The British and French governments have shamefully connived since the opening of the Channel Tunnel to prevent asylum seekers reaching Britain, where they could claim asylum on arrival. Seekers of Sanctuary have the right under international law to seek asylum. This is not a right governments should be taking from them. And they should certainly not be creating a market for people smuggling.
We do not know how many people have been smuggled across the Channel. We do know from two local stories on BBC Kent, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-52167277 and https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-52418254, that 53 people on 4th April 2020 had been intercepted by Border Force and handed over to immigration, and that Border Force had taken 76 to Dover on 24th April. The second report adds that in April Border Force had intercepted more than 450 people, while https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/may/10/charities-call-for-safe-routes-for-migrants-to-claim-asylum-in-uk totals 853 from 23rd March to 10th May.
We do not know what happened to these people. There is nothing to say that some of them were not immediately deported. The Home Office should allow them to apply for asylum, process their applications properly, and, if granted asylum, support them in integrating into British society and making a positive contribution to our country.
In the middle of a global pandemic, the World Health Organisation recommendation of testing for the virus and tracing all contacts applies to the British but also to new arrivals. Simply monitoring their health is not enough. Are the authorities protecting our health at the ports and treating any who prove to have the virus? Are they ensuring all new arrivals can keep social distance at all times? Are they ensuring all are registered for health care?
Rather than patrolling the Channel to keep people out, the British authorities should make the smugglers redundant by creating Safer Routes for Refugees into the UK. This would mean allowing seekers for sanctuary to apply for asylum at the first UK Border post they reached, including those outside the UK. Not having to declare their ultimate destination might make it easier for them to leave their country of origin, without risking destitution or death to get here. So no jungle. Due process in all cases. Certainty that proper health checks are carried out. The opportunity to contribute to Britain by working here. This is what Liberal Democratic Britain would look like.
We are extremely concerned about how asylum seekers are able to live during the coronavirus crisis on the small allowance that they have which is not enough usually, but there are more pressures now.
They have difficulty in self isolating and being able to stock up on provisions when they go out. Also there are extra costs of trying to pay for data on mobile phones for such as home schooling and accessing important health advice.
People on Universal Credit have had a much needed £20 a week extra on their allowance, and this needs to be extended to the allowance that asylum seekers receive.
For some time Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary have been promoting the Refugee Action call for people to contact their MP on the issue, and you can do so on this link. No need to if you have a Lib Dem MP though, all of them have already acted as you can see in the statement below.
51,906 asylum seekers trapped on just £5.39 a day during coronavirus crisis
The Liberal Democrats have urged the Government to increase the amount of support for asylum seekers while they wait for a decision on their claim and give those waiting more than three months the right to work, as new Home Office figures reveal a backlog of 51,906 pending asylum claims.
The latest Immigration Statistics, published this morning, show that 51,906 people are waiting for an initial decision on their asylum claims, an increase of 33% since last year. 31,516 have been waiting for more than six months, a 68% increase.
Currently, asylum seekers are banned from working while they wait for a decision and forced to rely on asylum support payments of only £37.75 a week – just £5.39 a day.
All Liberal Democrat MPs have written jointly to the Home Secretary urging her to increase asylum support by £20 a week during the coronavirus crisis – in line with the increase to Universal Credit. This matches calls from charities Refugee Action, the Salvation Army and others.
In the letter, the Liberal Democrats also call for asylum seekers to be given the right to work if they are waiting for a decision for more than three months. The party argues that this would allow them to fill essential roles during the pandemic, as well as to support themselves, integrate in their communities and contribute through taxation.
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:
“The coronavirus crisis is leaving the most vulnerable in our society at risk. We must ensure no one is left behind.
“People who’ve come to the UK having fled war or persecution should be welcomed with compassion and enabled to contribute to our society, not trapped for months on just £5.39 a day – especially now during this pandemic.
“The way the Home Office is treating these vulnerable people is appalling and unacceptable. The Government must urgently increase support for asylum seekers in line with the emergency increase for people on Universal Credit.
“Ministers should also finally give asylum seekers the right to work, allowing them to fill essential roles during the pandemic, as well as giving them a sense of dignity, more money and the ability to contribute to the economy.”
Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary are extremely concerned about the grave threat to life of COVID-19 in immigration detention centres, where strict measures for social isolation cannot be carried out, and many have serious health conditions. The centres are fertile ground for the spread of the virus and urgent action needs to be taken, before the situation strikes a crisis point.
We are asking the Home Secretary to immediately release all those held in in UK immigration detention centres to prevent serious harm and loss of life.
There is no justification whatsoever for anyone to be held in a detention centre, people there should only be held before being removed on a flight back to their country of origin, and there is no prospect in the near future of that happening. Those currently detained are there for administrative reasons only, which is against all natural justice. As Detention Action say “The law is very clear. The Home Office can only detain in circumstances where they can remove or deport people within a reasonable period of time.”
Whilst we welcome hearing that 350 have been released so far, that is not going far enough and over 700 are languishing in cells with the huge stress of being vulnerable to the virus on top of their great worry and concern about being removed to an unsafe country.
It is Liberal Democrat policy that detention should be as a last resort, with a judicial review within 72 hours, and never more than 28 days. Vulnerable people should never be detained. You can see the detail of Lib Dem policy here http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1676
We call on everyone to do what they can to put pressure on the Home Secretary, and to sign and share this petition https://detentionaction.e-activist.com/page/57801/petition/1?locale=en-GB
Links to Lib Dem policies on asylum and refugees.
http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1800 Heathrow detention centres
http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/330 LD4SOS Manifesto
http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1688 Right to Work
http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1664 when the final decision is made
http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1682 life as an asylum seeker
http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1667 decision making
http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1670 hostile environment
http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1679 LGBT+ policies
http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1704 All our relevant new policies
http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1673 hosting destitute asylum seekers
http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1660 10 top facts
http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1648 refugee family reunion
http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1619 Lets Get the name right