LIBERAL DEMOCRATS FOR SEEKERS OF SANCTUARY REACTION TO REFERENDUM RESULT

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.

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 truly brought about the “hostile environment” that the Home Office has been advocating.

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 migration. 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 to continue to do what we can for refugees worldwide, and those making perilous journeys in their flight.

IF WE, AS LIBERAL DEMOCRATS, DO NOT STAND UP FOR THOSE WITH NO VOICE, OR THOSE WHO DARE NOT USE THEIR VOICE – WHO WILL ?

“SHOW THE WORLD WE HAVE MORE IN COMMON THAN THAT WHICH DIVIDES US”.

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.”

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.