Sheffield Green Councillors supported a letter opposing the Government’s Illegal Immigration Bill. Over 240 local councillors from across the UK and from different political parties have pledged to fight for all of their residents – including those seeking asylum – in the face of government plans to house people on old barges and former prisons.

The pledge comes as the Government pushes through legislation that would see children and pregnant people locked behind bars and would amount to an effective ban on the right to claim asylum. This breaks the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and must not be allowed to happen.

Plans to house people seeking asylum in disused army barracks and offshore on barges and boats have been criticised by charities and housing organisations as “abhorrent” and “deeply concerning.”

The group of councillors said:

“As a group of local councillors from across the UK – and from different political parties – we are appalled by this Government’s latest abhorrent plans for people seeking sanctuary in our communities.

“The Home Office is recklessly endangering people’s lives by placing them in accommodation that is manifestly unsafe and leaving them at the mercy of private companies that treat them as commodities. We will stand up for everyone in our communities, and fight for their right to safe and welcoming housing.

“The Home Office’s calculated strategy of division and disdain will not work – our communities, and their care for one another, are stronger than that. As local councillors, we pledge to work tirelessly for the good of all our communities, to ensure that all our residents can live safely and with dignity.”

The councillors are from 65 different local authorities from across the UK and have pledged to stand up for their communities and use council powers to ensure that all residents – including those seeking asylum – are supported.

The government is currently at loggerheads with several local authorities over asylum accommodation plans and is attempting to push through emergency legislation to allow it to shortcut council planning processes. Local authorities have a broad set of decision-making powers, and resistance from councillors to the latest asylum plans could cause further headaches for central government.

Councillor Doctor Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini of the Migrant Champions Network, the organisation supporting the letter, said, “The fact is that communities up and down the country want to stand in solidarity with people seeking sanctuary and provide them a warm welcome. And it’s clear that councillors from across the country are equally committed to ensuring that people arriving here have the support they need.

“But decisions taken by central government too often make that impossible. We hope that the Government will listen to the voices of these councillors, and equip local communities to provide a warm welcome, instead of pursuing an agenda of hostility and division, and lining the pockets of private companies.” The full text of the letter and list of signatories is available here.

The Bill was opposed in the House of Lords where Baroness Natalie Bennett of Manor Castle spoke against it as did fellow Green peer Jenny Jones. 

Caroline Lucas was so incensed by the bill that she ripped it up in Parliament, saying “The Home Secretary on the face of this bill invites Parliament to rip up international law. The only Act of a parliament that has some kind of moral Integrity is to rip up her illegal and immoral bill which has no place in our statute book.”