REFUGEE and homelessness groups in Scotland have said the Nationality and Borders Bill will “murder” human rights as we know them.

The bill goes into its report stage in the House of Commons next week, and ahead of it 100 organisations have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Home Secretary Priti Patel, urging the Government to provide humanitarian visas and safe routes to sanctuary.

Signatories include Positive Action in Housing, the Scottish Refugee Council, Unison Scotland, Doctors of the World and the Iona Community Migration Network.

All have expressed serious concerns about the way the Government is handling its responsibilities under the International Refugee Convention of 1951, and how it is responding to last week’s tragedy in the English Channel, where 17 men, seven women – one of whom was pregnant – and three young children from Kurdistan drowned while trying to cross to Dover.

“This Bill is a nadir in UK refugee policy and law,” said Sabir Zazai, the Scottish Refugee Council CEO.

“Whilst so many warm hearts and welcome is waiting for the men, women and children seeking safety here, the current UK Government are not amongst them.

“They are selfishly turning their backs on their fellow human beings, leaving them to suffering or worse, death.

“None of this in my name, nor of those whose spirit gives life to this letter, and history will judge us and refugees well but not our current, morally pitiful ‘leaders’ sitting around their plush Cabinet table. We are together with refugees even if these ‘ministers’ are not.”

In their letter they said the Refugee Convention enshrines the right to seek protection in a third country, and the UK had undertaken a moral and legal commitment to help those in greatest need.

However, it added: “In contrast to the UK’s proud history in refugee protection, this Government’s response to recent tragedies has made clear that it is now prepared to stoke and pander to the xenophobia and anti-immigrant hatred of a small section of the population with extreme opposition to refugees, even to the point of leaving human beings to drown in the freezing waters of the Channel.

‘Your Home Secretary seeks to undermine sympathy for refugees by claiming 70% of Channel crossers are ‘economic migrants not genuine asylum seekers’. That is false. Her own department’s data show that virtually all seek asylum.

“And looking at the figures for the top 10 nationalities arriving in small boats, 61% of asylum seekers are granted it at the initial stage, and 59% of the rest on appeal. That means that well over 70% of those coming across the Channel in small boats are indeed genuine asylum seekers, and not ‘economic migrants’.

“That is hardly surprising. Figures from the Refugee Council show that over 90% of people who arrive on boats are from refugee-producing countries, like Syria, Iran, Iraq and Yemen.

“These people are fleeing persecution and destitution, and the sea route from France is the only one open to them.”

It said that in practice, initiatives to refugees no longer exist – the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and been closed, the Dubs child refugee scheme, scrapped and there is no aid programme for Afghan refugees.

Robina Qureshi, Positive Action in Housing director, said: “Mourning the dead has not stopped the UK Government from planning to break with the Refugee Convention.

“The Nationality and Borders Bill will murder human rights as we know it and seeks to criminalise those who survive the peril of the seas and those at Dover who try to help them, and is in danger of wreaking murderous consequences for the relatively few who seek sanctuary here. This anti-Refugee Bill does nothing to increase safe routes. With limited resettlement options, dangerous crossings are the only route for most people claiming asylum in the UK.

“Further, there is no evidence to support the Government’s claims that the changes proposed in the bill will undermine smuggling networks.“ She said 90% of the world’s refugees remain in their own region, and neither Europe nor the UK took their fair share of the world total."

Qureshi added: “Our failure to provide a safe route makes us complicit with the people smugglers. They may make a profit, but our failure to intervene has led to innocent people drowning.”