As the refugee crisis in Europe grows and continues there are increasing calls for “safe and legal routes for refugees”. The latest is a letter from eminent members of the legal profession, written to the media. As Alistair Carmichael said in his speech against the Immigration Bill, not one of the 56 clauses in the Immigration Bill addresses the issue.
The policy motion on this very issue, flagged up here was passed unanimously at the autumn Lib Dem conference. This is the final version, updated for the changes since it was first put forward.F5 Creating Safe and Legal Routes for Refugees. final agreed version
The motion, amongst other things, called for significantly increasing the number of refugees resettled in the UK through UNHCR programmes, offering a minimum of 10,000 per year rather than hundreds of places to those fleeing war and persecution including via an EU resettlement scheme. It also called for action on smuggling, working for solutions with the EU, working on rescue operations in the Mediterranean, and tackling the root causes of people needing to flee.
Alistair Carmichael spoke strongly, and you can see it here as he contrasts the wrench of a young person leaving home for university here compared with the agony of families leaving their homeland including putting your child into the hands of people carriers with no thought for safety.
Suzanne Fletcher, chair of LD4SOS, spoke on the update of the policy as here and spoke of the urgent need for a pan European plan on how best to support those needing sanctuary, and the shores and borders where people were arriving. We need to work with our European partners to not just deal with the current crisis with compassion, humanity and efficiency, but on long term solutions. She also spoke on how some people were making a profit out of the unfolding tragedy, taking money from desperate people and putting them on vessels not fit to cross the sea in a macabre version of Russian roulette. Mention was made of the superb work of people in the NE, and elsewhere who had risen rapidly to the challenge of getting aid to those in Calais.
Susan Juned gave this well received, moving speech, based the experiences of her and her late husband.
There was huge interest in the motion with far more cards put in to speak than were able to be called, but Philip Latham, LD4SOS Council member from Hexham had put a card in to speak on the parallel between 1938 and now. The pre war Tory Government did their best to block the Kinder Transport of Jewish children. Whilst 10,000 did come here, many more perished in the holocaust. In our folk memories we are proud of what our country did then, but the reality of what happened is different. The Tories then, as now showed as being without humanity.
Tom Brake MP summed up the amendment and speaking after the debate he said: “We cannot walk on by when we see daily images of desperate refugees climbing into overcrowded trains or flooded, waterlogged boats or stranded in camps close to the Syrian border. We must respond positively to their pleas for help”. He added: “The UK has an international commitment to give protection to those fleeing war and persecution. We must honour this commitment and help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.”
New Baroness Shas Sheehan spoke , summing up in support, saying how proud she was to be a Liberal Democrat in supporting this policy. She said the Government’s response was “Late, weak, and disproportionate to the suffering”. She continued “We must take our fair share of refugees, and welcome them, as well as making sure that local authorities had the resources to support”. She ended “We must tackle the mass movement of people at its source; give them the same opportunities as us; give them hope and they will create their own future and create their own homes in their own countries.”
There is no doubt that as Liberal Democrats we are a party of internationalism, cooperation across borders, working for lasting peace, treating all people, especially the most vulnerable with dignity compassion and humanity. We are proud to be the party that is united behind “Creating Safe and Legal Routes for Refugees”, and will continue to stand up for and fight for this cause.