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
After last week’s parliamentary vote on refugee family reunion, which was devastating but not surprising, our campaign is more necessary than ever.
We have just had Christmas where there was so much talk of peace and goodwill. Talk of the importance of families being together. Talk of children being at the centre. We don’t disagree with any of that talk, but now is the time for action.
We need to be able to bring hope to all those who were held apart, and the children who have been through an extremely traumatic time, for no other reason than our government’s bureaucracy and unwillingness to legislate for children to be reunited with their families.
Lib Dem Peer, Baroness Sally Hamwee, has tabled a Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill to be debated in the House of Lords. Refugee Family Reunion actual Bill. It is most important that we do what we can to encourage support from across the House of Lords, from people of all parties and none.
Baroness Hamwee’s Bill, would expand family reunion rights so that unaccompanied child refugees in the UK can sponsor close family members to join them, as has long been Liberal Democrat policy.
Amnesty International, the Refugee Council, and Save the Children have, at the same time, launched a thorough and factual report, “WITHOUT MY FAMILY” https://www.amnesty.org.uk/files/FAMILY%20REUNION/Without%20my%20family%20report/Without_my_family_briefing.pdf
It is worth reading. Some key points are: The UK receives only a tiny fraction of the world’s refugees. In 2018, 1,072 unaccompanied children were recognised as refugees in their own right in the UK and a further 73 were granted Humanitarian Protection. Most come from a handful of countries: Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq and Sudan. The vast majority of unaccompanied children find refuge in neighbouring countries. Families get separated for many different reasons and some children travel on their own in search of safety. The children interviewed for this report shared memories of their departure and separation, their escapes from traumatic experiences in their home countries, and their reasons for leaving their homes behind. The interviews show how:
- These children’s journeys were made in urgent haste to escape danger.
- Their choices were limited, and their prime motivation was to search for safety.
- None of those interviewed had been aware of the family reunification policies of different countries when they were making their journeys.
The report’s recommendations, which we support, are:
To the UK Government
In line with its human rights obligations, the UK Government should ensure that the best interests of the child are a primary consideration in all decisions and actions concerning child refugees. The Home Office should:
- Permit the right to family reunion for unaccompanied children who need international protection, when this is in their best interests. This right should be formalised within the Immigration Rules for Humanitarian Protection status as well as for those recognised as refugees.
- Ensure that family reunion rights are made accessible to former unaccompanied child refugees who are now over 18 years of age.
- Commit to a broad enough definition of family for unaccompanied child refugees to enjoy their right to family life and to include child siblings and any legal or customary care givers in their country of origin.
To local authority service providers
We urge local authorities to undertake further research and consultation with social work professionals on best practice in respect of therapeutic and practical ways to support the family-related needs of unaccompanied child refugees. This evidence should be integrated into local and national social work training and training standards to ensure that best practice in this area is systematically and consistently applied.
Amnesty International UK have also started a petition which we urge people to sign here https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/home-secretary-reunite-refugee-families?from=issue
Please not only sign it, but encourage others to do so too.
Responding to the report, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:
“Child refugees who’ve been forced to flee their homes and separated from their families are some of the most vulnerable people in the world. We must do all we can to protect them.
“The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need, but the Conservative Government is doubly failing to uphold that tradition.
“The Conservatives are preventing child refugees in the UK from being reunited with their family, and this week they voted against allowing child refugees elsewhere in Europe to join family members here.
“Liberal Democrats are fighting for these children. We have tabled legislation that would allow unaccompanied child refugees in the UK to sponsor close family members to join them.
“Sadly Conservative Ministers have so far refused to support our bill, but I urge them to think again.”
This comment from the Refugee Council sums up the issues too:
Commenting on the research, Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said: “The UK’s rules on refugee family reunion are a flagrant breach of the Government’s legal obligations to act at all times in the best interests of the child. For many separated children, being reunited with family members is indisputably in their best interests, yet in the UK we choose to keep them apart for the inhumane reason that this might deter others from seeking safety and protection. Faced with the clear evidence in this report of the harm that enforced separation causes children, the Home Secretary should see reason and change these rules immediately.”
Social workers and other professionals spoke of their distress at witnessing the children they care for having to cope without family. The report also points to the consistent criticism the Government’s policy has been subject to, from senior judges to specialist Committees of parliamentarians and the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
In 2018, MPs from across the political spectrum voted with an overwhelming majority to change these harmful rules. Despite this, the Government has continuously delayed and blocked the changes from happening. Amnesty International, Refugee Council and Save the Children are calling for urgent action to ensure child refugees are given equal opportunities to be with their families.
One of the important questions to candidates in the general election was from Safe Passage. Not all candidates will have been sent it from a constituent, and not all candidates will have had time to answer, so we are publishing what the agreed Liberal Democrat Policy is on the question of child refugees.
QUESTION FROM SAFE PASSAGE
Can you let us know if you’re committed to giving child refugees safe and legal routes to the UK.
For too long what Government has said they will, but that has not been enough, and has not been translated into action for these young people in desperate need of safety
LIBERAL DEMOCRATS WOULD:
Provide an effective mechanism to implement in full Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 that commits the UK to welcoming unaccompanied refugee children, this scheme to be expanded to welcome 10,000 such children over a period of 10 years.
REFUGEE ACTION QUESTIONNAIRE
Refugee Action sent out a questionnaire for people to send to their candidates for the general election. Not all candidates will have been sent one, and not all had chance fill it in with the detailed thought needed, so we have answered the questions with Lib Dem agreed policy on the important issues raised by Refugee Action.
Our responses are in italics.
What will you do to make sure the asylum system is compassionate, fair and effective?
Liberal Democrats believe that those seeking asylum should be treated humanely, with compassion and respect.
- The asylum system should be improved so that it properly upholds obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and at the same time minimizes potential for abuse.
- 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.
- There is more detail on our policy on decision making in this information document http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1667
- We will end the practice of the “hostile environment” approach, which includes everything from multiple expensive and inhumane immigration detention centres to making civil society the frontline of immigration control, resulting in mistakes and unfairness on an industrial scale.
Safe and legal routes:
What will you do to expand, and extend the commitment to, refugee resettlement?
Liberal Democrats will:
- Offer safe and legal routes to the UK for at least 10,000 refugees each year by expanding the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, both to help a greater number of people from that region and to cover other conflict zones such as Myanmar;
- Provide an effective mechanism to implement in full Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 that commits the UK to welcoming unaccompanied refugee children; this scheme to be expanded to welcome 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children over a period of 10 years;
- Speed up processes for taking unaccompanied children with established family links in the UK;
- Participate in EU search and rescue operations and tackle criminal people-smuggling
- There is more detail on this in our information document here, http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1685Access to English:
- Will you support change to ensure all refugees receive access to English language classes?
Liberal Democrats will:
- Provide 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;
Right to work:
Will you support reform of the rules to restore the right to work for people seeking asylum?
Liberal Democrats will:
- Grant all asylum seekers the right to work, if they wish, 3 months after applying for asylum. The new unit would be required to assist the asylum seeker to exercise this option, through facilitating access to training and to accreditation through relevant qualifications;
- Require asylum seekers able to work to do so 6 months after applying for asylum.
- Safeguards will be in place to ensure that no one is compelled to work who is unable to do so. It would give them dignity, ability to use their skills and to find a job more easily when given the right to remain.
- A SUMMARY OF MORE OF OUR POLICIES FOR REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS CAN BE ACCESSED HERE : http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/330
- There is more detail in our policy document here : http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1688
REFUGEE COUNCIL QUESTIONS TO CANDIDATES WITH LIBERAL DEMOCRAT POLICY ANSWERS.
The Refugee Council has asked people to send candidates questions on refugee and asylum issues, which is excellent. However given that not all candidates will receive the questions, and many will not have time to answer, LD4SOS thought it helpful to let people know how Liberal Democrat policy answers the questions asked.
The headings and questions are in bold, and the Lib Dem answers in italics.
The last Government has committed to resettling 5,000 refugees from around the world to the UK next year, providing them with support to integrate and move on with their lives. At the moment, we don’t know what will happen or how many will be resettled in later years, starting in 2021. While this commitment is important, people working with refugees believe that the UK, one of the richest countries in the world, can and should do more. Across the world, there are more refugees than at any time since the end of the Second World War, yet we only take a tiny proportion. We believe that the UK should commit to resettling 10,000 refugees every year, on an ongoing basis.
Question: If elected, will you press for the Government to show leadership in its response to the global refugee crisis by increasing the number of refugees resettled in the UK?
Our Manifesto says that we would “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”
Further detail is here http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1685 adding that we would also expand the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, both to help a greater number of people from that region and to cover other conflict zones. In addition we would consider how the UK can best work with other countries, particularly in Europe, to address other situations which can already be anticipated such as the rapidly expanding population of Nigeria and the impacts of climate change.
Refugee Family Reunion
Once someone has been recognised as a refugee in the UK, there are rules that allow them to bring family members to live with them here. This is crucial in allowing refugees to rebuild their lives, without worrying about loved ones, and allowing them to integrate into their new communities. This also allows families to be reunited without having to take dangerous journeys and relying on smugglers to get to the UK. Unfortunately, the UK’s rules on refugee family reunion are too restrictive. Unaccompanied child refugees are unable to bring any close family members to join them in the UK, a government policy that differs from almost every other country in Europe. Adult refugees aren’t allowed to bring their parents, siblings, or their children who are over 18, even though these are very close family members.
Question: If you are elected, will you make the case for changing the rules on refugee family reunion, so that more refugees can be reunited with their family members?
Our manifesto says we would expand family reunion rights. There is more detail in our document here http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1648 where we says that we would extend the definition of a family member in relation to the applicant seeking reunification (who may be the sponsor or the family member applying to join the sponsor) to incorporate their spouse, their civil or unmarried partner, their children aged under 18, their grandchildren under 18, their unmarried child aged 18 or over, their parent, their sibling under the age of 18, their niece or nephew under the age of 18 or any other dependent relative not listed here.
Homelessness and destitution amongst newly recognised refugees
New refugees who have had their asylum claim accepted by the UK government still face incredible challenges when starting their new lives in the UK. From the point at which they acquire refugee status, they are given only 28 days to access welfare benefits, housing, and employment. This is not a fair or realistic timescale, and it means that many refugees are left homeless and destitute, at the very point they have been granted protection by the government. Alongside this, there are other specific policies that make things more difficult for new refugees. Universal Credit has a five-week waiting period, and though refugees can access advance payments, this puts them into debt which they then have to pay for over future months.
Question: If you become my next MP, will you commit to looking at the system for new refugees, and argue for better support mechanisms for this vulnerable group?
Our Manifesto says we would Increase the ‘move-on period’ for refugees from 28 days to 60 days. There is more detail in this document http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1664
Furthermore, many refugees have no savings, and no financial support networks, yet are often expected to find a home in the private rented sector, where landlords usually expect a deposit and rent up-front. This is financially out of their reach, yet there is limited support from government to ensure these new refugees are safely and securely housed.
Question: If you are elected, will you look at how to support refugees into the private rental sector, and pledge to find ways to prevent refugee homelessness?
Our Manifesto says that “To reform the private rental sector, we will:
- Help young people into the rental market by establishing a new Help to Rent scheme to provide government-backed tenancy deposit loans for all first-time renters under 30.
- Promote longer tenancies of three years or more with an inflation-linked annual rent increase built in, to give tenants security and limit rent hikes.
- Improve protections against rogue landlords through mandatory licensing.
On Ending Rough Sleeping our manifesto continues :
Nobody should have to spend a night sleeping on the streets. However rough sleeping has been increasing since the 2008 recession and is one of the most visible signs of increasing poverty and inequality. Liberal Democrats will end rough sleeping within five years. To do this, we will:
Urgently publish a cross-Whitehall plan to end all forms of homelessness.
- Exempt groups of homeless people, and those at risk of homelessness, from the Shared Accommodation Rate.
- Make providers of asylum support accommodation subject to a statutory duty to refer people leaving asylum support accommodation who are at risk of homelessness to the local housing authority.
- Introduce a ‘somewhere safe to stay’ legal duty to ensure that everyone who is at risk of sleeping rough is provided with emergency accommodation and an assessment of their needs.
- Ensure sufficient financial resources for local authorities to deliver the Homelessness Reduction Act and provide accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse.
- Legislate for longer term tenancies and limits on annual rent increases.
- Scrap the Vagrancy Act, so that rough sleeping is no longer criminalised.
Reforming our asylum system
When people arrive in the UK and make a claim for asylum, their experience of the system is often poor or distressing. Too many people are not believed first time, but are then found to be refugees after they appeal this decision (around 40% of appeals are successful). This is a waste of time and money and causes significant distress for people seeking protection.
Question: If elected, will you seek to ensure asylum decision-making is improved, and that more decisions are made correctly first-time?
Our Manifesto says that we would “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”
Also there is more detail on our policy here http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1667 which has a 15 point plan.
We 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 believe it will improve the appeals process by transferring the cost from the Ministry of Justice to the new dedicated unit for asylum applications, thereby incentivising getting it ‘right first time’. It is vitally important that as many decisions as possible are right first time, as it saves time, money and prolonged misery.
Those who are waiting for a decision on their asylum claim have to live on a little over £5 per day for all their living costs, and most people seeking asylum cannot work, meaning they struggle to get by.
Question: Will you make the case for better financial support for people seeking asylum, including supporting their right to work, so they can support themselves during their asylum claim?
Our Manifesto says that we would “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.
There is more detail of our policy on the right to work, here http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1688
On financial support we would ensure the level of support for asylum seekers is at the same level for all and that all can use the Aspen Card to withdraw cash. We would also launch a review into the current low level of support with a view to raising it to ensure that it is enough to live on. We think it likely that the tax revenue raised by allowing seekers of sanctuary to work, would more than pay for such a raise in this allowance. We believe that support rates should go up in line with benefits.
The UK locks up around 24,700 people every year for immigration reasons. Around half of these have applied for asylum at some point. There is no maximum time limit on how long someone can be detained for, unless they are pregnant or families with children. This means people in immigration detention have no idea when they will be released. The UK still detains some children seeking asylum. Immigration detention can be deeply damaging for people’s mental health, and is unnecessary in most circumstances. It should be replaced by a system where people can live in the community and are monitored there.
Question: As a parliamentary candidate, will you support the campaign to end indefinite immigration detention?
Our Manifesto says that we would “Make immigration detention an absolute last resort, introduce a 28-day time limit on detention and close seven of the UK’s nine detention centres.”
Also more detail on our policy, as in http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1676, says that :
- Detention to be subject to judicial review within 72 hours, and to be no more than 28 days overall.
- Detention to be used only as a last resort, for as few days as possible, for as short a time as possible.
- A drastic reduction in the detention estate, which can, and should, be done.
- 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.
- Alternatives to detention through case-worker support in the community.
- Better conditions in both refugee housing and in detention.
Support for integration
Many refugees arrive in the UK (whether resettled or through the asylum system) with limited English language skills. Although we all understand and agree that learning English is a vital first step for someone to move forward in the UK, funding for English language teaching is limited, and means that many struggle to access the classes they need. People in the asylum system should have access to free English language classes while their claim is ongoing. Research shows that the sooner refugees are allowed to learn English the sooner they are able to participate in society and start rebuilding their lives.
Question: If you are elected, will you push government to put in place funding for guaranteed English language teaching for all new refugees?
Our Manifesto says that “we would provide free basic English lessons to any seeker of sanctuary, refugees and asylum seekers”.
More detail on our policy says that 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.