Tag Archives: asylum

Don’t talk to me about migrants…

I didn’t actually get to see a news bulletin until 10pm last night and when I did, I was livid. Language matters. The 59 men, 8 women and 4 children who suffocated in that lorry were human beings and yet they were being described as “migrants” not people. Had those people been British, there would have been wall to wall news coverage of the tragedy for days. Already it’s slipping down the pecking order in the news bulletins along with the news of the drowning of another 200 people in the Mediterranean.

Calling these people “migrants” is both inaccurate and dehumanising. It’s inaccurate because most of them are refugees. Let’s face it, if you live in Syria you find yourself caught between a brutal government and barbaric ISIS. Amnesty’s most recent report on Syria outlines just how bad things are.

Syria’s internal armed conflict continued relentlessly through the year and saw both government forces and non-state armed groups commit extensive war crimes and gross human rights abuses with impunity. Government forces deliberately targeted civilians, indiscriminately bombarding civilian residential areas and medical facilities with artillery, mortars, barrel bombs and chemical agents, unlawfully killing civilians. Government forces also enforced lengthy sieges, trapping civilians and depriving them of food, medical care and other necessities. Security forces arbitrarily arrested or continued to detain thousands, including peaceful activists, human rights defenders, media and humanitarian workers, and children, subjecting some to enforced disappearance and others to prolonged detention or unfair trials. Security forces systematically tortured and otherwise ill-treated detainees with impunity; thousands of detainees reportedly died due to torture or harsh conditions. Non-state armed groups, which controlled some areas and contested others, indiscriminately shelled and besieged areas containing civilians perceived to support the government. Some, particularly the Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS) armed group, carried out indiscriminate suicide attacks and other bombings in civilian areas, and perpetrated numerous unlawful killings, including summary killings of captives and suspected opponents.

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Farron urges Theresa May to help Calais refugees

Tim Farron has written to Theresa May to ask her to help the refugees in Calais. He visited the port earlier this month and saw for himself the conditions people had to live in and also heard some of their stories. Here is his letter in full:

Dear Theresa,

I am writing to you about the humanitarian crisis in Calais ahead of your meeting with French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve later this week.

I welcome the measures the Government has already taken to improve the security situation at the Eurotunnel and reduce the disruption which has been caused for British businesses and holidaymakers, but am writing to ask that the UK do more to ensure that the humanitarian crisis in Calais is properly recognised and addressed.

Having visited the Jules Ferry migrant support centre in Calais and met with organisations working on the ground, it is clear that many of those living in “the jungle” are refugees fleeing war and persecution. The organisations who are currently working to support these very vulnerable people are under extreme pressure. The conditions in Calais fall far short of international standards on the treatment and welfare of refugees. Water and sanitation are all in short supply and medical support stretched beyond capacity. Many are being forced to subsist on the one meal a day that the centre is able to provide. More funding and better coordination are urgently needed, and the UK needs to do more. It is absolutely right that we work together with the French to fund improvements in security at the Eurotunnel and action on people trafficking, but the humanitarian support that is so desperately needed must also be adequately funded.

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#WeAreAllHuman: Liberal Youth members show solidarity with Calais refugees

“We will not dehumanise, we will not demonise, we will support them.”

Liberal Youth members have made a video in solidarity with the refugees in Calais. Joanne Ferguson, who joined the Party in May and has written for this site several times, tells David Cameron: “You have the power to save human lives, use it.”

Watch and share.

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Let’s appeal to lovers of a big- hearted Britain and win the immigration argument.
 


I felt compelled to put into words my thoughts on the situation in Calais following David Cameron’s intervention, describing those seeking refuge in the United Kingdom, as ‘swarming’ over the border.

To invoke the language of the BNP, UKIP, the National Front, and the English Defence League is irresponsible and inflammatory. Similar language was used by the Daily Mail in the 1930s when describing Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution.

My family are refugees; my grandparents and their three young daughters were forced to flee their homes following the invasion of Cyprus in 1974. This issue is therefore very close to my heart. The UK gave refuge to my family in the 1970s, and for this they will be eternally grateful. They became part of London’s mosaic society. As with many other immigrants at the time, they were welcomed by both the government and society. Immigrants were seen as beneficial to the country, they brought with them skills, and a willingness to work long hard hours to better their lives. They saw the UK as a safe haven, and respected the native population. At the time the British people, by and large welcomed them, and accepted that immigrants were good for both society and the economy.

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Farron calls on Cameron to act to end “immeasurable suffering” of migrants

Tim Farron has written to David Cameron to urge him to ensure that the UK takes its fair share of those poor, desperate, vulnerable people we’ve all seen on our tv screens. He wrote:

I am writing to you about the current humanitarian crisis in Calais and its impact here in the UK.

I am sure you agree that it is heartbreaking to see hundreds of desperate people subsisting in makeshift camps night after night, willing to risk life and limb in the hope of a better future while many in Kent and across the country see their daily lives hugely disrupted through no fault of their own.

I welcome your commitment yesterday to providing France with the resources needed to deal with the situation and am writing to seek assurances that alongside the necessary security measures, support will also be given to humanely process those seeking asylum, return those who have no right to remain, and ensure that, in line with international obligations, standards of welfare and accommodation are urgently improved.

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Tim Farron talks about Asylum and Immigration

Last week Elizabeth Needham recorded some video footage of leadership candidate Tim Farron talking about asylum and immigration.

She’s happy for it to be shared, so, enjoy!

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Home Office mistreatment of LGBT people must be stopped

One of the low points of this week for me was reading about Aderonke Apata.  She came to the UK after her girlfriend was murdered in Nigeria but this week a Home Office barrister actually stood up in court in public and argued Aderonke couldn’t possibly be a lesbian because she had children and because she wasn’t “part of the social group known as lesbians.” Do people not think about how ridiculous these things sound before they say them out loud? The Independent reports:

But the Home Office argues that Ms Apata could not be considered a lesbian because she has children and has previously been in heterosexual relationships. Ms Apata’s barrister, Abid Mahmood, said these were “highly offensive… stereotypical views of the past”.

He told the hearing: “Some members of the public may have those views but it doesn’t mean a government department should be putting these views forward in evidence.”

The Home Secretary’s barrister, Andrew Bird, argued that Ms Apata was “not part of the social group known as lesbians” but had “indulged in same-sex activity”. He continued: “You can’t be a heterosexual one day and a lesbian the next day. Just as you can’t change your race.”

Holding hands with her wife-to-be Happiness Agboro in court yesterday, Ms Apata, 47, was surrounded by dozens of gay-rights activists.

Homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison in Nigeria under laws passed in January 2014 and there has been a spike in violence against gay people.

There have long been concerns about the frankly cruel, inhumane and brutal way the Home Office treats LGBT people that pre-dates this government. While Labour were in office, they used to tell people that they’d be fine in their home countries if they were discreet. It is a matter of massive regret to me that the Liberal Democrats in government have not been able to stop the sort of nonsense that took place in that central London courtroom this week or that routinely takes place when LGBT asylum seekers are interviewed. The Home Office playbook reads like a bad 1970s sitcom, but its effects are far from funny.

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Lord Roger Roberts writes…A step towards abolishing the Azure Card

Azure cardLast November I wrote that we must abolish the Azure Card and secured a debate in the House of Lords to that effect.

For those who may be unaware, The Azure Card is a prepayment card provided destitute asylum seekers who require support because they are temporarily unable to leave the United Kingdom. It is a discriminatory and wholly inadequate system of support which the Red Cross – as well as many other refugee organisations have called to be abolished.

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Asylum system continues to fail LGBT people

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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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