One of the many fringe meetings held at Lib Dem Conference was on Refugee Family Reunification, organised by Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary, with refreshments kindly provided by Liberal Democrat Voice.

This is a write up of the meeting,

‘How should the UK change its refugee family reunification policies’: LD4SOS at Brighton Fringe meeting

There were plenty there to hear our panel of speakers and enjoy the refreshments provided courtesy of Lid Dem Voice despite us clashing with a big consultation on the supporters scheme.

Tim Farron MP started off with a review of the overall position and welcomed the approval earlier in the day of policy motion F16 with all 5 amendments, most notably amendment #1 (LD4SOS). He reminded us that in debates we are not just talking about policies but real people who are affected. He talked about the experience of visiting Calais, where it was clear that what people were looking for was safety, not a nice life on benefits.

Then there were people entering Europe. When he was helping on a Greek Island   as a boat full to overflowing of refugees landed, one woman told him “Stop handing out bottles of water and accept some ****** refugees.” Hearing stories from a family with good job and business back in Syria he asked himself “What makes such a family flee and put their much loved children at risk?”.

The refugees then hit a wall. In Thessaloniki they could get no further.

Baroness Sally Hamwee has piloted the Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill through the Lords, and Tim hopes to see it through the Commons; it may be that a similar Bill, proposed by Angus MacNeil, which passed second reading in the Commons on 16th March, will ultimately prevail: it is the end result for those affected that matters most.

In Cologne he found quite a different from pictures painted from what was portrayed in the media recently, and he wished that our country could be the same in accepting refugees – they were contributing to society in different ways, and it is us that are missing out here.

Tim further spoke of the broad breadth of experience people brought to the UK (in contrast to the shame of UK expats in southern Spain not integrating!) and how much more they could do if given the right to work and were able to learn the English language.

Jon Featonby from the British Red Cross told us how they help people through the process of applying for asylum, and then when they are successful, they want to know how to unite with others in their family.

Because of the set rules that we have, there are very difficult decisions to make when a family leaves a war-torn area. What to do with siblings, under and over 18 years old? Leave them at home or bring them with them ?

Jon noted that, whilst 6 months ago that day, there was a victory in Parliament, families are still apart. Amnesty, Oxfam and Refugee Council all have petitions and campaign details on their websites. Amnestyare working on a giant photo album to show to the Home Office about the impact of Family reunification.

He argued that the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme has been huge success so far, but it should not be cut off in 2020, but extended and more countries be included (as in the F16 Policy paper).

Finally, Jon noted that, the current rules that restrict state assistance in housing and welfare to 28 days post-recognition, is a huge issue for those given leave to remain. He similarly lamented the fact that refugees are only granted temporary rather than indefinite leave to remain.

Dr Ruvi Ziegler (Associate Professor in International Refugee Law at the University of Reading) discussed the UK’s policies on family reunion in European and international perspectives. He emphasised that the absence of safe and legal routes to asylum in Europe inevitably leads individuals to seek refuge and subsequently wish to reunite with their family and noted that the number of persons resettled globally is dismal – less than 1% of the total refugee population.

He suggested the European human rights law, especially the right to family life, as well as the principle of the ‘Best interests of the Child’ in the Convention on the rights of the Child could help bring about policy change in the UK.

He argued that, a liberal (and Liberal) policy for integration and family reunion is desirable, including extending political rights to refugees. In respect of the European refugee ‘crisis’, Ruvi noted that the fault lies in large part with the “Dublin” system, under which the ‘burden’ is borne by economically weaker states in Southern Europe, and that part of the solution for the EU lies in extending intra-EU freedom of movement to refugees and other beneficiaries of protection.

The meeting ended with a Q and A session – never enough time for a good discussion, sadly, and thanks for the food, LDV!

(note, the new policies in the Policy Paper 131 and LD4SOS amendment #1 as adopted as part of F16 mean that we do now have policies on Family Reunion, restoration of Legal Aid, the Right to Work, Learning English, extension of the SVRPS scheme, and having 60 days grace to move out of accommodation when granted leave to remain.)

and this article was published here, where you can join in the discussion.

‘How should the UK change its refugee family reunification policies’: LD4SOS at Brighton Fringe meeting

Making our policy on Asylum and Refugees excellent.

After explaining our position on the policy motion on Migration and Asylum, LD4SOS Council member Suzanne Fletcher moved an amendment to the policy motion we had worked hard on, submitted on our behalf by local parties in Stockton; Wigan, Leigh & Makerfield; and Bromsgrove.

You can see the whole debate here and Suzanne speaking here

She spoke of our deep ANGER about how government treats ALL migrants, and the terrible and inhumane way that those asylum seekers who seek sanctuary in the UK are treated. Suzanne then went on to explain some of the main points of our amendment, some of which were an expansion of what was already in the policy paper, and some additions.

Our amendments include:

Workable solutions to real social, infrastructure and financial problems and place blame on government indifference and underfunding, NOT those who are here from elsewhere for whatever reason.

We shouldn’t be using teachers, health professionals, landlords and banks in civil society as border guards.

Detention for immigration purposes is bad enough for many reasons, not least that it is indefinite and we welcome the paper affirming our policy having a time limit of 28 days as a maximum. but our amendments go further and make it explicit that detention is NOT AS IT IS NOW, FIRST RESORT, BUT absolutely a last resort, no vulnerable people should be detained at all. Pregnant women, those with mental health problems, those who have been subject to torture should NEVER be detained for immigration purposes, and nobody AT ALL for more than 72hours without judicial oversight. There must be community alternatives to detention with casework. This is about stopping lives being wasted, not just wasting money better spent.

We are reaffirming our unqualified commitment to principle of no reformer which prohibits the UK from sending anyone to any place where their life or freedom would be at risk

Culture of disbelief must END. There are Christians, people of other faiths, people of no faith, fleeing for their life. There are those who have converted to Christianity since coming here. There are LGBT + people. ALL these are so often not believed and have impossible levels of proof to give.

We need to Review and arbitrate decisions before reaching appeal.

Over 40% of appeals taken are won, what does that say about bad decision making. Costs of appeals should go from ministry of justice to a new dedicated unit for asylum applicants to make incentives for decisions to be right first time.

Family reunion bill must go through, and HUGELY IMPORTANTLY, the restoration of legal aid to what it was before 2012.

We demand Safe and legal routes for at least 10,000 each year in expansion of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme to not just from Syria but other conflict zones such as Myanmar. Next time you see something on T V about horrors elsewhere and think “what can I do”. You can start by voting for this.

We demand deeds not words from government on existing schemes for welcoming refugee children, and an expansion of it too.

Victims of trafficking need more than warm words, their exploitation leaves them feeling very insecure and they need to be supported so they can give evidence against. It is so important that they are not returned to country of origin where they can be trafficked again.




There were a series of interventions in the debate, and you can hear Janet King and Jacqui Bell here

We were extremely pleased that we didn’t see anyone at all voting against our amendment, and that along with other good amendments the whole of the policy motion was agreed. You can see it here Prosperity and Dignity in Migration final form in word, and the original policy paper is here ( ).

Now the hard work begins of campaigning on all of these, and more, of the issues, and persuading the other parties to back us​

LD4SOS amendments passed by Party Conference – now to campaign for them!

We are very pleased that Liberal Democrats’ Party Conference has adopted a modern, compassionate and progressive asylum policy through approving amendments that were drafted by Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary.

The adoption of this policy means that

*Liberal Democrats are committed to expanding the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme to at least 10k a year and reaching to other world regions.
*Liberal Democrats are pledged to take in 1,000 unaccompanied refugee children a year.
*Liberal Democrats would close 8 of the 10 detention centres in the UK and impose an absolute 28 days limit on detention.
*Liberal Democrats are committed to removing asylum decisions from the Home Office and create a dedicated asylum unit in DFID.
*Liberal Democrats will restore legal aid to refugees and asylum seekers that was removed by LASPO 2012.
*Liberal Democrats will ensure victims of trafficking can testify against trafficking without risk of refoulement.
*Liberal Democrats will expand the refugee definition in UK law to explicitly recognise sexual orientation and gender identification as persecution grounds.
*Liberal Democrats endorse the Refugees (family reunion) bill that would allow refugee minors to reunite with their families.
Now the focus is on campaigning for this policy – and getting Liberal Democrats elected to implement it.

September 2018 newsletter for LD4SOS

LD4SOS September 2018 newsletter

Policy on Migration and Asylum issues

Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary have submitted an amendment Amendments to F16 submitted by LD4SOS to be submitted 03 09 18 for consideration by the Federal Conference Committee to a policy motion F16, A Fair Deal for Everyone: Prosperity and Dignity in Migration (Immigration and Identity Policy Paper) going to our September conference.

You can see how the motion would read, if all our amendments are taken by conference committee, and agreed by conference, here F16 A Fair Deal for Everyone as it would read if all the LD4SOS amendments were accepted

We have worked hard to make this a motion that we can be proud of and support as Liberal Democrats. One we can go out and promote in accordance with our values, and campaign on to make a real difference.

The original motion is here on page 35

relating to a policy paper you can see here :


Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary have submitted a draft amendment Draft amendments to Autumn Conference motion F16 from LD4SOS updated 26 08 (slightly altered on 29/08/18 from a previous version here) for consideration by the party to a policy motion going to conference.

You can see how the motion would read, if all our amendments are agreed, here.F16A Fair Deal for Everyone updated 26 08

Please do let us have any comments.

The original motion is here on page 35

relating to a policy paper you can see here :