Alistair Carmichael MP writes…Suzanne Fletcher reminds us how one person can make a difference for vulnerable people

Today in Parliament the Minister for Immigration was forced to explain why G4S were housing asylum seekers behind red doors, leaving them open to targeted attacks. The Minister, who said he was “deeply concerned”, in response sprang into action announcing an audit of asylum seeker accommodation in the North East. Good to see the Minister reacting so quickly to something that was only in the papers that morning you might think. Not so.

Suzanne Fletcher, former Liberal Democrat Councillor and now Chair for Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary, has been campaigning on this issue doggedly for years. In fact, it is predominantly down to her campaign work that this became a news story today.

Four years ago, when she was working with asylum seekers in the area she became aware of the issue and rather than say it is a problem for someone else to deal with, she took up the mantel herself. Suzanne complained to G4S submitted evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee and got Ian Swales to take up the issue in the Public Accounts Committee. Funnily enough G4S said they’d never received any complaints. I took this up with the Minister directly today, continuing Suzanne’s tireless work, he assured me that he had taken this up with G4S and that his investigation will look into why the issue wasn’t addressed sooner.

I will make sure that we get answers to this and keep an eagle eye out for further developments, as I am sure Suzanne will, but I want to take this opportunity to congratulate her and all the Liberal Democrat campaigners who work day in and day out with dogged determination to fight for change and improvement to our local communities up and down the country, often with little reward. On this occasion all that work has paid off and as a result the most vulnerable in our society will hopefully be able to get on with their lives in a little more peace. There will be many other issues and this should serve as a reminder that one person can make a difference and by working together we can ensure that issues can breakthrough into the heart of power.

Well done Suzanne and keep going.

* Alistair Carmichael is the MP for Orkney and Shetland and Liberal Democrat Chief Whip.

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  • I’m confused. For most of the four years Suzanne Fletcher was campaigning over this, the Lib Dems were in government. Why did no Lib Dem minister do anything?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th Jan '16 - 8:41pm

    Because we didn’t have the immigration minister. It is not for lack of trying.

  • Exactly , as Caron said , but what a difference as Alistair says, an individual makes! Good coverage on channel four news , avaiable on iplayer if you didn t catch it this evening , but they interviewed Suzanne , and did not even say she s a Liberal Democrat!

  • P. S. they are indeed now going to re paint the red doors !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • @Caron
    I know Lib Dems did not have the immigration minister. But on the other hand, when the infamous “Go Home” vas were scrapped, Tim Farron claimed here on LDV that it was due to Lib Dem pressure, describing it as “Norman Baker’s first ‘liberal win’ in the Home Office”. Farron added: ” I look forward to many more and he should know I’ll be supporting him on issues like this every step of the way!”

    Lib Dems were happy to claim that their ministers were able to exert influence on immigration matters when it suited them, so my question is valid: did any Lib Dem minister try to do anything about these red doors?

  • We were frequently told that it was only by being in government that we could “acheive things” and that was the only way to stop the Tories being beastly

  • Everyone in the neighbourhoods where asylum seekers are housed will know whatever the colour of the door. I would like to see whether everyone with a red door has been attacked in the UK. I doubt the colour of the door will make much difference. When locals are unable to get and afford housing and see others get it free there will of course be unrest.

  • I think Suzanne is amazing but I would just like to focus on Stuart’s comment and Caron’s response. Is there a simple write up of Coalition from our perspective showing what we could and could not do because of the allocation of Ministerial responsibility etc. and of what we did achieve and what we wanted to but couldn’t? This might be useful for all of us in answering critics on social media, in Focus articles and party newspapers. I find myself very ignorant and I’m a member, so most of the public probably don’t know either.

  • paul barker 21st Jan '16 - 5:56pm

    Perhaps we should all paint our front doors red, if allowed, as a gesture of solidarity ?

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