One of the important questions to candidates in the general election was from Safe Passage. Not all candidates will have been sent it from a constituent, and not all candidates will have had time to answer, so we are publishing what the agreed Liberal Democrat Policy is on the question of child refugees.
QUESTION FROM SAFE PASSAGE
Can you let us know if you’re committed to giving child refugees safe and legal routes to the UK.
For too long what Government has said they will, but that has not been enough, and has not been translated into action for these young people in desperate need of safety
LIBERAL DEMOCRATS WOULD:
Provide an effective mechanism to implement in full Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 that commits the UK to welcoming unaccompanied refugee children, this scheme to be expanded to welcome 10,000 such children over a period of 10 years.
REFUGEE ACTION QUESTIONNAIRE
Refugee Action sent out a questionnaire for people to send to their candidates for the general election. Not all candidates will have been sent one, and not all had chance fill it in with the detailed thought needed, so we have answered the questions with Lib Dem agreed policy on the important issues raised by Refugee Action.
Our responses are in italics.
What will you do to make sure the asylum system is compassionate, fair and effective?
Liberal Democrats believe that those seeking asylum should be treated humanely, with compassion and respect.
- The asylum system should be improved so that it properly upholds obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and at the same time minimizes potential for abuse.
- Liberal Democrats will review and reform all aspects of current asylum rules and operations that offend basic measures of fairness and justice.
- In particular we would seek to change the culture of disbelief that affects all people applying for asylum. The Home Office is not fit for purpose and needs radical reform.
- The political influence must be taken out of decision making.
- There is more detail on our policy on decision making in this information document http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1667
- We will end the practice of the “hostile environment” approach, which includes everything from multiple expensive and inhumane immigration detention centres to making civil society the frontline of immigration control, resulting in mistakes and unfairness on an industrial scale.
Safe and legal routes:
What will you do to expand, and extend the commitment to, refugee resettlement?
Liberal Democrats will:
- Offer safe and legal routes to the UK for at least 10,000 refugees each year by expanding the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, both to help a greater number of people from that region and to cover other conflict zones such as Myanmar;
- Provide an effective mechanism to implement in full Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 that commits the UK to welcoming unaccompanied refugee children; this scheme to be expanded to welcome 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children over a period of 10 years;
- Speed up processes for taking unaccompanied children with established family links in the UK;
- Participate in EU search and rescue operations and tackle criminal people-smuggling
- There is more detail on this in our information document here, http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1685Access to English:
- Will you support change to ensure all refugees receive access to English language classes?
Liberal Democrats will:
- Provide free basic English lessons to any seeker of sanctuary.
- We would start these lessons at the earliest opportunity, so that people would be able to integrate and work in the UK as soon as possible.
- Also they would then be able to engage, participate and contribute fully to the local community and British society, as so many express the strong desire to do;
Right to work:
Will you support reform of the rules to restore the right to work for people seeking asylum?
Liberal Democrats will:
- Grant all asylum seekers the right to work, if they wish, 3 months after applying for asylum. The new unit would be required to assist the asylum seeker to exercise this option, through facilitating access to training and to accreditation through relevant qualifications;
- Require asylum seekers able to work to do so 6 months after applying for asylum.
- Safeguards will be in place to ensure that no one is compelled to work who is unable to do so. It would give them dignity, ability to use their skills and to find a job more easily when given the right to remain.
- A SUMMARY OF MORE OF OUR POLICIES FOR REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS CAN BE ACCESSED HERE : http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/330
- There is more detail in our policy document here : http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1688
REFUGEE COUNCIL QUESTIONS TO CANDIDATES WITH LIBERAL DEMOCRAT POLICY ANSWERS.
The Refugee Council has asked people to send candidates questions on refugee and asylum issues, which is excellent. However given that not all candidates will receive the questions, and many will not have time to answer, LD4SOS thought it helpful to let people know how Liberal Democrat policy answers the questions asked.
The headings and questions are in bold, and the Lib Dem answers in italics.
The last Government has committed to resettling 5,000 refugees from around the world to the UK next year, providing them with support to integrate and move on with their lives. At the moment, we don’t know what will happen or how many will be resettled in later years, starting in 2021. While this commitment is important, people working with refugees believe that the UK, one of the richest countries in the world, can and should do more. Across the world, there are more refugees than at any time since the end of the Second World War, yet we only take a tiny proportion. We believe that the UK should commit to resettling 10,000 refugees every year, on an ongoing basis.
Question: If elected, will you press for the Government to show leadership in its response to the global refugee crisis by increasing the number of refugees resettled in the UK?
Our Manifesto says that we would “Provide safe and legal routes to sanctuary in the UK by resettling 10,000 vulnerable refugees each year and a further 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children from elsewhere in Europe over the next ten years”
Further detail is here http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1685 adding that we would also expand the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, both to help a greater number of people from that region and to cover other conflict zones. In addition we would consider how the UK can best work with other countries, particularly in Europe, to address other situations which can already be anticipated such as the rapidly expanding population of Nigeria and the impacts of climate change.
Refugee Family Reunion
Once someone has been recognised as a refugee in the UK, there are rules that allow them to bring family members to live with them here. This is crucial in allowing refugees to rebuild their lives, without worrying about loved ones, and allowing them to integrate into their new communities. This also allows families to be reunited without having to take dangerous journeys and relying on smugglers to get to the UK. Unfortunately, the UK’s rules on refugee family reunion are too restrictive. Unaccompanied child refugees are unable to bring any close family members to join them in the UK, a government policy that differs from almost every other country in Europe. Adult refugees aren’t allowed to bring their parents, siblings, or their children who are over 18, even though these are very close family members.
Question: If you are elected, will you make the case for changing the rules on refugee family reunion, so that more refugees can be reunited with their family members?
Our manifesto says we would expand family reunion rights. There is more detail in our document here http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1648 where we says that we would extend the definition of a family member in relation to the applicant seeking reunification (who may be the sponsor or the family member applying to join the sponsor) to incorporate their spouse, their civil or unmarried partner, their children aged under 18, their grandchildren under 18, their unmarried child aged 18 or over, their parent, their sibling under the age of 18, their niece or nephew under the age of 18 or any other dependent relative not listed here.
Homelessness and destitution amongst newly recognised refugees
New refugees who have had their asylum claim accepted by the UK government still face incredible challenges when starting their new lives in the UK. From the point at which they acquire refugee status, they are given only 28 days to access welfare benefits, housing, and employment. This is not a fair or realistic timescale, and it means that many refugees are left homeless and destitute, at the very point they have been granted protection by the government. Alongside this, there are other specific policies that make things more difficult for new refugees. Universal Credit has a five-week waiting period, and though refugees can access advance payments, this puts them into debt which they then have to pay for over future months.
Question: If you become my next MP, will you commit to looking at the system for new refugees, and argue for better support mechanisms for this vulnerable group?
Our Manifesto says we would Increase the ‘move-on period’ for refugees from 28 days to 60 days. There is more detail in this document http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1664
Furthermore, many refugees have no savings, and no financial support networks, yet are often expected to find a home in the private rented sector, where landlords usually expect a deposit and rent up-front. This is financially out of their reach, yet there is limited support from government to ensure these new refugees are safely and securely housed.
Question: If you are elected, will you look at how to support refugees into the private rental sector, and pledge to find ways to prevent refugee homelessness?
Our Manifesto says that “To reform the private rental sector, we will:
- Help young people into the rental market by establishing a new Help to Rent scheme to provide government-backed tenancy deposit loans for all first-time renters under 30.
- Promote longer tenancies of three years or more with an inflation-linked annual rent increase built in, to give tenants security and limit rent hikes.
- Improve protections against rogue landlords through mandatory licensing.
On Ending Rough Sleeping our manifesto continues :
Nobody should have to spend a night sleeping on the streets. However rough sleeping has been increasing since the 2008 recession and is one of the most visible signs of increasing poverty and inequality. Liberal Democrats will end rough sleeping within five years. To do this, we will:
Urgently publish a cross-Whitehall plan to end all forms of homelessness.
- Exempt groups of homeless people, and those at risk of homelessness, from the Shared Accommodation Rate.
- Make providers of asylum support accommodation subject to a statutory duty to refer people leaving asylum support accommodation who are at risk of homelessness to the local housing authority.
- Introduce a ‘somewhere safe to stay’ legal duty to ensure that everyone who is at risk of sleeping rough is provided with emergency accommodation and an assessment of their needs.
- Ensure sufficient financial resources for local authorities to deliver the Homelessness Reduction Act and provide accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse.
- Legislate for longer term tenancies and limits on annual rent increases.
- Scrap the Vagrancy Act, so that rough sleeping is no longer criminalised.
Reforming our asylum system
When people arrive in the UK and make a claim for asylum, their experience of the system is often poor or distressing. Too many people are not believed first time, but are then found to be refugees after they appeal this decision (around 40% of appeals are successful). This is a waste of time and money and causes significant distress for people seeking protection.
Question: If elected, will you seek to ensure asylum decision-making is improved, and that more decisions are made correctly first-time?
Our Manifesto says that we would “Move asylum policymaking from the Home Office to the Department for International Development and establish a dedicated unit to improve the speed and quality of decision-making”
Also there is more detail on our policy here http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1667 which has a 15 point plan.
We will review and reform all aspects of current asylum rules and operations that offend basic measures of fairness and justice. In particular we would seek to change the culture of disbelief that affects all people applying for asylum. The Home Office is not fit for purpose and needs radical reform. The political influence must be taken out of decision making.
We believe it will improve the appeals process by transferring the cost from the Ministry of Justice to the new dedicated unit for asylum applications, thereby incentivising getting it ‘right first time’. It is vitally important that as many decisions as possible are right first time, as it saves time, money and prolonged misery.
Those who are waiting for a decision on their asylum claim have to live on a little over £5 per day for all their living costs, and most people seeking asylum cannot work, meaning they struggle to get by.
Question: Will you make the case for better financial support for people seeking asylum, including supporting their right to work, so they can support themselves during their asylum claim?
Our Manifesto says that we would “Give asylum seekers the right to work three months after they have applied, enabling them to work in any role so that they can support themselves, integrate into their communities and contribute through taxation.
There is more detail of our policy on the right to work, here http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1688
On financial support we would ensure the level of support for asylum seekers is at the same level for all and that all can use the Aspen Card to withdraw cash. We would also launch a review into the current low level of support with a view to raising it to ensure that it is enough to live on. We think it likely that the tax revenue raised by allowing seekers of sanctuary to work, would more than pay for such a raise in this allowance. We believe that support rates should go up in line with benefits.
The UK locks up around 24,700 people every year for immigration reasons. Around half of these have applied for asylum at some point. There is no maximum time limit on how long someone can be detained for, unless they are pregnant or families with children. This means people in immigration detention have no idea when they will be released. The UK still detains some children seeking asylum. Immigration detention can be deeply damaging for people’s mental health, and is unnecessary in most circumstances. It should be replaced by a system where people can live in the community and are monitored there.
Question: As a parliamentary candidate, will you support the campaign to end indefinite immigration detention?
Our Manifesto says that we would “Make immigration detention an absolute last resort, introduce a 28-day time limit on detention and close seven of the UK’s nine detention centres.”
Also more detail on our policy, as in http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1676, says that :
- Detention to be subject to judicial review within 72 hours, and to be no more than 28 days overall.
- Detention to be used only as a last resort, for as few days as possible, for as short a time as possible.
- A drastic reduction in the detention estate, which can, and should, be done.
- An end to the detention of all vulnerable people. This includes victims of torture, those with mental illness and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, victims of gender based violence, pregnant women, and people with learning difficulties.
- Alternatives to detention through case-worker support in the community.
- Better conditions in both refugee housing and in detention.
Support for integration
Many refugees arrive in the UK (whether resettled or through the asylum system) with limited English language skills. Although we all understand and agree that learning English is a vital first step for someone to move forward in the UK, funding for English language teaching is limited, and means that many struggle to access the classes they need. People in the asylum system should have access to free English language classes while their claim is ongoing. Research shows that the sooner refugees are allowed to learn English the sooner they are able to participate in society and start rebuilding their lives.
Question: If you are elected, will you push government to put in place funding for guaranteed English language teaching for all new refugees?
Our Manifesto says that “we would provide free basic English lessons to any seeker of sanctuary, refugees and asylum seekers”.
More detail on our policy says that we would start these lessons at the earliest opportunity, so that people would be able to integrate and work in the UK as soon as possible. Also they would then be able to engage, participate and contribute fully to the local community and British society, as so many express the strong desire to do.
Freedom from Torture have quite rightly been asking parliamentary candidates for their views. In the extremely busy election not all candidates will have been sent this questionnaire, and not all of those will have had time to respond fully, so here are the Liberal Democrat policies and views on this crucial issue :
FREEDOM FROM TORTURE QUESTIONNAIRE
- Be proud to offer safety to people forced to flee their homes because of torture?
We are proud to accept safety to people who have to flee their homes for a range of reasons, including, of course, torture. When those seeking sanctuary with us arrive here, they should be treated humanely, with compassion and respect.
- Ensure a fair system that gets decisions on asylum claims right first time. The people making decisions about peoples’ lives must not reject them unfairly and send them back to torture.
We have robust plans for how we would reform decision making. Liberal Democrats will review and reform all aspects of current asylum rules and operations that offend basic measures of fairness and justice. In particular we would seek to change the culture of disbelief that affects all people applying for asylum. The Home Office is not fit for purpose and needs radical reform. The political influence must be taken out of decision making.
We would provide better training for staff who deal directly with more vulnerable groups such as victims of torture or trafficking, mentally ill people, pregnant women, children and LGBT+ people.
There is a lot more detail here http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1667
- Give people who have been tortured the chance to rebuild their lives and become part of our society. To do this, it must help them access therapy, healthcare, education, legal support and a safe and secure home.
Those who have suffered from torture need to have the support needed to make a new life. The very first step needs to be to help them to learn to speak English by providing free basic English lessons to any seeker of sanctuary. We would start these lessons at the earliest opportunity, so that people would be able to integrate and work in the UK as soon as possible. Also they would then be able to engage, participate and contribute fully to the local community and British society, as so many express the strong desire to do;
We would also give them the right to work, after being here for 3 months, to give them a chance to use their skills and further become part of our society.
4. Not lock-up people who have already suffered terrible abuse. Survivors of torture should never be detained for immigration purposes.
As well as being committed to ending indefinite detention, we are calling for an end to the detention of all vulnerable people. This includes victims of torture, those with mental illness and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, victims of gender based violence, pregnant women, and people with learning difficulties.
5. Stand up to governments and our leaders when they commit or enable torture or turn a blind eye to it. Torture destroys peoples’ lives. We believe that trade agreements should never take priority over people’s rights. Nothing can ever justify torture.
Liberal Democrats would work to end the use of torture around the world and conduct a full inquiry into the UK Government’s involvement in torture and rendition.
COMPARING THE MANIFESTOS – Humanity is for Refugees and Asylum Seekers too
We are proud that the Liberal Democrat manifesto has a full section on our views, values and concrete proposals for how we treat Refugees and Asylum Seekers. There is no condensing it, so no apologies if it takes time to read – we have a lot to say! Here it is, word for word:
Dignity for Refugees and Asylum Seekers
We must do all we can to protect people forced to flee their homes to escape war and persecution. The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need, but Labour and Conservative governments have introduced a harsh system that fails to respect people’s dignity. Thousands of asylum seekers are forced to wait many months for a decision, unable to work, rent a home or support their families.
Too many people are wrongly denied asylum, with 40 per cent of refusals overturned on appeal. Liberal Democrats are the only party who can make the system work fairly for seekers of sanctuary.
- Give asylum seekers the right to work three months after they have applied, enabling them to work in any role so that they can support themselves, integrate into their communities and contribute through taxation.
- Provide safe and legal routes to sanctuary in the UK by resettling 10,000 vulnerable refugees each year and a further 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children from elsewhere in Europe over the next ten years, and expanding family reunion rights.
- Fund community-sponsorship projects for refugees, and reward community groups who develop innovative and successful ways of promoting social cohesion.
- Offer asylum to people fleeing the risk of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identification, end the culture of disbelief for LGBT+ asylum seekers and never refuse an LGBT+ applicant on the basis that they could be discreet.
- Move asylum policymaking from the Home Office to the Department for International Development and establish a dedicated unit to improve the speed and quality of decision-making.
- Provide free basic English lessons to refugees and asylum seekers and scrap the 16 hours-per-week rule with respect to financial support for those unable to work due to insufficient English.
- Provide public health services, including maternity services, to people from the moment they arrive in the UK.
- Increase the ‘move-on period’ for refugees from 28 days to 60 days.
These manifesto commitments are backed up by well thought out and much more detailed commitments. For more information you can see the full policy document https://www.libdems.org.uk/autumn-18-policy-paper-131, and a policy motion agreed at Liberal Democrat party conference http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/Prosperity-and-Dignity-in-Migration-final-form-in-word.pdf.
There are detailed briefing documents taken from this, and previous policies available on our website here http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/category/documents
In contrast the Labour and Tory manifestos have little to say, and very little detail at that. Vague mentions of issues means that they cannot be held to account on progress on implementing them, if they were to be elected to form the next Government.
Labour say they will “end the deportation of family members of people entitled to be here and end the minimum income requirements which separate families”. (Liberal Democrats say we will expand family reunion rights, and so cover far more families).
Labour say that this government has failed its international legal obligations to refugees and to allow people to exercise their rights to seek asylum. A Labour government will uphold those rights and meet those obligations. Liberal Democrats say that it would be better if Labour actually proposed concrete policies rather than just criticise.
Labour say that they will work with others to resume rescue missions in the Mediterranean, co-operate with the French authorities to put an end to the horrific camps, and establish safe and legal routes for asylum seekers. (We are also specific in how the safe routes will work.)
Labour say that once here, refugees will have the right to work, access to public services and will be treated humanely by government at all levels. (Liberal Democrats will give the right to work, after 3 months, for those who have applied for asylum. Refugees already have the right to work!)
Labour say they will guarantee universal healthcare by ensuring women’s and children’s health services are comprehensive, by protecting the rights of EU workers, other migrants and refugees and by ensuring all our services are made accessible to BAME, LGBT+ and disabled patients. (Liberal Democrats are specific about giving health services to people from the minute they arrive in the UK.)
Tories say they “will continue to grant asylum and support to refugees fleeing persecution, with the ultimate aim of helping them to return home if it is safe to do so.” We say that they omit to mention that the obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention mean that the Government must grant support to those fleeing persecution. The ‘ultimate aim’ is not to return people as quickly as possible, but to ensure that people have the right and ability to make their claim and have it assessed fairly, justly, and accurately.
Tories say “We will boost English language teaching to empower existing migrants and help promote integration into society”. Liberal Democrats would welcome this if it were more specific and meant that not only were the restrictive rules that the Tories have introduced rescinded, but that more funding was available.
Tories say they will have “a memorial recognising the contribution of the Windrush Generation in a prominent site in London”. Liberal Democrats offer radical reforms to the asylum system with a view to enhancing protection. The Tories’ single reference to asylum emphasizes their desire to see even those who would be granted asylum leave rather than integrate and be offered the option to naturalise should they so wish.
We welcome the official announcement below today by Christine Jardine of the Lib Dem fair and effective immigration and asylum system. Note the link at the end to further information.
These key points are part of a raft of Lib Dem policies on asylum and refugee issues. You can see more detail through these links to our mini manifesto on these issues http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/330 and our policy briefings here http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/category/documents
Lib Dems announce proposals to fix broken immigration system
The Liberal Democrats have unveiled their Plan for Immigration and Asylum. The plan sets out the party’s ambitious proposals for a fair, effective immigration system – part of the Liberal Democrats’ broader plan to build a brighter future.
The Liberal Democrat manifesto will outline plans to reform and strengthen our immigration system by:
- Saving EU free movement and safeguarding the rights of UK and EU citizens.
- Scrapping the Conservatives’ Hostile Environment.
- Investing in officers, training and technology to prevent illegal entry at Britain’s borders, assist seekers of sanctuary and combat human trafficking and the smuggling of people, weapons, drugs and wildlife.
- Making detention an absolute last resort, with a 28-day time limit.
- Resettling 10,000 vulnerable refugees each year, and a further 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children from elsewhere in Europe over the next ten years.
Announcing the plan, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Christine Jardine said:
“The UK’s immigration system is broken and it is hurting everyone. Employers can’t recruit the workers they need. People are wrongly denied access to healthcare and housing, detained and even deported. Public confidence in the system has been shattered.
“Decades of hostile policies and rhetoric from Labour and Conservative governments have created a system that no one trusts, and that fails to respect people’s dignity. Now both Labour and the Conservatives want to make it all much worse by delivering Brexit and ending free movement.
“Liberal Democrats will build a brighter future, with a fair, effective immigration system that treats everyone with dignity and respect. We will scrap the Conservatives’ Hostile Environment, restore dignity and common sense, and stop Brexit to save free movement.”
Further details about the Liberal Democrats’ Plan for Immigration and Asylum can be found here.