Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary (LD4SOS) are shocked and appalled at the Government statement today about the closure of Pre Departure Centre for families with children, Cedars, transferring them to detention centre, Tinsley House.

Chair of LD4SOS, Suzanne Fletcher, who has visited Cedars, and been part of an Independent Monitoring Board until the change of Government last year says “ Cedars provided an oasis with care and calm at a very traumatic time for those families with children who very sadly were being sent against their will back to their country of origin.  Children should never have to be behind the locked doors of a detention centre, and our Government should be ashamed of such a backward step.”

Alistair Carmichael MP, Liberal Democrat spokesman for Home Affairs said “Cedars was an expensive centre to run but that was the price of a civilised way of dealing with some of the most vulnerable young people in our care. 

Ending the detention of children in lock down institutions was something that the Liberal Democrats forced Theresa May to do against her will. Now there are no restraints on her she will indulge the more callous instincts  of her party. 

Having Tories in government is a bit like sharing your home with a cat. You may think that you have a domestic pet but the feral animal is never far beneath the surface. “


Dr Gemma Stockford, chair of Gatwick Detainees Visitor Group, and LD4SOS member says  “It is inhumane to incarcerate children and damages them in the long and short term. This is not the way to create harmony between nations and is totally unjustified on practicality or any other grounds. It shows that this government will treat anyone in any way in order to prove how tough they are.”

Cedars was opened to fulfil the pledge made by the coalition government, pushed by Sarah Teather and Nick Clegg, to end the detention of children for immigration purposes.  We were proud of this pledge, and there was a dramatic drop from 1,120 children being locked up in Yarlswood Detention Centre for an indefinite time, which ran into weeks and months. Cedars was not a detention centre, children could only be there for a maximum of 72 hours without the written permission of the Home Secretary, and the welfare of the children was in the care of Barnardos.

Parliament has now risen for the recess, the Minister having made this announcement on the last day, but we will be pursuing the Minister for action and answers on the following points.

  • The Family Returns process needs to be not only retained, as in the Government statement, but needs to be given more powers.  A number, which has never been released but suspected to be at least half, of the families that are taken to Cedars prior to removal are not actually removed but end up back in the community as a result of further appeals.  What is the Minster going to do to ensure that for families taken to Tinsley House, it really is the last resort ?
  • There is no mention in the Government statement about the 72 hour limit on the time that a family can be detained in Pre Departure Accommodation, unless there is the written agreement of the Home Secretary.  Will the Minister reiterate that this time limit will be used for any arrangement at Tinsley House ?
  • The withdrawal of the service by Barnardo’s is a backward move, and their valuable service, providing practical and emotional support to these vulnerable children must be continued to work with all the families in Tinsley House.  Will the Minster make contact with Barnardo’s and ask them to continue that work ?
  • The latest report of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) on Tinsley House shows a lot of concern about the transport arrangements and how families are treated during transport to and from the centre.  Will the Minister ensure that immediate improvements are made before Tinsley House is used for those who would have used Cedars ?
  • Similarly there are concerns in the above IMB report on the too short time families are there between being transported there and being removed for a flight.  Will the Minister ensure that there is sufficient time for all families, whether Border Cases or those who have been here as asylum seekers, to rest between being taken to Tinsley House, and the airport ?
  • Families being taken from Cedars were accompanied by staff from Barnardos on the traumatic journey to the airport, will the Minister ensure that this continues?
  • The IMB report talks of essential upgrading of facilities at Tinsley House.  Progress on this must be closely monitored.  One of the reasons why the facilities at Cedars were so appropriate was because potential and past users of centres were involved in the design.  This could be done again.  Will the Minister ensure that all upgrading is completed before Cedars is closed, and take the views of families who have been or likely to use such facilities have their views taken into account ?
  • There is no mention in the Government statement about the work done at Cedars around preparation for return to the country of origin, especially for the children who have never been to that country or cannot remember it.  Nor is there any mention of medical support such as immunisations and issue of mosquito nets.  Will the Minister make sure that this work continues ?
  • If Cedars is not to be used any more consideration needs to be given to using the facilities there for vastly improving the way others are detained before departure.  Also consideration could be given to using it for an initial reception centre for unaccompanied children arriving in the UK before being taken to those who will care for them.  Will the Minister look at these suggestions for the future of Cedars ?
  • The facilities at Heathrow for families arriving there, and needing to return on the next flight are appalling and raised in every IMB report.  These children too must be treated better and steps must be taken for these to be upgraded too.  Will the Minister report on progress on improving these facilities ?

There is strong reaction from the voluntary sector on the closure, such as:

Detention Forum  ;Refugee Council and AVID has spoken out too.

Those who are probably the closest to the issue, Barnardo’s , response to the closure is

The full Government statement on the closure of Cedars is here.




Like all of you, Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary are shattered, upset and angry at events leading up to the Referendum and the actual result.

The former Home Secretary, who said she wanted the UK to have a “hostile environment”, a policy aimed at making life so awful for presumed “illegal immigrants” that they would leave the country voluntarily, is now our Prime Minister.

We know that many of those seeking asylum, refugees and others who have migrated to the UK in recent years, as well as long established people from the BME community, have felt or even been threatened. The language and whipping up of racism and hatred by some in the Leave campaign and some of the media has been a disgrace, and cause for our deep concern.

What makes everything worse is the victims of all this are in the worst position to speak out for themselves, particularly those waiting for asylum claims to be processed, those appealing, and those who are destitute and cannot return to their country of origin. 

So what are we going to do? As some have said we need to “re imagine the UK, how we are and our place in the world”.

It is important that we do not alienate and scapegoat those members of the public who voted “leave” because they were worried and misled about immigration. It does not mean that they are racist, but it does mean that we all have to up our game in getting better understanding of the issues.

It is important that we do not even think that our values and our priorities change. We stand up for, and continue to campaign for:

The UK being a fair and welcoming society that is tolerant.

More compassion and humanity in how we look after those who seek sanctuary in the UK, and deal with their claims for asylum. All must be treated with dignity and respect.

Protection for refugees and all who are making their home here.

Valuing the contribution made to society by those who have migrated here for whatever reason.

Care about and campaign for those unaccompanied child refugees still in Europe, and all who are separated from their family in the UK by bureaucracy and bad laws.

Whilst not our core objective, we will continue to do what we can for refugees worldwide, and those making perilous journeys in their flight.





candle-flameWe want to pay tribute to Jo Cox.

She worked hard, tirelessly and effectively for humanity and compassion to be at the fore of our troubled world. She stood up for child migrants stranded in the UK, asking the Government to take action; she kept up the pressure for action on those in Syria. She wanted a better world, and was prepared to work for it.

She was particularly worried about the current direction of politics across the world, “particularly around creating division and playing on people’s worst fears rather than their best instincts”.

We can only pay tribute to her for her work, and do what we can play our part in fulfilling her dreams.   Play our part in welcoming those who have sought sanctuary in the UK, and treating them with dignity and respect. She believed in working together with those who shared he values, and that is what we must continue to do.

At 4.00 pm today, people will start gathering in Trafalgar Square to pay tribute to her, with a minute’s silence at 4.29.

If you read this in time, please join in with that, and very importantly let none of us lose sight of what we need to do, to play our part in making a better world.

As Tim Farron said “Let this be a turning point for our country. When the world around us is fearful, confusing, and clouded, let us be the beacon of tolerance and hope.”


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.


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.”


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.


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