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UK: Tabled amendment to controversial bill makes it hard for women escaping rape to secure refugee status

A man shows the logo of a T-shirt that reads "Stop the Cut" referring to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) during a social event advocating against harmful practices such as FGM at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya, 21 April 2016. [REUTERS/Siegfried Modola]
A man shows the logo of a T-shirt that reads "Stop the Cut" referring to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Imbirikani, Kenya, 21 April 2016 [REUTERS/Siegfried Modola]

Peers in the UK have tabled an amendment to a clause in the controversial Nationality and Borders bill which could see women who are escaping rape, forced marriage, trafficking or FGM being unable to secure refugee status.

Peers say clause 32 introduces a technicality which will create an extra barrier for women to be granted protection in the UK.

The clause was added to the bill after the consultation period ended, reports the Guardian, and would mean women have to satisfy both conditions under the definition of a "particular social group" rather than one.

Labour peer Ruth Lister has tabled an amendment to remove the clause, supported by crossbench peer Jean Coussins and the Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek.

Director of the charity for Women for Refugee Women said:

The government's nationality and borders bill is the biggest threat to women being able to access refugee protection in the UK that we have ever seen. The bill is dangerous and discriminatory.

Policy and advocacy co-ordinator at Women for Refugee Women said the bill will "likely result in many more women being wrongly refused asylum, retraumatised and subject to further violence and abuse in the UK."

Since it was introduced to the House of Commons in July last year, the Nationality and Borders bill has received a lot of criticism.

Love Welcomes: Empowering female refugees through inclusion 

Critics say the legislation will criminalise individuals who attempt to enter the UK without a visa, in breach of human rights law.

The bill creates "significant obstacles," says Amnesty International, for seeking asylum in the UK and undermines the Refugee Convention, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on Reduction of Statelessness.

Significant focus has been on government proposals to emulate the Australian system by using offshore processing centres with Home Secretary Priti Patel suggesting Rwanda.

Several amendments have been tabled including one that would prevent the Home Office charging a fee to process children's applications and to prevent offshore processing.

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