RACIST, xenophobic, negative, dangerous – that’s how frontline asylum experts described the UK Government’s “anti-refugee bill” yesterday.

Opponents of the Nationality and Borders Bill told an audience in Glasgow to resist the sweeping new laws that would criminalise anyone from anywhere who tried to claim asylum in the UK through irregular routes.

The session came hours before Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, the UK representative of the United ­Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told MPs that Priti Patel’s proposals raise “a real risk of a progressive erosion of the refugee ­system” internationally.

When asked by Joanna Cherry MP if the UK could still be called a “global champion of the refugee cause” in the event of the bill passing into law, Pagliuchi-Lor answered: “I think I’ll leave the answer to that to you.”

The National: SNP MP Joanna Cherry said she had considered quitting elected politics as a result of the 'unrelenting attacks' made against her (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Appearing before the committee scrutinising the bill, she said it was based on the “non-existent principle” that refugees must seek sanctuary in the first “safe” country they enter.

She said: “Such a principle does not exist in international law, and indeed it couldn’t exist in international law because it would undermine the very principle of co-operation on which the system is premised. This bill creates sort of a lesser class of refugees.”

And Pagluichi-Lor said the “only thing that has changed” in asylum traffic to the UK is that small boat crossings in the Channel have made the issue “much more visible” than when people were more commonly using lorries and other means to cross from France by road and rail.

And she said: “There is a real risk of a race to the bottom if countries that so far have distinguished themselves for upholding very high standards of law and of treatment are now … reneging on that. What message does it send to the others? “

At a Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) event in Glasgow, Pinar Aksu of the Maryhill Integration Network called the bill “the worst thing we have ever seen”, saying: “If this bill is passed we are going to see more and more pain.”

And Becky Macfarlane of the Glasgow Asylum Destitution Action Network (GLADAN) accused it of introducing the “dangerous concept” of “good” and “bad” refugees, claiming the measures are based on “racist attitudes which diminish us as ­individuals and as a nation” and branding them “negative, xenophobic and small-minded”.

She said: “We call for something better to build for the future together with refugees.”

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Sabir Zazai, head of the SRC, told how he’d have been jailed under the terms of the bill for making the crossing to the UK on a lorry after fleeing Afghanistan as a young man.

He told the Trades Hall audience: “That bill is not in our name and it’s not commensurate with our values here in Scotland and across the UK.

“The only hope is us mobilising. That bill is not for us. That bill is for right-wing thinking and politicians but also for profiteering from vulnerable people.”

The bill has to go through the ­committee and report stages before reaching its third reading in the ­Commons.

Patel has said she is taking “the ­difficult action needed to fix our ­broken asylum system and deliver on what the British people want – full control of our borders”.