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.
Obviously issues around refugees and asylum seekers are not top of the agenda in this election, but the issues often get raised at hustings, particularly those in places of worship, and those asking are the sort of people who vote, and tell others.
We have done a “mini manifesto” based on Lib Dem policies on these issues that is handy to have for quick reference. It is on our website here http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/330.
Also we have detailed briefings on issues in more detail. For instance on detention, right to work, decision making, Family Reunion, and LGBT+ issues affecting asylum seekers. Also on Refugees, including unaccompanied children. They are in our “documents” section of our website, here, http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/category/documents
We are happy to send word documents or PDFs of any of these. If issues come up in the campaign, or you are asked questions, please do get in touch at email@example.com and we will do what we can to help.
A huge amount of time and effort has gone into making these policies, and condensing into handy formats. They are there to use. For very many years Lord Roger Roberts has been campaigning for the right of asylum seekers to work. We made our policy on ending indefinite detention for immigration purposes, along with many other issues, in 2014. These were expanded and new one’s added in 2018. With policies on “Safe Routes for Refugees” and “Communicating in English” being added in between. Our policies reflect our Liberal Democrat values too. Details may change, our values don’t.
Don’t let Labour or anyone else steal credit for our policies.
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.
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.
Also there is information on the latest news and how it links in with established Lib Dem policies.
Good campaigning !