IMMIGRATION FIGURES SHOW THE PRIME MINISTER’S ATROCIOUS FAILING ON SYRIAN REFUGEES and BEYOND THE IMMIGRATION STATISTICS.

UK border pic of airport controlLOOKING BEYOND THE STATS.

On the statistical target set, last year Liberal Democrat peer Lord Paddick said: “The Tories promised to cut net migration to tens of thousands but failed spectacularly. Instead of admitting their target was a stupid idea, they have pushed the ‘let’s sound tough on immigration’ button yet again“.

Vince Cable tweeted today” Gove Brexit attack Cameron net migration target. I and Lib Dems warned for 5 years that undeliverable. Can’t control emigration either.”

Detention Action pulls out some little talked about facts about the uselessness of detention for immigration purposes, and how the Government must stop detaining people to remove them who are not allowed back to their home country at all.

FAILURE TO HELP SYRIAN REFUGEES.

This is what Tim Farron has to say about the migration statistics and how Cameron has failed Syrian Refugees.

Migration statistics released yesterday expose the Tory Government’s failing to offer a safe haven to people fleeing the war in Syria. The Prime Minister committed to welcoming 20,000 refugees by 2020, but progress has been slow and weak, not even reaching 10 percent of the target. During the 12 months up to March this year, just 1,667 Syrian nationals were granted humanitarian protection under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. By comparison, Canada settled 25,000 Syrian refugees in three months, between November 2015 and February 2016. Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron said: “The crisis is one of the greatest humanitarian disasters of our lifetime. It is time the Prime Minister stood up and used Britain’s power to change attitudes and save lives. “He must not turn his back on the world’s most vulnerable and should lead the response in the European Union rather than run away from it, but we are paralysed by a campaign too afraid to talk about refugees. “Thousands of men, women and children are dying as they desperately flee war. People are not risking their lives, clinging to rafts or lorries in hope of a welfare payment, they are doing it because they believe it’s their last attempt to survive. “It’s folly to think that this crisis goes away if Britain votes to leave. We will only solve it by working closely with our neighbours within the European Union. “I do not want a successful campaign to stay in Europe overshadowed by further division in society, stoked by fear tactics straight out of Donald Trump’s playbook. “The language, the lies, the ignorance coming from some leave campaigners needs to be challenged. If the PM and other remain campaigners aren’t prepared to do so, that I and the Liberal Democrats will.”

GOOD NEWS ABOUT DETENTION FAST TRACK ENDING

A small security window at an immigration removal centre   Finally, after a number of court cases, and now a ruling from the Tribunal Procedures Committee, the iniquitous and unfair system of Detention Fast Track has to be stopped.

As Detention Action tell us, “Until July 2015, the UK was responsible for the largest-scale systematic detention of asylum-seekers in Europe.  Any asylum-seeker whose claim was considered by the Home Office ‘suitable for a quick decision’ was taken straight to a high-security detention centre, usually Harmondsworth or Yarl’s Wood.  Locked up in a cell, subject to draconian deadlines, the vast majority were quickly refused asylum, and quickly removed.”

Many people are disheartened by the Immigration Bill becoming law, but we can all be encouraged that the determined action by Detention Action has finally paid off, and are an example to be followed.

No doubt the Home Office will be looking at ways round this, but there will be eagle eyes watching, and doing their best to ensure that any new system has justice and fairness at its core.

The campaign to end Indefinite Detention for Immigration Purposes, and a complete end to detention of pregnant women and other vulnerable people continues.

IMMIGRATION ACT, END OF ROAD WITH SOME PROGRESS IN APPALLING BILL

So the end of the road for all the work on the Immigration Bill, which will now become law.  It has been a long haul, and extremely worrying how it will work out in practice.  We are of course very pleased at how Tim Farron’s original call for unaccompanied refugee children already in Europe is accepted, even if without the specified number.

The way that detention for immigration purposes is going to be dealt with is definitely on the agenda now, and some steps forward have been made.  Not enough, but a beginning.  Most significantly there will be judicial oversight after detention for 4 months, and a 72 hour limit on detention of pregnant women.  It is best explained in the article below from Detention Forum.  There is also this link to an account by the Refugee Council.

In the meantime, we want to say thank you to all readers who have taken the trouble to lobby their MPs on these issues.  It HAS made a difference, and brought about Government concessions.

But very importantly a HUGE thank you to our Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians, and their researchers, in both the House of Commons and House of Lords who have worked extremely hard and diligently to bring about the concessions and amendments.  They have worked late and scrutinised everything phrase by phrase, and worked so well with those of other parties and none to make that difference to the most vulnerable, who do need us to stand up for them.  There are too many speeches to quote for you, but it is all there in Hansard, and this is what was said on Tuesday in the final Lords session.

Detention Forum writes :

The Immigration Act, scheduled to receive Royal Assent in the coming days, will introduce automatic judicial oversight on the UK’s use of immigration detention for the first time and a 72-hour time limit on the detention of pregnant women.  

During the passage of the Immigration Bill which began in October last year, the Government listened to growing disquiet over immigration detention, raised by Parliamentarians and the general public. 

Two detention-related amendments (judicial oversight and the detention of pregnant women) became the focus of the ping-pong in the very final stage of the Bill, which concluded on 10th May 2016 at the House of Lords.  In the end, the Government’s amendments were passed.  You can read the transcript here

These two detention policy changes are designed to offe

URGENT NEED TO LOBBY MP’s AHEAD OF IMMIGRATION BILL VOTE ON MAY 9th

A lot has happened since the last vote on April 25th, showing it IS worth lobbying MPs and fighting for our values of justice and compassion. However more work to come.

The situation is complicated, some progress has been made, but not nearly enough, and even if all the amendments are agreed, we end up with a Bill that includes implementation of “deport first, appeal later”, rules for a wide range of cases, restrictions on right to rent based on individuals’ immigration status, increased surveillance over access to essential services, new types of criminalisation including working without a permit or driving while staying in the UK irregularly.

More detail is below, and detail as to what happened in the House of Lords is in our web article here, but if you read no further please lobby your MP to

VOTE FOR Amendment 84 (Lord Ramsbotham’s), for greater scrutiny of detention and 28 day judicial oversight. (compared to the Government’s 4 month judicial review oversight)

VOTE FOR Amendment 85 (Baroness Lister’s improving the72 hour time limit on the detention of pregnant women amendment (Note, the conversation is no longer about absolute ban on detention of pregnant women.)

These are of vital importance in the light of other aspects of the Immigration Bill which is likely to increase detention.

KEEP PRESSING FOR adequate funding for local authorities for supporting lone refugee children arriving in their areas, and the necessary recruitment and training of foster parents.

If an MP you lobbied responded positively, please do thank them.

THE UK ACCEPTING REFUGEE CHILDREN ALREADY IN EUROPE.

After the narrow defeat in the House of Commons last time the Government has now accepted the “Dubs amendment” from the House of Lords. The Government have now said that they will offer sanctuary for an unspecified number of children. They will consult with local authorities about accepting under-16s who registered as unaccompanied refugees in Europe before 20 March, when the Turkey/EU deal came into being, and say they hope the first children will arrive in the UK by the end of the year.

Tim Farron says “Since I first raised the issue with him last October, the Prime Minister has done everything he can to ignore the plight of unaccompanied child refugees in Europe, so I strongly welcome the announcement that we will finally be helping these vulnerable kids.   

“An estimated 90,000 unaccompanied children arrived in Europe last year, so 3,000 is the very least Britain can do, and I will do everything I can to ensure that the government meets this target. What started as a call supported only by the Lib Dems has developed into a truly cross party campaign, and those activists up and down the country who have championed this should be proud of their efforts today.  The detail remains to be seen. Tens or hundreds simply won’t be good enough and would be a betrayal of the British public and Parliament.  This is a victory, but it’s not the end of the story. The Government must also ensure that local authorities are properly funded so that they can help these traumatised children rebuild their lives and achieve their full potential”.

During Prime Minister’s Questions, the Prime Minister confirmed the Government’s promise that it will act more quickly to help separated children who have relatives in Britain to realise their existing legal right to join their loved ones: a welcome step forward.  See also what the Refugee Council says.

IMMIGRATION DETENTION

On May 5th the Government published its compromise amendment, reducing the time for an automatic bail hearing from 6 to 4 months, in response to the Lord Ramsbotham amendment asking for automatic judicial oversight of detention after 28 days.

As Detention Forum says “In essence, the Government is feeling the pressure and wants a way-out by reducing the period before automatic bail hearings kicks in from six months to four months.  While it is encouraging to see that the Government knows that it is under pressure – and this is thanks to peers and MPs who are trying to negotiate something behind the scenes, as well as sector colleagues who are busy briefing them – this is not good enough and still not a time limit that we are seeking.  MPs must feel confident enough to say no to the Government amendment and that’s why we need to continue to speak up.  This ‘compromise’ amendment does nothing to address the serious misgivings highlighted in our briefing paper, in particular, the key thrust of both the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Use of Immigration Detention and the Shaw Review that the UK detains far too many people far too long and that the UK must immediately stop the practice of using detention as a norm rather than as an exception”.  Note this would not be the same as a time limit on detention, but could be an important first step.  The link to their updated webpage is here which explains the latest situation.

As Right to Remain says “Immigration detention is the deprivation of someone’s liberty, and the current lack of judicial oversight over such a fundamental deprivation of rights is an outrage.  The UK detains more people, for longer, than any other country in Europe.  Rather than the presumption of liberty being upheld (as established in law), the default position of the Home Office has been to detain, detain, detain.”

DETENTION OF PREGNANT WOMEN

In response to the Lords’ demand that there be an absolute ban on the detention of pregnant women, the Government offered a compromise through its amendment, introducing a time limit of 72 hours for this category of individuals, extendable up to seven days.  A similar 72 hour detention time limit rule is currently applicable to families with children who are facing return from the UK to their country of origin, via the mechanism of the Independent Family Returns Panel.  When the Bill returns to the Commons, the discussion under the Lister Amendment is likely to focus on to what extent and how it is ensured that pregnant women will be detained only under very exceptional circumstances.

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO THE IMMIGRATION BILL

The Immigration Bill returns to the House of Commons on Monday, April 25th. Some very important amendments will be coming from significant wins in the House of Lords, when it was debated there. ALL MPs need to be lobbied and told how important it is that these amendments are incorporated into what is a terrible Bill, to at least make a difference to many asylum seekers already in the UK, as well as the 3,000 unaccompanied children seeking refuge, already in Europe.

Please do take the time to write, meet, or otherwise lobby your own MP on these issues.

  1. Right to Work. Asylum seekers should be given the right to work after they have been in the UK after 6 months.  Lord Roger Roberts has campaigned on this for 10 years now. His full speech is here, and the issue is in the Lib Dem 2015 general election manifesto. You are asking your MP to vote for the Lords Amendment 59. Please also tweet this widely, using the hashtags #immigrationbill and #letthemwork
  2. The vote on ending indefinite detention for immigration purposes. The amendment about this was won by 17 votes. Much has been written and campaigned about this, and LD4SOS have campaigned for years. (This was a key manifesto commitment for the 2015 general election). You can read a further briefing from Detention Action here.  Please ask your MP to support amendment 84.
  3.  The ending of detention for immigration purposes of pregnant women. Pregnant women should never be detained, and this is said in both the APPG report, chaired by Sarah Teather, and published last year, and the Government commissioned Shaw Report published earlier this year. There is more information in this report “Expecting Change”. Please ask your MP to vote to keep the absolute exclusion on the detention of pregnant women and vote for sub–‐clause (1) to Lords Amendment 85. 
  4. The UK Government to agree to take in 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children from Europe. This was agreed by the House of Lords on April 12th by a majority of 102. Tim Farron has led this campaign, working with organisations such as Save the Children Fund who have expertise on this issue. Bradley Hillier-Smith has done a great video on this, do look at it and distribute it. You can read more in this article, and download the blueprint for action here. Please ask your MP to support amendment 87.

STOP PRESS

The announcement by the Government today about them agreeing to take in 3,000 children, sounds like the move is welcome, (and it is for those children and families) BUT not what needed for those young people who have got to Europe. see http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/latest/news/4605_uk_to_resettle_3_000_at_risk_children_with_families Important we reinforce the message that the Lords amendment (Dubs amendment) still needs to be supported by the MPs we are lobbying, 3,000 unaccompanied children already in Europe need to be able to be given safety. Just as the Theresa May announcement about pregnant women not being detained more than 72 hours is a good move but by no means good enough, and MPs must be lobbied to vote for the original amendment (amendment 85) which says NO detention for pregnant women.

If you need any further information on any of the above, please do get in touch. City of Sanctuary have done a briefing, which includes a suggested letter, with suggestions and information here too.  Please take note of “STOP PRESS” as above when writing though.  It is so very important that as many people as possible let their MP know how strongly you feel on these issues. If you have any personal experience, know people who have (for instance women who have been detained whilst pregnant, asylum seekers with skills needed that cannot work) or are part of an organisation that works with any groups affected, then it will be very effective to talk about this.

So get writing, meeting, facebooking and tweeting !

 

The camps at Calais and Dunkerque, report back from helpers.

REPORT FROM ANN KERRIGAN, Former Pendle Councillor on a visit to Calais and Dunkerque. A personal view of the reality of the situation, and her offer of a solution.

I went to Calais on Wednesday 24th February with my friend Eva Kawafi. We worked in the distribution centre for the Auberge des Migrants and we also litter picked at the Dunkerque camp as well as visiting the Jungle on two occasions.  In the distribution centre were volunteers from France, Germany, the UK and other parts of Europe too.

The refugees that we met were lovely, traumatised, friendly people. They have tried their best to make community hubs which is so important for displaced people.  We ate in the Afghan area and drank tea in the Iranian area.  Never did we feel unsafe, everywhere we were welcomed.  People shook our hands, hugged us and talked to us.

There is a school in the Calais camp where the French teachers work. These teachers are passionate about the refugee children and feel that the media ignores them and tries to depict the French as hating the refugees.  They told us that local people in Calais welcome refugees into their homes to shower, eat and just relax.  There are more children in the camp than is depicted, a census was carried out by the voluntary organisations because of the impending move to containers and the numbers appear to be ignored.  There is a great fear that once the containers are full, other refugees in Calais will be moved to camps like that at Dunkerque.  The communities will be split and for the children, that will create even more trauma and vulnerability.

Just as importantly the refugees are not kept informed of what is being planned for them and the image of being fingerprinted to access and leave the container area is very frightening. The new camp is surrounded by barbed wire and to be honest it looks like a concentration camp.  I didn’t notice any windows in the containers, maybe I just couldn’t see them though!

The camp at Dunkerque makes the Jungle look like a holiday camp.

It is squalid, the only image I could conjure was that of the trenches during the first world war (just from descriptions I have read). There are even more children at Dunkerque.  They live in rat infested tents with toilets that ooze sewage and they need constant changes of clothing as the mud just eats everything they wear.  All the refugees we saw had coughs, trench cough, camp cough!

It is a hideous indictment on our society that we can turn our backs on human beings in crisis. History will not be kind when it judges us.  We cannot just accept that though.  These poor human beings should be allowed to come to the UK.  I have many friends (myself included) who will happily give a home to a family or young man.  Why not allow us that chance?  We will feed them and help them and we are prepared to accept responsibility too.