PROPOSED REPLACEMENT OF IMMIGRATION DETENTION CENTRES (IDCS) AT HEATHROW

A Lib Dem view on this aspect of the Heathrow expansion and immigration detention centres.

A little publicised part of the consultation on the Heathrow expansion is that Colnbrook and Harmondsworth IDCs which are close to the airport will be closed – which is good – and replaced with one large IDC – which is not good. We understand that the overall number of detention places will remain the same but the space will increase by 25%.

The UK detains more people than any other European country. Lib Dem policy is that this cruel and unnecessary practice has to end. We want to see a massive reduction in the numbers of IDCs and the number of individuals detained; no one should be detained for more than 28 days and vulnerable people should never be detained. Instead of detaining people there should be investment in community alternatives to detention.

A range of groups are now getting together to campaign against the replacement of the IDCs. There is inevitably tension between the different campaign objectives. Many people believe that there should be no detention at all, and campaigning for a smaller, better-managed IDC only undermines that argument. There is also, of course, the wider campaign that opposes the 3rd runway at Heathrow – which many of us campaigned against as part of the Richmond By-election. If, by some miracle, the expansion was halted, then presumably the two IDCs would stay as they are – and as long as those places are there they will be filled – often by people who should not be detained at all.

With some reluctance LD4SOS recognise that it may always be necessary to detain some individuals who have not been given permission to stay in the UK and are going to be removed. It would be less traumatic if they were detained near to the airport they were flying out of. There is, therefore, an argument for a small well managed short-term detention facility as part of the Heathrow expansion. The facility should be designed in such a way that it can accommodate women and families separately to single males, and provide comfortable and dignified surroundings. The short term holding facilities in Heathrow itself (subject of much criticism from the Independent Monitoring Board) should also be replaced appropriately.

There will be further consultation over the proposals for Heathrow including sites for the new replacement IDCs over the next six months. Those of us living in London and the areas surrounding Heathrow will have already received a leaflet inviting us to meetings to discuss the proposed plans. There will be a wider national consultation later on this year. We understand, however, that the Home Office has asked that the discussion about the IDCs takes place in closed meetings. This is currently being checked and, if so, whether it can be challenged.

Inevitably most of the attention will be focused on trying to stop the third runway and understanding the impact it will have on the different sites proposed. But we mustn’t forget that the future shape of two of the major IDCs will also be decided, and we must seize the opportunity to campaign for a smaller and much improved facility. LD4SOS are trying to brief the key MPs/Peers/Councillors so that they are also aware of this issue. If you live in London or one of the surrounding areas do try and get along to the consultation meetings and raise the issue of IDCs (be really helpful to tell us what you are told) and also raise it with your MP or councillor.

LIB DEMS IN BID TO CHANGE ASYLUM SEEKER EMPLOYMENT RULES

liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine today introduced a Bill in Parliament which would give asylum seekers the right to work after three months of arriving in the UK. 

Currently, asylum seekers in the UK can only apply to work if they have been waiting for than 12 months for their claim to be processed. The conditions are highly restrictive an among the toughest in the western world.

Ms Jardine’s Bill has received cross-party backing, including the Lift the Ban coalition.
 
Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said:

“Right now, banning the vast majority of asylum seekers from seeking employment costs the tax payer millions in housing and support payments. It also forces people who have risked everything to come here to live on the very periphery of society.

“Being denied the right to work, and to put food on the table for you and your family, is cruel and undignified.

“If passed, my Bill would recognise the contribution genuine asylum seekers want to make to our society by allowing them to work after three months of lodging their claim for asylum.

“This change would also allow them to learn English faster and integrate into their local communities. For me it’s a no brainer.”
 
On behalf of Lift the Ban, Paul Hook added:

“We are delighted to see politicians from across parliament continue to support the Lift The Ban campaign.

“We urge the government to listen to these voices – including many from within their own party – and finally give people seeking asylum the right to work and to earn a living.

“The majority of the British public think it’s the right thing to do, it would be transformative for people seeking asylum, and the idea is widely supported by businesses nationwide”.

How The UK is Responsible for the Migrants and Refugees Crossing the Channel

Article by Bradley Hillier-Smith, Council member of Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary and former volunteer in the Calais camp, refugee host and political campaigner advocating for the rights and settlement of refugees in the UK.  Published in the Independent https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/migrants-refugees-latest-english-channel-major-incident-sajid-javid-a8703551.html?fbclid=IwAR0IBcT2dL0WUtkm1PNvz0ciAPDHw2468OM8VrKkIfF-0PRvPNx8R8Qgm4w  

An informed and Liberal perspective. 

The last few months have seen a growing number of refugees and migrants attempting to reach the UK by making a perilous crossing over the English Channel from Calais in small inflatable boat – 82 were intercepted on Christmas Day alone.

In response, Home Secretary Sajid Javid declared the situation a “major incident”, giving the impression that the migrants and refugees are to blame for this unprovoked affront to our borders. It assumes this has come out of the blue and the UK are innocent victims of this “threat”.

Yet this blatantly and conveniently ignores the fact that the UK is in part responsible for this so-called major incident. We must ask what has driven these people to risk their lives to make such dangerous journeys to try and reach the UK. The answer will reveal that it is not the migrants or refugees that are to blame.

We are not innocent victims. The UK over the last few years has been actively involved through policy and practice in creating a dire situation in the Calais area. The British government has invested millions on security measures including fences capped with razor wire in attempts to prevent refugees attempting to reach the UK. This has been supplemented by the so-called “Great Wall of Calais” – a £2.3m, 14ft concrete wall surrounding the port.

These border defences make any journey to the UK that much more dangerous. They mean that refugees facing limited options face greater obstacles to find safety in the UK and are thereby confined to live in squalid conditions in the surrounding areas. They are vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers in order to get to the UK and any attempted journey to the UK carries increased risk of death or injury, with reports of lives being lostand life-changing injuries being suffered.

As part of the French-British Le Touquet agreement we have invested millions in funding CRS riot police who man these border defences armed with tear gas, batons and rubber bullets. Human Right Watch reported last year that there are numerous instances of violence and human rights abuses by CRS police at the border. The police can use extreme violence in evictions of camps where they use batons, water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets, including against women and children, as they did in the eviction of the southern zone of the Calais camp in February 2016.

Since the demotion of the Calais camp in October 2016, over a thousand refugees and migrants now reside in appalling conditions without adequate food, water, sanitation and shelter in the surrounding area. The police roam the area and repeatedly use pepper spray and tear gas in unprovoked attacks often while refugees are sleeping in makeshift shelters. The CRS also confiscate and destroy personal property such as phones, documentation and medication. In some cases as witnessed myself, police will confiscate just one shoe from refugees, seemingly in an attempt to humiliate them as they walk around with a limp.

The CRS destroy tents and makeshift shelters – the number of eviction rates is higher than ever before – and as a recent report carried out by human rights groups and charities on the ground has shown, the brutal methods used to clear these small camps has led to a rise in illegal crossings.

Once we see the severity of the situation in Calais and the active involvement of the UK through policy and practice in contributing to that situation, is it any wonder why people feel they have little choice but to risk their lives on a crossing to try to find adequate safety and human rights protection in the UK? The UK is actively involved in creating conditions so desperate in Calais that refugees and migrants are compelled to do anything to escape them and to try and find safety and hope, yet it is they who are vilified for resorting to what seems like the only option.

The “major incident” is not refugees and migrants trying to find safety in the UK. The major incident is thousands of refugees and migrants left in appalling conditions in the Calais region without adequate food, water or shelter and where they face extensive violations of their rights.

It is vital to stop the targeting of migrants and refugees as threats and burdens. Just yesterday we saw the release of an outrageous Home Office video announcing plans to charge EU nationals who have made the UK their home to apply for (not even be guaranteed) a right to stay in this country simply because of their nationality. That this was considered an appropriate video to share shows the problem with the way this government views migrants.

This rhetoric needs to change. We cannot ignore the fact that the conditions that refugees and migrants endure in Calais are so intolerable that they are driven to make such a dangerous journey to escape them. We cannot ignore the fact that the UK is in part responsible for that intolerable situation. The targeting and scapegoating of migrants and refugees we’re seeing today cannot go unchallenged.

 

reaction to Home Affairs Select Committee on housing for asylum seekers

Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary welcome the report of the Home Affairs Select Committee on Asylum Accommodation released today (17 November 2018).

We share the huge disappointment of the Committee that very little progress has been made by Government, despite recommendations in previous Committee reports (to which we had submitted evidence).

The recommendations of the Committee make a strong case for closer working with local authorities on inspection and standards.

Although there is supposed to be rigorous inspection by housing providers and the Home Office, we very much welcome proposals for inspections of accommodation, including the power to sanction, to be appropriately funded and given to local authorities.

It is Liberal Democrat policy that “Housing contracts will be monitored more effectively, with more accountability and transparency in their work.” The monitoring being delivered by locally accountable, democratic bodies will be able to make a huge difference to substandard accommodation, equipment, and poor responses to repair requests. Government funding for inspections will be better spent in this way, too, and ensure increased value for money spent by Government on the housing contracts.

A genuine partnership, as called for by the Committee, between the Home Office and Local Authorities, where they can share information and plans, will enable much better preparation for asylum seekers arriving locally, as well as continuing support.

The report identifies that the next few weeks are crucial to reset relationships. It is crucial that joint working with Local Authorities and the third sector takes place urgently, and that Local Authorities should have the full details of proposed contracts. Liberal Democrats will be pressing for this to happen.

We also note that the committee says that the 28 days “Move on period” is not sufficient and is a cause of destitution, by not giving local authorities time to process applications for housing. Liberal Democrat policy is “Increase the timescale for them to find their own accommodation after receiving a decision from 28 days to 60 days, and remove the time limit entirely for vulnerable people.”

Note.

This is the summary of the report. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmhaff/1758/175803.htm

This is the conclusions and recommendations https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmhaff/1758/175808.htm

This is the full report, that the statement is based on https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmhaff/1758/175802.htm

 

 

Baroness Hamwee, Detention Campaigner Champion

LD4SOS Chair John Skipworth writes:

Detention Forum https://www.detentionforum.org.uk/ have named Liberal Democrat Peer and LD4SOS Vice-President, Sally Hamwee as one of their ‘Detention Champions for 2018’. 

Those of you who attended our AGM will already know about this but it was mine and Janet King’s privilege to attend the formal presentation to Sally at the House of Lords on Tuesday 4th December.

Suzannah Willcox of Detention Forum presented Sally with a trophy recognising her contribution to fighting for an end to indefinite detention and then Eiri Ohtani thanked Sally for her work. Other tributes were paid by representatives of Detention Action  , Freed Voices and Jesuit Refugee Service.

During a round table discussion we heard how detention had affected individual lives and the consequences that followed!

On a personal note it was great to be able to put faces to names and also further appreciate what esteem Sally is held in.

You can see more detail of the Liberal Democrat polices that Sally and other Lib Dem Parliamentarians have been continuously pursuing for many years now, here http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1439