REFUGEES WELCOME HERE ?

Commenting on the launch of the All Party Parliamentary Group “REFUGEES WELCOME ?,  “ Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary say :

  • We welcome the APPG report which is right to question the difference in support depending on how people got here, but the crucial thing is the UK welcomes those that are seeking sanctuary with us.
  • We welcome the recommendation to appoint a Minister for Refugees and to devise a National Refugee Integration Strategy in cooperation with members of civil society, faith groups, local authorities and officials from the relevant Government departments
  • Integration is what the refugees, however they arrive here want, as well as what the UK needs to be encouraging
  • Better and more humane ways of family reunion is all part of people settling into our communities.
  • We particularly welcome the recommendation that the 28 day period someone who is granted refugee status has to find somewhere to live and a job and any benefits is extended to at least 50 days, to avoid destitution and homelessness.  Along with better moves for better ESOL provision, a NiNo to be given, support for job searching and health care, this will lead to support across the board for our newly recognised refugees, and better integration into our communities.
  • All of this complements LD4SOS’s call for all those seeking sanctuary to be treated with dignity, respect, and compassion, and for them to be able to contribute to life in the UK as they so much want to be able to do.

ACTION ON DUNKIRK CAMP AND UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN

ACTION ON DUNKIRK CAMP AND UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN

The news of the fire at the Dunkirk camp adds to the distress and horror that refugees are facing. What is even more tragic is that 80 children have been identified as being eligible for entry to the UK as they have family here.

Help Refugees, Safe Passage, Refugee Youth Service, and Dunkirk Legal Centre have put out a joint statement here, http://www.helprefugees.org.uk/news/charities-call-government-urgently-transfer-80-children-dunkirk-ruins-uk/ where you can read more fully about what they say and are asking you to do.

An updates sheet of possible actions for you to take, with a draft letter to Amber Rudd (still in office till election day! (it would need adapting for the Dunkirk situation) is on our website here http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1004

Please respond with action, and also donations. Share with others too. http://www.helprefugees.org.uk/news/charities-call-government-urgently-transfer-80-children-dunkirk-ruins-uk/

HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED TO HELP SETTLE REFUGEES and UNACCOMPANIED REFUGEE CHILDREN IN EUROPE ?

So many of us are very concerned, and yet feel helpless in what we can do. In addition to all the actions in http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/980 – here are some ideas that will all make a difference.

The petition to keep open the Dubs Scheme can be found here https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/183943

You can lobby your MP by writing to them specifically on the issue of unaccompanied refugee children. You can ask them to raise a question in the House of Commons or write a letter themselves to the home secretary demanding the restart of the transfer of unaccompanied refugee children to the UK. https://www.writetothem.com

You can also write directly to the home secretary Amber Rudd MP, a sample letter can be found at the end of this document. Email privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk and here amber.rudd.mp@parliament.uk

Or write a physical letter to this address: Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF

There is a specific website where landlords can register their properties to settle refugees here http://www.citizensuk.org/help_find_homes_for_syrian_refugees

Refugees at home is the charity which allows individuals to offer spare rooms to take in refugees http://www.refugeesathome.org/

You can find and join refugee welcome groups in your local area where people come together to help find housing, support networks, education and community engagement for newly arrived refugees as well as forming a relationship with their local council to encourage them to take in more refugees. https://www.refugees-welcome.org.uk/

You can also donate money to organisations.

Safe Passage has lead the vital campaign and legal case-work for transferring refugee children to the UK http://safepassage.org.uk/

Help Refugees provide subsistence aid to those in Calais, Dunkirk Greece and elsewhere in Europe. http://www.helprefugees.org.uk/

Save the Children are a broader charity with many initiatives and have been consistently supportive of refugees especially unaccompanied children in Europe. https://secure.savethechildren.org.uk/donate/

Draft Letter to Home Secretary Amber Rudd MP

Dear Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP

I am writing to you about a very serious issue. There are an estimated 100 000 unaccompanied refugee children in Europe. They have fled war, extreme deprivation, violence and human rights violations. They are on their own without their parents and are at particular risk to exploitation, trafficking, and physical and sexual abuse. They are in urgent need of safeguarding and aid. Last year Europol revealed that 10 000 had gone missing.

I am deeply concerned with the announcement that the Dubs scheme to transfer these children to safety in the UK will close after only 350 have been saved. The UK has the capacity to help. We can do more. Numerous councils have come forward explicitly stating they have the support networks necessary to settle these children. Freedom of information requests have also revealed that numerous councils have additional capacity to settle at least hundreds more children.

 

It is simply not the case that the Dubs scheme acts as an incentive for perilous journeys or traffickers. On the contrary, children are returning to Calais in increased numbers where around 300 -400 are sleeping rough on the streets or in surrounding woodlands without adequate food or shelter. The dubs scheme has been clearly proven to be workable, effective and a life-line for such persons. It is not a ‘magnet for traffickers’ but an alternative to traffickers. It offers safe passage instead of risking their lives on the back of lorries. It offers appropriate safeguarding and needs based assessments rather than falling in to the hands of traffickers. It offers hope rather than fear.

How can we turn our backs on these children when we can easily help them and offer them a future? I respectfully demand that the transfer of unaccompanied refugee children be restarted immediately. You are in a position to be able to make a significant difference to effectively save the lives of these children. I respectfully request that you recognise your moral duty to do so.

Yours Sincerely,

 

 

“NOW YOU ARE HERE IN THE UK, WHAT NEXT FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS ?” FRINGE MEETING AT LIBERAL DEMOCRAT PARTY CONFERENCE,

Spring 17 fringe 2 Jon Beech, Director of Leeds Asylum Seekers Network, LASSN, spoke to us about how asylum seekers in the community can be supported.

He described the organisation simply as “ People from Leeds, welcoming those from other places.”

Leeds has a good set up for support for relatively few, but local people can extend a welcome in ways that can really make a difference.

They provide emergency financial and housing support

HOSTING. He told us about “Grace Hosting” where emergency accommodation is provided by 49 local people for varying lengths of time. He said that just offering a spare room for a destitute asylum seeker cannot solve everything but can make a big difference if offered for overnight or few days, or even just once a month.

ENGLISH AT HOME PROJECT helps those who cannot access classes for various reasons, and has benefits for both the person learning and the volunteer helper You can read more about it here. ESOL classes are often away from where people actually live so bus fares have to be paid. Many of those seeking asylum are skilled, gifted and educated people, some have had no education at all.  Everyone has already helped people in some way, so helpers in the scheme don’t need to be ESOL teachers. Some help for only an hour a week. His emphasis was that there is something we can ALL do,

Jon told us about his latest blog, and it is here, http://www.oneworldleeds.org/the-daily-mail-our-new-best-friend/ challenging us to think about who we get the message out to, with real stories about asylum seekers and refugees. We can better get messages out to people about who asylum seekers and refugees actually are in creating a culture of welcome and a friendship

“We have more power and ability than you think you have.”

Questions from the audience.

How do we teach, if we don’t know, say, Arabic? He told us that we can use children in a family; we can play games like Guess Who, or Boggle, any silly games really. It must be enjoyable, and remember that our presence is invaluable

Asked about mistakes to avoid, he told us that we should not assume goodwill is enough, we must always remember that we are working with people who have no choice.  Never fall into the trap of working with a journalists who is looking for a story, nothing matters more than preserving the dignity and safety of the asylum seeker. Voluntary organisations need to cooperate – after all we do better when we share. Councils that will not work with the voluntary sector are a big problem.

Spring 17 fringe 4Accompanying people to appointments with those in authority is something else that we can all do, and makes a big difference.

Other questions were around the need for support for volunteers, and issues connected with people of different religion.

Lord Roger Roberts told us that Wakefield City of Sanctuary have just produced an excellent booklet to help new people shopping and cooking with pics fruit and veg. Also about the “Citizens of the world choir”, http://lordrogerroberts.uk/citizens-of-the-world-choir/

GETTING THE FACTS RIGHT

winners of the LD4SOS spring 2017 quiz

winners of the LD4SOS spring 2017 quiz

So much harm is done by people having distorted views of what the situation with asylum seekers and refugees actually is, and it helps a lot if we are armed with the facts to be able to explain to people, or counter the myths.At the LD4SOS stall at conference we ran a quiz, written by council member Jacqui Bell as a way of getting people to think about the facts.  Here are the winners with the Fairtrade prizes they chose .

You can see the questions and answers here, LD4SOS Quiz with Answers Spring 2017

We have an updated “20 top facts” sheet 20 TOP FACTS 15.03.2017 available via this link and also under “documents” with our other facts sheets on this web page.  Also the Refugee Council have good up to date information here . They also do a good booklet “Tell it like it is” linked to on that page.

Why not do a quiz yourself, based on facts for a group or organisation that you are part of ?

 

A SOLUTION TO PRISON PROBLEMS

Lord Andrew Stunell and Suzanne Fletcher with Lib Dem policies on ending indefinite detention for immigration purposes

Lord Andrew Stunell and Suzanne Fletcher with Lib Dem policies on ending indefinite detention for immigration purposes

“Tackling overcrowding in the prison system” was the title of a debate at Lib Dem Spring Conference. It was highlighting the problems caused by overcrowding, and the drastic cut in the number of prison officers. There has been a cut of 30% in their numbers since 2010, despite the rise in the prison population. Amongst other things the policy motion being debated called for was an increase in prison officers beyond the additional resource promised by the current Government to reach a safe prisoner-to-officer ratio and to increase the quality and effectiveness of work done with the inmates of the prisons. It was agreed overwhelmingly and the text is here.

Obviously funding is a huge problem – but LD4SOS Council member Suzanne Fletcher spoke in the debate about a solution. Cut the numbers of those in immigration detention, and release £75 million a year, only part of which would be needed to increase prison officers to a level needed. Also it would release lots of the detention estate, so could be easily adapted for prisoners – they are already described as “prison like”, as in this recent report on Morton Hall detention centre.

Detention for immigration purposes is indefinite, those in detention do not know how long they will be there for, and costs £75 million a year. Liberal Democrats have called for detention to only take place if absolutely necessary and there is no workable alternative; never for those that are vulnerable; and then for a maximum of 28 days.

The money and space saved could be spent much better, and very importantly people who were not being imprisoned for a criminal or civil offence would not have lives wasted.

Common sense for the Home Office, Common decency and humanity for all.