News

Restoration of Legal Aid for asylum seekers

Letter to The Guardian from Lord Roger Roberts.  Not published, but here it is :

Your article in the Long Read https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/nov/01/dizzying-maze-uk-immigration-system-hostile-environment rightly highlights the issue of justice not being available to those seeking asylum in a complex legal system, leading to terrible consequences for many.

Liberal Democrats have deep concerns about the situation and last year made it part of their policy to “ support restoring the arrangements for legal aid for seekers of sanctuary that existed before The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012.”

Treating asylum seekers with respect, dignity and with justice, is at the heart of what we believe.

November Election Special Newsletter

Here is our November election special newsletter, giving links to our mini manifesto on asylum and refugee issues, that will be needed for the general election, so please pass onto candidates in your area.

November 2019 Newsletter Election Special

Also there is information on the latest news and how it links in with established Lib Dem policies.

Good campaigning !

VOTING IN THE GENERAL ELECTION

Please share this with people who might not be registered to vote, as they are relatively recent refugees.

NOTE if they have leave to remain, and do not have to have citizenship, but are from a commonwealth country, they can register to vote.
WILL YOU HAVE A VOTE IN THE GENERAL ELECTION ?

There is a lot of information about registering to vote here :https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

If not already registered, you need to do so by midnight on 26 November to vote in the General Election on 12 December.

If you want to apply to vote by post, register before 5pm on 26 November if you live in England, Scotland or Wales.

If you’re going to be abroad on election day, you can apply to vote by proxy after you’ve registered. It takes time to vote by post from overseas.

Who can register

You can register if you’re a UK citizen (or an Irish, EU or Commonwealth citizen with a permanent UK address).

So anyone who has leave to remain in the UK, but not yet got British Citizenship, can register as a commonwealth citizen.

There is a full list of who qualifies as a commonwealth citizen here:

https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/voter/register-vote-and-update-your-details the most common countries that qualify for refugees here could be Cameroon, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Zimbabwe. But do check on the official list for other countries.

Lampedusa, the colliding point of the International Migration Crisis ?

A talk given at a Liberal International British Group meeting at Lib Dem Conference, by LD4SOS Council member, Suzanne Fletcher.

This isn’t a talk about the facts and figures, there are very many indeed. In the first half of this year 137,000 crossed the Mediterranean Sea, travelling in terrible conditions, in unsafe boats and dinghies. Many more have tried and failed. In 2013 a boat from Libya to Italy sank near to Lampedusa, and 368 refugees died. In short too many feel compelled to try, too many die in the process.

The majority of those taking the sea route to Europe are refugees in rapidly rising numbers. Most are fleeing from war, conflict, or persecution at home, as well as deteriorating conditions in many refugee hosting countries. The main countries of origin of those arriving in Italy, for instance, are Eritrea, 25%, followed by Nigeria, Somalia, Syria and Gambia.

Where do they want to go? More than 90% want to move elsewhere in the EU, most are not heading for the UK, the most popular places being Germany and Sweden, where they hope for a warmer welcome.

As the arrivals increase, reception capacity and conditions in Europe remain seriously inadequate. There are little or no facilities for people with special needs, including separated and unaccompanied children, making them even more vulnerable to the risk of exploitation. The lack of dignified reception facilities not only creates precarious conditions, but fuels tensions with local communities and contributes to onward movements.

To answer the question of the fringe meeting – is Lamepedusa the colliding point on the International Migration Crisis? the answer is definitely not. We, in the UK, all hear about what happens in the Mediterranean in the news, but it is a relatively small part of the global picture. Whilst we obsess about how many are arriving in Europe, but a massive 86% of the world’s refugees are hosted in developing countries.

A refugee crisis is nothing new, it goes as far back as written history, at least 3,500 years. The 1951 Refugee Convention set a global standard, and there is no reason at all why this should not be upheld today.

The lack of legal routes means that there is just no choice for many people and their families but to turn to smugglers. In doing so they are paying out huge amounts of money, but even worse are endangering their, and often their families’, lives.

At a fringe meeting, http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/623, held by Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary some years ago, the life jacket situation was described to us. “..holding up a fluorescent life jacket that she had picked up on a beach in Lesvos. It was made for a toddler.  She then told us it was actually a fake.  It would not have acted as a life jacket, but the parents who would have paid money for it did not know that.  It was worse when she showed us a tiny life jacket, for a baby.  Also fake.  What sort of pressure would a family be under to put their children through such a risky journey ?” The room went silent. We were shocked, and the image of that tiny, fake, life jacket remains with me.

The controversial – and should they not be controversial? – efforts to save lives have sparked opposition citing the “pull factors”. Quite simply, those taking the risk see no other choice, it is a “push factor” not a pull one, as Baroness Sally Hamwee often points out.

To go back to Lampedusa. Whilst so many died, the heroic efforts of the islanders meant that 155 lives of the boat that sank were saved. The Island’s carpenter was so moved by the situation of the survivors, and what they had fled from, he made each one of them a cross from the boat wreckage. Both as a reflection of their salvation from the sea and also as a powerful symbol of their hope for the future.

Another cross was made that is taken around the world as a witness to the uncertainties faced today by those fleeing over the sea. It is to remind us of the power of own acts of love, mercy and hope.

The Pope said “we ourselves need to see, and then enable others to see, that migrants and refugees are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected, and loved.”

UNHCR has a set of proposals, condensed as:

Saving lives at sea; Dignified reception conditions; Ensuring greater solidarity within Europe; increasing legal avenues to safety, and collective action in response to the global displacement crisis.

As Liberal Democrats we cannot disagree with this. The root causes of the displacement must be tackled; fences and border controls are not going to stop people moving in a time of crisis. We need there to be a radical reappraisal and bold thinking, along with other countries. A Brexit that could be the beginning of the break-up of the European Union is only going to make the situation worse. The crisis is huge but not impossible, to tackle.

Above all else, as Lord Roger Roberts has just said, we must give HOPE.

Ignorance and insensitivity from Home Office

The groups within the Liberal Democrats representing Christians, LGBT+ people, immigrants, and those seeking asylum, have put out the following statement:

Following reports that Home Office officials have been accusing asylum-seekers who are both Christian and LGBT+ of “contradiction”,(see https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2019/09/20/home-office-asylum-lgbt-religion-study-metropolitan-community-church-london/ )
we condemn this ignorance and insensitivity of the Home Office.
We also note that the Home Office’s “culture of disbelief” has impacted both Christian people and LGBT+ people in the past — and that this in turn is just a small part of the injustices that have led the Liberal Democrats to call for the Home Office to be stripped of all  immigration and asylum responsibility.

Our policies on better decision making and also on how those from the LGBT+ community should be treated are here Decision making August 2019 and LGBT+ Policy August 2019

Christine Jardine has spoken out here:

When human beings are persecuted for their sexuality, their gender identity or their beliefs – or all of these – and forced to flee their homes, we must do all we can to protect them.

The UK has a long and proud record of providing sanctuary to refugees, but the Home Office’s treatment of LGBT+ asylum seekers is appalling.

Earlier this month, Liberal Democrats revealed that over the last three years the Home Office has refused over 3,100 asylum claims on the basis of sexuality, even though the people making them were from countries where consensual same-sex acts are criminalised.

Now, a report on LGBT African asylum seekers has found some being accused of “contradiction” by Home Office interviewers, because they are LGBT and Christian. One person even reported being asked, “How can you be lesbian and Christian?”

Imagine being forced to leave your home and making it to the UK, only to be told by Home Office officials that your very identity is a “contradiction”. Imagine having your religion used against you, to discredit your claim to asylum.

That is the culture of disbelief that both LGBT+ people and Christian converts face in the Home Office. Officials too often deny them asylum without any evidence; they simply assume that they are lying about who they are.

This Conservative Government is letting down every LGBT+ person and every individual in this country who cares about human rights.

The UK should be leading the campaign across the world against homophobia and transphobia. Instead, we have a Government that is turning its back and looking the other way.

Liberal Democrats demand better for LGBT+ people wherever they live.

We will establish a new, dedicated unit to handle asylum claims, free of political interference and without the Home Office’s culture of disbelief.

Liberal Democrats will fix our asylum system so that the UK provides sanctuary to those who need it.

PRIME MINISTER’S COMMENTS ON CHANNEL CROSSINGS “UNLAWFUL and INHUMANE”.

We fully support what Christine Jardine says in the article below.  There is much that Boris Johnson needs to be ashamed of, and this should be highlighted as one of them.

There is often confusion around the labels used to describe asylum seekers, refugees, immigrants and migrants and this can be unhelpful.  For many years LD4SOS have been producing leaflets that describe people who leave their country of origin for different reasons.  We even presented one to the BBC, with Lord Roger Roberts.  We have now reworked this leaflet, you can see it here Let’s Get the Names Right Aug 2019.  Please do what you can to pass this on.

Responding to Boris Johnson’s comments on people crossing the Channel, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Christine Jardine said:

“It is just plain wrong for Boris Johnson to label refugees crossing the Channel as ‘illegal migrants’. Quite apart from the dehumanising language, there is nothing illegal about seeking sanctuary in the UK, and it is shameful that we have a Prime Minister who says it is.

“We know that many of these people have fled persecution in Iran. For the Prime Minister to casually dismiss their rights to asylum with no evidence whatsoever is unlawful and inhumane.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better. The way to stop these dangerous crossings is through an effective and compassionate response: investing in a stronger Border Force to stop the smugglers and traffickers, while ensuring safe, legal routes to sanctuary for those forced out of their home countries.”