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UK faith leaders condemn Nationality and Borders Bill, warn it will criminalize refugees

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
People gather to stage a protest against "Nationality and Borders Bill" at Parliamentary Square in London, UK, on October 20, 2021.

More than a thousand faith leaders in the UK, representing six major religions, have condemned the Tory government's anti-refugee bill, warning that it will criminalize Ukrainian refugees amid rising tensions over Russia's military operation in the former Soviet republic.

In a letter to British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on Monday, leading representatives of the country's major faith groups said they should not close the door on hapless people in search of safe sanctuary from war, persecution and sufferings.

The faith leaders said they were "horrified and appalled about the potential repercussions" of the controversial bill, calling on the PM to make urgent changes "even at this late stage."

"While there is still conflict and injustice in the world, there will always be desperate people needing to seek sanctuary from war, persecution and suffering. We cannot close our door on them, but this bill does just that," it reads.

Signatories include the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Zara Mohammed and the former archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams.

"We assert that the values that bind UK citizens together, especially those concerning human dignity and life, will be fundamentally damaged by this bill," the faith leaders added in their letter, arguing that the Tory government's policy is "without a basis in evidence or morality," reads the letter.

The letter came in response to the controversial 'Nationality and Borders Bill', which is due to go through the report stage in the House of Lords late on Monday.

The new bill, presented to the parliament by Home Secretary Priti Patel, will allow the government to strip Britons of their citizenship without prior warning. 

The new legislation also criminalizes asylum-seekers who attempt to reach the British shores every day, escaping war and persecution, which in most cases is fueled by interventions of the UK and its allies. 

Senior Rabbi, Jonathan Wittenberg, stressed that the bill "cruelly leaves the refugees without any opportunity for safety and a future", adding that they "cannot let this happen."

A cross-party group of peers warned on Sunday that plans within the bill were against British values and would render people from ethnic minorities as "second-class citizens."

'Over 7 million people displaced'

People also rallied in central London on Sunday, protesting against the bill, which was passed in the House of Commons last December.

The British authorities claim they have eased visa proceedings for UK nationals in crisis-stricken Ukraine. But many family members of British nationals in Ukraine continue to deal with long waits and technical issues while applying for visas. 

The EU commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic, has warned that the Ukraine crisis risks displacing "over seven million people."

After a meeting of EU interior ministers focused on the flow of refugees from Ukraine, Lenarcic told a media conference: "We are witnessing what could become the largest humanitarian crisis on our European continent in many, many years."

According to the latest situation report from the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), issued late on Saturday, there could be "as many as five million refugees in worst-case scenario."

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