Author Archives: Suzanne Fletcher

‘How should the UK change its refugee family reunification policies’: LD4SOS at Brighton Fringe meeting

There were plenty there to hear our panel of speakers and enjoy the refreshments provided courtesy of Lib Dem Voice despite us clashing  with a big consultation on the supporters scheme.

Tim Farron MP started off with a review of the overall position and welcomed the approval earlier in the day of policy motion F16 with all 5 amendments, most notably amendment #1 (LD4SOS). He reminded us that in debates we are not just talking about policies but real people who are affected. He talked about the experience of visiting  Calais, where it was clear that what people were looking for was safety, not a nice life on benefits.

Posted in Conference | Tagged and | 9 Comments

Sanctuary in Parliament

iving a voice to those with no voice that anyone in a position of power will listen to, is surely one of the key things we believe in as Liberal Democrats.

There was the opportunity for just this at Sanctuary in Parliament last week.

Asylum seekers and refugees from throughout the country were able to go to Parliament to meet with their MPs, and tell them of the impact on their lives of living in poverty, or being destitute, and not having the right to work.

I had gone, with a non-political hat, with a team from Tees Valley, including 2 people seeking asylum who are awaiting decisions, one asylum seeker who is destitute, 2 refugees.

The MPs had been invited to attend beforehand, and with a fair bit of chasing up nearly all of those from Tees Valley did.

Also four Lib Dem Peers, Brian Paddick, Roger Roberts (and his researcher Helen Byrne), Sally Hamwee and Shas Sheehan came along, and we met Sal Brinton there too.  Ed Davey sent his caseworker as he was unable to attend himself, and Layla Moran’s researcher came as she was unwell.

One of our delegates spoke from the platform with a very moving and beautifully delivered speech.  All met with the parliamentarians, and told their stories, specifically relating to the theme, and generally got involved.

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Shas Sheehan challenges the government over Calais refugee crisis

Baroness Shas Sheehan is no stranger to the refugee camps in northern France, and especially those in Calais. She has been making visits there for a year now, collecting and taking much needed supplies for those stranded there, and finding out for herself exactly what the facts are, what the problems are, and what needs to be done to remedy them.

As we know little notice has been taken of the forceful and informed pressure put on by her and the many voluntary organisations, and other individuals and groups that are doing sterling work out there. The issues have been constantly raised in the House of Lords by Shas and her colleagues, Lord Roger Roberts and Baroness Sally Hamwee in particular. Receiving only bland assurances, they have kept on pressing the case.

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A Liberal idea to empower claimants

 

At Conference we agreed a policy motion, “Mending the safety net”, on ways of stopping people from falling into poverty caused by problems with social security nets. Leaving aside the heated arguments for how this would best work, how about involving those we are talking about in having a needle and thread too ?

Whatever the ways we have of mending the safety net, those who need it must be able to understand the letters that they are sent from the officials concerned.

I am not blaming the officials, they don’t necessarily know how what is written is perceived, but what can be done is listen to the recipients.  I was a volunteer advisor with CAB for 40 years, and know how many people just do not understand what they are being told.

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A lifetime achievement, but still much to be done

Suzanne Fletcher 2

Suzanne Fletcher with Guy Verhofstadt

Our visit to Brussels has been one of terrific highs and awful low points.  The only thing that was consistent was the pouring rain, and the lovely welcoming help from people wherever we went.

I was there at the invitation of the committee of the regions for the ALDE-LeaDeR Awards.  I had been taken aback by being shortlisted for the Lifetime Achievement Award for long service as a councillor, for my work on environmental issues long before everyone woke up to it ( I got the first bottle – and then can – bank in Stockton in 1982), and more recently as founder member and chair of LD4SOS, an organisation within the Liberal Democrats that stands up for and campaigns on issues around asylum seekers and refugees.

The room filled with those nominated from throughout the EU for a range of different awards. There was only one other from the UK, Ray Georgeson from Otley, up for a different award from me.  I didn’t want to win; what I wanted more than anything was for the amendments from the Lords to be agreed in the House of Commons in the immigration debate that afternoon.  I silently prayed for 3,000 unaccompanied children to be given safety in the UK.

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What you can do to make a difference to the Immigration Bill

The Immigration Bill returns to the House of Commons on Monday, April 25th. Some very important amendments will be coming from significant wins in the House of Lords, when it was debated there. ALL MPs need to be lobbied and told how important it is that these amendments are incorporated into what is a terrible Bill, to at least make a difference to many asylum seekers already in the UK, as well as the 3,000 unaccompanied children seeking refuge, already in Europe.

Please do take the time to write, meet, or otherwise lobby your own MP on these issues.

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Opinion: Media misunderstanding on Lib Dem immigration policy

When will the BBC begin to do its job properly, and understand what it is talking about? I woke up yesterday to a news bulletin telling me that Nick Clegg was considering raising the time limit for someone from an EU country to claim benefits. It was suggested that it would be 6 months. It then ended by saying that the Liberal Democrats were now joining other parties in concern about EU migration.

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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 …

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Linking peace issues with seekers of sanctuary

ld4sos-bannerThe National Friends Peace Board celebrated its 100 years anniversary last year at the Friends Meeting House in York.  They had a walk, linking two issues, between Richmond Castle where the Friends had stood up for the treatment of Conscientious Objectors during the First World War, to more modern matters, the role of the US base at Menwith Hill in spreading militarism around the world.  As they say on their website, “One thing we know from having delved into our history, and of course from our own lives and

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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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An open letter from working group & FPC members on Nick Clegg’s immigration speech

As members of the body setting up a review of Liberal Democrat policy on immigration and identity under Andrew Stunell MP, or members of the review itself, we feel the need to put a few facts in the public domain following Nick Clegg’s speech on Friday.

It would have been helpful had we been made aware of the contents in advance.  It would have been very helpful if members of the Policy Working Group had been sent an embargoed copy of the speech the night before.

There was much in the speech that reiterated Liberal values on immigration; indeed much of it …

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After the ending of child detention – what next?

After the moving and amazing presentation and big “thank you” to the Lib Dems from Citizens UK on the Sunday morning of conference, for ending the detention of children of asylum seekers, what could possibly follow it?

The next day the newly formed “Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary”, along with Citizens UK, met in a nearby Church Hall. Those who had been, and were going through, the asylum process in the UK and were connected with both Citizens UK and Movement for Justice had come down to tell their stories. There to listen were members of the House …

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged , and | 7 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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