the UK. We now need to ensure the party sustains its resistance this year as the Government roll-out the Rwanda scheme and begin the Act’s implementation.
- Our research on the bill’s financial costs which saw great pick-up in the national press will have a lifespan beyond introduction of the Act as we look at ways to continue harrying the Government on the unnecessary wastage of cash in operating these cruel policies.
- We positioned Together With Refugees as an integral part of the parliamentary ecosystem determining which issues would be prioritised. We built up our influence and authority with frontbench teams, advisors and key allies in the Lords of all affiliations; all of whom will be important allies for scrutinising Home Office policy well after implementation.
We succeeded in bringing our priorities to the very final stages of the bill and in maintaining a good level of discipline to our causes amid a competitive field of other issues and messages.
At the end of Commons Committee stage there were well over 80 non-government amendments tabled while the resettlement target and efforts to neutralise differentiated treatment were fought right to the end of the process. While they did not make it onto the face of the bill, the political profile and understanding for our issues that we have built along the way will be a useful platform as we move into the next chapter.
Over the last six months we’ve invested in empowering and equipping local coalition members supporting them to target key constituency seats and lobby their MPs even more effectively.
Channelling skill and determination has seen hundreds of supporters write to their MPs, dozens meet with them, and one conservative MP even convinced to rebel at the last commons stage.
Notching up wins against a government with an 80 strong majority was never going to be an easy fight. But the relationships, political capital and authority to speak out on our issues that we have banked over the journey of the Bill has put us in a great position build on for the next stage of our campaign.
Tom Nguyen, Public and Parliamentary Affairs