New Clause 52 - Effect of British National (Overseas) visas

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:15 pm ar 4 Tachwedd 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Home Office) 4:15, 4 Tachwedd 2021

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

We believe that the new clause is needed because there is clear evidence that the British national overseas scheme may not end up working as it was intended. That is particularly the case for young Hong Kong nationals. As everyone on the Committee knows, the BNO scheme has, in theory, been designed to offer a path to citizenship for Hongkongers. This was particularly designed in the wake of Beijing’s national security law being imposed last year, which has led to Hongkongers facing police brutality and severe repression. Although we in the Opposition therefore very much welcome attempts to support all those facing repression in Hong Kong, we believe that there is a need to examine how the BNO visa scheme is operating in practice and whether it is having the desired effect.

As the Home Affairs Committee pointed out in July, there are reasons for concern about individuals and groups who may be missing out on offers of support. There remain worrying gaps in the offer of support, and loopholes in the way that the BNO scheme may be implemented. That is particularly the case for younger pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. It is evident that people under the age of 24 cannot benefit from the BNO visa scheme because of how it has been defined. That is because younger people do not hold BNO passports, which were issued in 1997. The BNO scheme requires that applicants hold a BNO passport. Those documents were issued to citizens following the handover of Hong Kong from the UK to China in 1997. Obviously, that means that a lot of people will be excluded from the scheme even if their parents or older siblings would qualify for it.

As a result of that, some people who have fled police brutality are now battling with the sclerotic and inefficient UK asylum system. That is simply because they are arbitrarily excluded from the Home Office settlement route due to their age. It has nothing to do with the validity of their claims, the severity of the oppression that they have experienced or the danger that they face in Hong Kong. All of those would have qualified them for a BNO visa had they been lucky enough to have been born a little earlier.