Conference: Emergency Motion – Home Office Immigration Poster Vans and Attitude to Migrant Communities

Go Home Poster VanI was a witness at an Immigration tribunal hearing earlier this year for a friend. Let’s call her Little Red. She came to the UK from China as a masters student and worked for the NHS on graduation. But following a painful divorce she found she no longer had the right to work and live in the UK. Little Red has appealed the Home Office’s decision but is still waiting for an answer. Hers is merely one case in half a million back log of cases currently with the Home Office or in the appeals system.

At a packed meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration at the House of Commons on 9th July, I met a Welsh lady who had responded to their enquiry. She recently became a grandmother and her new grandson was only two weeks old at the time. But as her daughter did not earn more than £18,600 per year, she could not sponsor her non-EU spouse under the Family Migration Rules that came in a year ago. It was heart breaking to see a young family torn apart.

Whether someone is a legal or illegal migrant is a product of UK law and dependent on the policy and attitude of the Home Office.

The Coalition Government’s position on immigration was stated in the Coalition Agreement Paragraph 17: Although the Government believes that “immigration has enriched our culture and strengthened our economy,” immigration has to “be controlled so that people have confidence in the system.”

We clearly need confidence in the system but the Home Office’s recent pilot poster van campaign is not the way to bolster that confidence. Boldly emblazoned on each of the six vans “In the UK illegally? Go Home or Face Arrest,” the target audience was probably not the unregulated migrants, but rather so-called Daily Mail readers and prospective UKIP voters.

It was gratifying that a number of Lib Dem ministers and politicians have spoken out against the poster van campaign. Nick Clegg has assured us that no Liberal Democrats – including Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne – knew about the pilot scheme in advance. And Business Secretary, Vince Cable MP had been widely quoted as having called the campaign “stupid and offensive”. The campaign has certainly done nothing to improve community relations and integration in the relevant boroughs.

However to ensure that as a Party we are clear on our own policies, Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (working in consultation with Liberal Democrats Seekers Of Sanctuary) have submitted an Emergency Motion condemning the campaign and asking that it not be rolled out more widely.

We also recommend in our motion that the Home Office works with local authorities, community groups and NGOs to encourage voluntary returns in a more effective, liberal, and humane manner. Instead of merely targeting individuals, we should channel resources into taking immediate and decisive action against those encouraging people to come to the UK illegally.

We were pleased to have heard from the FCC that our motion has been shortlisted for the ballot at the Autumn Conference. Please support our emergency motion in the ballot. Thank you.

* Merlene was co-founder of Chinese Liberal Democrats and on the executive of the LibDems Overseas. She co-edited “Rise of China – Fresh Insights and Observations” published by the Paddy Ashdown Forum (2021)

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  • Jonathan Hunt 13th Sep '13 - 10:47pm

    An excellent piece of the kind we have come to expect from Merlene. The motion deserves our support, if only to demonstrate just how crass, insensitive and opportunistic our Tory “partners” are.

    But I feel that there are wider issues relating to immirgration that also deserve an airing — and hopefully our support at this conference. First of all to reitereate our commitment to the policy that met such favourable comment from humane and thinking people at the last election.

    Namely, to allow unauthorised immigratnts who have stayed for 10 years or more and have proved to have made real contributions to society and the economy the right to settle and apply for citizenship.

    Nest the issues that have caused Sarah Teather to stand down as an MP, including Nick Clegg’s proposal that vistots should ahve to pay a charge to enter Britain.

    Britain needs immigrants with skills and a willingnes to work hard, to enhance the workforce and pay for the pensions of an ever-ageing society. We must not pander to bigots and racists by actions like the Home Office Tories.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 14th Sep '13 - 2:45pm

    Excellent article Melene and as a member of the Immigration, Asylum and Identity Working Group I would commend everyone to respond to the ongoing consultation via hardcopy or online via Click here to take survey the results of which will be shared with the Working Group.

    I cannot emphasise the importance of the Liberal Democrats having a truly equitable and fair immigration policy for only this morning whilst hosting a Councillors Surgery in Newbury I was amazed by the number of people who have bought into the UKIP and Home Office erroneous diatribe that has leaked into and influenced our Party as well.

  • Rabi Martins 14th Sep '13 - 5:34pm

    A very well argued and presented case on why it is important for Lib Dems to spell out very clearly where we stand on immigration and support for settled migrants

    We all know that come the General Election battle Immigration will once again become a political hot potato as the Conservatives vie to out do UKIP on how tough they will be on immigration As for Labour you can be sure they will say one thing tho the BAME communities in private and make some mundane pledges in their manifesto which they will conveniently forget IF they win
    As Ruwan says above Liberal Democrats need to be very clear and specific on what we will do to keep the policy fair and balanced
    The EMLD Emergency motion is passed will be the first step towards doing just this
    But first we need to win theEmergency Motion ballot – So if you are at conference please vote for it and encourage others to do the same

  • Did anyone text “Home”?

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