Tag Archives: asylum

Opinion: How we made policy on asylum issues

Advocates disrupt transfer of asylum seekers from VillawoodEver wondered how party policy is made? I was on the “Immigration, Asylum and Identity” Policy Working Group, and the process has taken a whole year. Living in the north east, I daren’t begin to add up the cost of the fares, and food on the move, for meetings every 10 days on an evening in London, but it was an opportunity to get some good and Liberal policies for the Party for those asylum seekers who seek sanctuary in the UK.

Between March and …

photo by: kateausburn
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Lord Roger Roberts writes…Liberal Democrats in Government must fix failing asylum system

Yesterday was International Migrants Day. Sadly, celebrations for many were rather subdued.  morning marked the end of a long, hard and emotionally-charged  battle. Isa Muazu, a 45 year old asylum seeker from northern Nigeria, who had been on hunger strike for nearly 90 days, landed in Lagos, Nigeria.

Lawyers and campaigners fighting his cause ran out of avenues through which they could challenge the removal decision in the limited time-frame given. The case has been enormously distressing for many of those who have chosen to engage with it, but it has also raised the profile of many long-standing concerns surrounding immigration detention in …

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Botched deportation of dying man highlights need for humanitarian overhaul of asylum system

On Wednesday, Roger Roberts wrote an extremely moving article about the fate of Isa Muaza, a Nigerian asylum seeker who had been on hunger strike for 90 days in protest at the conditions in which he was being kept at an immigration detention centre. His removal from the UK, even in his frail, close to death condition, was planned for Friday morning.

Through Thursday, many of our readers signed the petition asking for Theresa May to reconsider her decision to deport Muaza. Huge effort was put in by Liberal Democrats including Sarah Teather, Julian Huppert and Tim Farron as well …

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Lord Roger Roberts writes…Please try to prevent the imminent death of a seeker of sanctuary

Yesterday I met Mr Isa Muaza who, until last night, was due to be forced on to a plane to Nigeria this evening. Though his removal directions have been moved – and set – for 29 November he remains at death’s door.

Isa is a failed asylum seeker who has been held in detention at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre. The case is one of enforced removal, although very little real force will be necessary in his case. He has been on hunger strike and has lost 40% of his body mass. He is close to death.

Isa was not well when …

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Opinion: 3 real life reasons why we need a fair asylum system and 3 chances to argue the case

I am going to write about 3 people who sought sanctuary in the UK.  All people I know well.

K came here, fleeing from the terror on Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. She is a strong determined person, passionate about democracy, and held a good responsible job in administration and had children. She fled here, in fear of her life, leaving job and family behind.  She has not been given permission to stay here, but as we all must know by now, Zimbabwe is not a safe place to return to.  So she had no job, no benefits, and no home. She does voluntary …

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Sarah Teather: Liberal Democrats must tell positive story on immigration because nobody else will

Ex-minister Sarah Teather made an impassioned plea to Liberal Democrats yesterday not to give in to fear of the Daily Mail on immigration but instead to “stand for something” on the issue.
Delivering the Gladstone Lecture in Westminster the MP for the heavily-diverse seat of Brent Central repeated her call in a recent Guardian article to bravely challenge popular language that “dehumanises and degrades” immigrations who make a positive contribution to British life and culture.
She accused the coalition government of splitting up thousands of families just so that David Cameron can boast about reducing numbers of immigrants at the next

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Eric Avebury writes… Light on the horizon for some gay asylum seekers

In 1995 our immigration law was amended so that asylum applicants from countries that were designated as ‘safe’ no longer had a right to appeal against refusal unless their case was ‘certified’ by the Secretary of State. With a Border Agency prone to error, a risk arose that people with good cases might be unjustly be detained, speeded through a truncated process and deported.

Even the Home Office recognised that in some designated countries, there was endemic persecution of women. In 2005 an Order was made adding some countries to the list of those deemed safe, but for men only. …

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Lord Roger Roberts writes…Our asylum system is crying out for reform

A few months ago I met Stephen, who had just been granted refugee status having waited five years for a decision on his case.

He fled persecution in Uganda for being gay, and since his arrival in the UK, he had not been able to seek work despite holding a master’s degree in psychology.  For five years, he was  dependent on a meagre handout (which is currently £36.62 a week). His distress and frustration were palpable; but sadly, he is but one of many.

Stephen’s case exemplifies the nonsensical nature of Government policy on asylum seekers. At present, taxpayers’ money …

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Sarah Teather slams “cowardly, politically motivated” freezing of asylum support

Regular readers will be well aware of Sarah Teather’s long record of campaigning for fairer, better treatment of asylum seekers. Earlier this year, she talked about a “deeply upsetting” report which told how pregnant asylum seekers did not receive the support that they need. In fact, one particularly distressing account told of a mother having to walk home in the snow carrying her newborn because she could not afford transport or a pram.

Yesterday, she described the  Home Office’s announcement that asylum support rates will be frozen for the upcoming year as cowardly and politically motivated. The freeze comes despite …

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Lord Roger Roberts writes: Don’t try to win votes by coming down hard on migrants

This year is very special: it is the 20th anniversary of the Maastricht treaty. We have, since 1993, been European citizens, each of us endowed with the rights of free movement, settlement and employment across the Union. Of course, we are anxious about the lifting of barriers for some European Union workers at the beginning of next year. I suggest that we remove all hostility and suspicion and treat them as they are: fellow citizens of the Union. If we treat them otherwise, we are asking for trouble. Facts must take prominence; scaremongering must be stamped out.

But of course we …

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Sarah Teather on “deeply upsetting” report on pregnant women in asylum system

Sarah Teather has been speaking in Parliament today about a new report by Maternity Action and the Refugee Council which highlights the treatment of pregnant women and their new babies in the asylum system. You can read her whole speech here, and I warn you it will make you upset and angry in equal and consuming measure. The description of a woman who had just given birth being made to carry her newborn baby home by foot in the snow was harrowing. There are many such similar stories in the report.

These vulnerable women suffer both poor physical and …

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Lord Avebury writes… Gay asylum-seekers: we’ve come a long way, but much still left to achieve for LGBTI people around the world

It is estimated that worldwide more than 175 million people, some three times the population of the UK, are at risk of persecution because of their sexual orientation. Seventy-six countries criminalise consensual same sex relations, among them 54 countries of the Commonwealth.

Hatred against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people is deeply entrenched in the culture of these countries, and their elected governments reflect the prejudice of the masses. They know that persecuting LGBTI people is contrary to international law, and leads to friction with donor nations.

In the case of Gambia, when EU representatives were due to …

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LibLink: Sarah Teather – Asylum through a child’s eyes

Former Children’s Minister Sarah Teather was personally thanked by Citizens UK at Liberal Democrat Conference in September for her role, as Children’s Minister, in ending child detention for immigration purposes. She said then that there was much more to achieve on the way the UK Borders Agency operates.

This week she’s launched an enquiry into the support for families within the asylum system. She wrote about that enquiry and what she wants to achieve for Politics Home:

If you have never had a conversation with a young asylum seeker about their

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Opinion: Immigration service must do more to protect human dignity

The UK Border Agency’s recent decision to hire G4S and Serco to deliver the housing scheme for asylum seekers is not only a bad one in its own right. It is symptomatic of the deep inadequacy of an organisation that exists purely to deal with people, but which lacks the same standards and people-focused ethos we expect of other organisations responsible for looking after human beings.

Last week we discovered that asylum seekers in the Midlands have had their doors painted red by the company responsible for housing and accommodating them, G4S. G4S did not think this would be a problem. …

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Opinion: European countries need to work together on asylum

The EU plans to reach an agreement over a Common European Asylum System by the end of this year, aiming to strengthen common standards on asylum, establish greater solidarity between member-states, and ensure fair and decent treatment of refugees. Currently countries on the EU’s periphery continue to shoulder the brunt of refugee flows relative to their capacity, burdening the already strained living conditions in immigration reception and detention centres.

Malta provides a case in point. During 2011 Malta received more asylum requests per-capita than any other EU country, with

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | 4 Comments

New Liberal Democrat group to help seekers of sanctuary

Liberal Democrats, as a party, have a proud record of standing up for the way our country views and treats with compassion and humanity those who seek sanctuary in our country. This culminated in the ending of the detention of children in the notorious Yarlswood, and the opening of the new pre departure accommodation at Cedars, for those families with children who were sadly being returned to their country of origin.

As well as actions as a party though, there are very many individuals who are both concerned about, and working with and for, asylum seekers in their locality.  This ranges …

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Opinion: The need to treat asylum seekers with dignity

At a meeting organised by Thrive last Friday the usually silent and ignored voices of asylum seekers and refugees were heard by those who need to hear.

For some time now those housed under a contract given by the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) to a local private housing provider had been experiencing problems that no decent person in our country would find acceptable. Some had complained to the housing provider, but been met with …

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The Independent View: The Coalition’s approach to the UK’s asylum system

A new Chief Executive at the UK Border Agency takes office this week. The fairness and effectiveness of our asylum system will fall squarely within Rob Whiteman’s responsibility. It seems an appropriate moment, then, to look at the way the Coalition has approached this dysfunctional area of public policy.

When politicians talk about asylum, they invariably remind their audience that the UK has a proud historical record protecting people who have fled chilling human rights abuses abroad. Polls consistently show substantial public support for ensuring protection for those who need it. And these were the opening notes …

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The Independent View: Honouring our refugee protection commmitments

Asylum is a human rights issue. Given the tone of public debate in the last few years, you could be forgiven for not realising that, or having forgotten it. Asylum policy is about ensuring that people who have suffered appalling persecution are given the protection they’re entitled to. That’s not mentioned very often either. So it was heartening to see a room full of people at the Lib Dem conference in Liverpool for a discussion organised by the Refugee Council and UNHCR on ‘Asylum Policy: Honouring Our Refugee Protection Commitments’.

The meeting brought together Tom Brake MP, Roland Schilling (UNHCR UK …

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Hughes welcome Supreme Court ruling securing freedom from persecution for gay asylum seekers

Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes has welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling that two gay men who said they faced persecution in their home countries of Cameron and Iran have the right to asylum in the UK.

I am delighted this ruling recognises the rights of gay asylum seekers, ensuring their freedom from persecution around the world.

“This plight is one that my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I have campaigned on for years. It is an issue that the Coalition Government is committed to addressing as we seek to restore Britain’s reputation around the world as a leader in the

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Colin Firth on why he’s stopped voting Labour and now supports the Lib Dems

The book ‘Why vote Lib Dem’ – edited by Danny Alexander MP, with a foreword by Nick Clegg, and contribututions from 26 individuals – is selling fast.

Its publisher (one Iain Dale, Esq) reports that it “is outselling Why Vote Conservative by a factor of 9 and Why Vote Labour by a factor 25. Indeed, so popular is the LibDem book that we have almost sold out of the entire print run, meaning that we will have to reprint after only ten days of sales.”

He speculates that one reason might be the Lib Dems’ minor coup in persuading …

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LibLink … Chris Huhne: Britain must stop locking up innocent children

Over at the Independent on Sunday, Lib Dem shadow home secretary Chris Huhne rails against the UK’s asylum system for combining ‘staggering bureaucratic incompetence with institutionalised cruelty’. Here’s an excerpt:

… It is one thing to stamp out abuse among asylum-seekers, but quite another to devise a system that combines staggering bureaucratic incompetence with institutionalised cruelty, for every year we are locking up hundreds and probably thousands of children, who have committed no crime, in prison-like conditions.

We do not know exactly how many, because the Government will not provide regular figures, but in June there were 470 such children, most of

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