New #3000children website launched during Lib Dem members’ webinar on refugees

Last night, Sal Brinton hosted an online meeting for party members on the subject of refugees. Also taking part were Baroness Shas Sheehan and Bradley Hillier-Smith, who have been on several visits to the refugee camps and Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary’s Suzanne Fletcher who, among many other things, has campaigned successfully to end the appalling “red doors” for asylum seekers  policy. Suzanne was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement award from ALDE.

I consider myself reasonably well informed on the Refugee Crisis, but I found that I learned things during the webinar. The panel outlined a series of things that we can do to help the refugees, from making the case by writing to the local papers to donating money and equipment to the camps.

Brad described the conditions in the camps in France – appalling and unsanitary. None of the big charities are allowed to work there so the relief effort is carried out only by teams of volunteers.

Sal also told us that Syrian refugees still in the massive camps in the region are locked in. They can’t go anywhere else. This is the case in all the countries except the Lebanon. Our sister party there has ensured that they can get out, mindful of the experience of the Lebanese refugees during their civil war 30 years ago.

Shas has another trip to the camps planned for next week and will be putting out another appeal for supplies. She is also trying to organise a co-ordinated Liberal Democrat volunteer event for the end of July.

During the webinar, the part launched a new campaign site devoted to the issue of child refugees. There’s a timeline of all the issues and a link to Alf Dubs’ petition.

If you missed the webinar, you will get a chance to hear the recording. A link will be emailed either later today or tomorrow if you are a party member. 

The next webinar, on the EU Referendum, will take place on 8th June.

If you are not a party member and you like how Tim Farron has been leading the campaign for us to do our humanitarian duty as a country, you can join the party here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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11 Comments

  • “the appalling “red doors” for asylum seekers policy”

    There was never a policy. Hiring a maintenance company who just happen to have a big job lot of red paint in their depot is not the same as having a policy.

  • Richard Underhill 26th May '16 - 10:47pm

    The 1951 United Nations convention relating to the status of refugees applies to many nation states. It needs to be updated for the Schengen zone.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 26th May '16 - 11:26pm

    Funny they only painted the doors of asylum seekers red then, Stuart. And why did they not do anything for years?

  • “Funny they only painted the doors of asylum seekers red then, Stuart.

    They’d been painting those doors red for 20 years – long before any asylum seekers even lived in the houses.

    And why did they not do anything for years?

    (a) No asylum seekers had complained directly to them. (b) The police told them that any abuse going on had nothing to do with the colour of the doors.

    Do you have any actual evidence there was a “policy”? Sometimes things cause bad consequences through no kind of intention or malice…

  • suzanne fletcher 27th May '16 - 10:09am

    OK, not an actual policy – but the big point is they DID know about it, from 4 years ago and ignored the problems. there was nothing wrong in the doors being painted the same shade of red in the first place, many organisations have one colour, the problem was that when it was taken up with them that same colour was causing problems in that some asylum seekers were being targetted with abuse etc, no action was taken. it was taken up directly with the contractor (Jomast) with evidence from asylum seekers, and also with G4S who have the Home Office contract and sub contract to Jomast. I have all the evidence and is has been given to the Home Affairs Select Committee. That was 4 years ago. When asylum seekers made complaints to Jomast on a number of issues, they were ignored – so of course no record. the issue came up again over 2 years ago at the Public Accounts Committee, by Ian Swales MP. G4S declined to do anything about it.
    If all this is not bad enough, Keith Vaz told Jomast to get the doors repainted and jomast said they would in a matter of months. Vaz got them to say they would do so in weeks not months. Work did start straight away – but then I was picking up compaints that some areas had not been done at all. I took photos and sent to the Select Committee who have written to G4S. Just this week I had to get back to them as whole streets have not been touched. So despite assurances to the Select Committee they are still having to be prodded to get on and do the work. Nobody here is surprised.
    But the real issues are “behind the red doors” and so much harder to highlight and tackle. there were some good recommendations from the Select Committee, particularly taking up the ask I had put in (given to be directly from asylum seekers themselves) that forums be set up where housing issues could be discussed and taken up an dealt with without them having to be named in individual complaints – and discussion is much better than a string of complaints anyway. waiting for the Government response to the Select Committee’s report.
    Hope this further detail clears up ?

  • Simon Banks 27th May '16 - 3:26pm

    On a different tack, I got an email thanking me for taking part in the webinar and inviting comments via what appeared to be an email address. Neither using that address nor replying directly to the email worked: the messages bounced back. Clicking on the address or link led me to Yahoo Safe Zone, which turned out to be a search engine and repeating the address in the Party email turned up various local party websites but no opportunity to feed back on the webinar. Frustrating.

  • @Suzanne Fletcher
    Thank you, of course it was not a policy. To suggest it was – as Ian Swales did with his terrible comments about yellow stars – was wrong.

    When the government reported back on its investigation in February, it confirmed that there had been no such policy, and that the police had found no link whatsoever between door colours and any criminal behaviour. Oddly enough, this received far less media coverage than the sensationalist initial reprts in January.

    When you think about it, the whole policy/conspiracy theory made no sense from the start. Why would a money-grabbing private landlord (i.e. Jomast) have a deliberate policy of encouraging people to vandalise their properties?

    I’m afraid there are some errors in your account. For instance you claim that Keith Vaz ordered Jomast to repaint the doors, and in “weeks not months”. Vaz issued no such instructions. The full transcript of the Vaz/Jomast encounter is here :-

    http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/asylum-accommodation/oral/27873.html

    Incidentally, only 58% of the doors were actually painted red. And some are still red for the simple reason that when the contractors went round to repaint them, some asylum seekers insisted on keeping them red because they liked it.

  • suzanne fletcher 28th May '16 - 9:37am

    I distinctly remember a “weeks not months” statment somewhere in the Select Committee hearing, I haven’t time today to go through the horrid re-reading of the session, but have it and have quoted from it, and have found this quote in an e-mail I sent to the Select Committee that has not been contradicted
    ” Q48 Chair: When will it be finished, because it sounds, if it is such an easy thing to do, presumably you would do this very quickly and put all this beyond doubt?
    Stuart Monk: A couple of weeks. Of the order of a couple of weeks.
    Q49 Chair: A couple of weeks? Because we were told months, when the Minister appeared before the House. So it is two weeks?
    Stuart Monk: We decided that we should accelerate that.
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmhaff/772/77204.htm#_idTextAnchor023
    Says
    30.Accommodation for asylum seekers in Middlesbrough had doors that were painted a predominant colour. This was clearly wrong. We welcome the decision that the doors will be repainted, and that the repainting will be expedited, so that within a matter of weeks no single colour will predominate. Jomast and G4S must inform us when the repainting has been completed.”
    Asylum seekers have been reporting incidents to Jomast, who have not been passing onto G4S or the police. don’t forget that the police in many of the countries people flee from are “the enemy” and not to be trusted.
    when both G4S and Jomast refused to take notice of the complaints put to them (from a group not individuals because of fear of reprisals) I would say they had a deliberate policy of maintaining the red doors.
    I can assure you that from complaints I have had there has been no attempt or offer to repaint doors. funny that whole streets had allegedly people refusing ! all recorded and sent to the Select Committee, with names and addresses in confidence because of fear of reprisals from Home Office or Jomast.
    I say again, the red doors are not the biggest problem in asylum housing, but they are an outward and visible sign of many things.
    are you the Stuart of Stuart Monk?

  • No, I am not Stuart Monk, though I wish I had his money.

    The exchange you quote is the one I was alluding to. Jomast and the government decided jointly to repaint the doors. Jomast themselves then declared they would do it within weeks, not months. Keith Vaz had nothing to do with any of this; no instructions were issued.

    You paint a picture of distrust between asylum seekers and the authorities. Might I suggest that this situation is certainly not helped by attention-seeking politicians like Ian Swales reprehensibly comparing an arbitrary decorating decision made 20 years ago with what happened in 1930s Germany?

    All I’m asking for here is some evidence and accuracy. What evidence do you have that any asylum seeker has ever been targeted as a result of their door colour rather than for any other reason? The government, police and G4 all say they have no evidence.

    The one thing I agree with you on is that the red doors are not the biggest problem here (if they are a problem at all). One major problem is that asylum seekers are concentrated in large numbers in a small number of areas – invariably areas that already suffer from high poverty and crime. That’s an obvious recipe for trouble and needs to be stopped. Middlesborough has by far the highest ratio of asylum seekers in the country – much higher than the government’s supposed maximum – while many other areas (e.g. most of Scotland) have none whatsoever. This is a much more pressing concern than hues of paint. See :-

    http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/middlesbrough-tops-league-number-asylum-10964217

  • suzanne fletcher 30th May '16 - 10:09am

    we are into semantics of language and exact words used, I may have quoted incorrectly from memory, but the esscence is the Jomast would not have repainted any doors at all had it not been for the calling to the Select Committee and the issue being raised in parliament, and therte was an exchange about how long, and it was weeks not months.
    Ian Swales was using language expressed by an asylum seeker. they were delighted to hear themselves being spoken up for.
    I have had plenty of asylum seekers tell me (and others) about being targetted – not because the door was red, but they were known as being asylum seekers because the door was a distinctive shade of red. Such evidence was sent to the Select Committee and had, in anonymised ways, been given to G4S.
    The concentration of more asylum seekers per head in Middlesbrough than guidelines say has not actually caused any problems. there have been some beneifts such as populating some streets that would otherwise have become part derelict, and some small local shops, used by both indigenous people and asylum seekers, have only survived because of them. however because the situation with the doors has drawn national attention it is being addressed as less asylum seekers are being dispersed there, the numbers will gradually come down.
    hope that answers all your points.
    in the meantime there is a lot, and i mean a lot, of work to do to make life better for all in the local communities.

  • @Suzanne
    “they were known as being asylum seekers because the door was a distinctive shade of red”

    All I’m asking is: what evidence do you have for that? How do you know that the people who attacked these asylum seekers used the door as a means of identification, rather than much more obvious methods such as local gossip. (I suspect in most neighbourhoods, if some asylum seekers moved in to a particular property then many in the local community would know about it within hours, regardless of the house’s decor.)

    I’m not trying to be awkward here. I think it’s important to look at real evidence – one of the reasons being so as not to sow the kind of mistrust you talked about in your earlier posts. If people are telling Ian Swales that Midlesborough is just like 1930s Germany, don’t you think the responsible thing for Ian Swales to do would be to gently point out to them that there is no comparison whatsoever, rather than enocuraging such ideas?

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