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LD4SOS have submitted this policy motion, of learning to communicate in English, in the hopes that it will be able to be discussed at our September Conference. Learning to communicate in English final words
(UPDATE – we are pleased to say that it has been accepted for debate at our conference)
Baroness Sally Hamwee said in a House of Lords debate :
Our regard for people is reflected in our language. I shall say a word about language and Refugee Action’s campaign Let Refugees Learn, a campaign to improve language provision to refugees. Being able to understand and make oneself understood is fundamental to integration. A young woman from the DRC has said:
“One thing I’ve realised, when you can’t talk to people, it’s really very hard. They smile but can’t talk to you and you can’t talk to them”.
There are English language classes with waiting lists of two years and close to 1,000 people, reductions in learning hours and the doubling of class sizes. Teaching English should be regarded as an investment in the often highly skilled and highly motivated people who seek asylum here. Words are our tools, so we should understand the need.
“…In the wide-ranging speeches, we had one great disappointment, and I am sure the Minister involved will know exactly what I am referring to; there has been no commitment at all to receiving the 20,000 Syrian refugees as promised by David Cameron. It is not there in the Queen’s Speech. Nor is there a commitment to increase the number of unaccompanied child refugees. When you think that in Europe there are still about 88,000 of these children by themselves, we have met no commitment whatever in the Speech that we are discussing this afternoon. It has been a great disappointment in that direction.
We are probably going to get another immigration Bill; we get one every Session. I am not sure what we are going to do in a two-year Session: will we get two or just one and a half? We are going to get new legislation, and every time we do it makes it more difficult for those who are vulnerable and those who wish to escape from total austerity to come here. We can promote many amendments when that new Bill comes. We can ask why asylum seekers are still refused permission to work for the first 12 months of their time in the United Kingdom. Is there any reason whatever? I cannot see any.
Why, also, do we have legislation that permits 18 year-olds to be deported? Those who are deported are largely those who have had no access to legal advice. The Government could, quite easily I think, make a commitment that everyone who approaches 18 years of age shall at least have the benefit of top-rate legal advice.
There is one other thing I would like to see in the new immigration Bill. Do you know how much people get every week when they are applying? It is £36.95, and this has not increased at all in the past five or six years. Anything that we can do to upgrade that to the present cost of living would be very welcome.
I shall quote part of a poem by Warsan Shire of Somalia:
“You have to understand/that no one puts their children in a boat/unless the water is safer than the land
No one burns their palms/under trains/beneath carriages
No one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck/feeding on newspaper/unless the miles travelled meant something more than journey.
No one crawls under fences.
No one wants to be beaten/pitied
No one chooses refugee camps/or strip searches where your/body is left aching/or prison/because prison is safer/than a city of fire … ”.
The accusation is that they have:
“messed up their country and now they want to mess ours up”.
I could go on but I had better not. In the United Kingdom, there are many victims of the harshest circumstances.
We in the House of Lords can lead the way in defining the character of the United Kingdom. Is it be one of which we are proud, that we are delighted to be part of, or do we have to say, “This is not in my name”?
Baroness Sally Hamwee, Liberal Democrat Peer, has come 10th in the Private Members Bill Ballot, and is moving her proposal, drawn up with the assistance of the Refugee Council, for making provision for leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom to be granted to the family members of refugees and to refugees who are family members of British citizens and settled persons; and also to provide for legal aid to be available for refugee family reunion cases and connected purposes.
She says “Anyone who takes a serious interest in the UK having a civilised refugee policy is aware of the restrictions on refugees, including unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, being able to be with their families. My private member’s bill on refugee family reunion may stand little chance of becoming law, given the Government’s attitude, but it is important to keep advancing the arguments. It has come high in the ballot in the Lords, so at least that will be possible.”
The full words of the Bill are here HL Bill family reunion
Lib Dems are continuing, wherever and whenever we can, to campaign for safe and legal routes for refugees. Reform of family reunion rules to make it easier for refugees to join relatives already living in safety in the UK is part of this.