Lib Dems need to stick their head above the parapet on immigration and asylum seekers #slfconf

Immigration breakout Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterLiberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary held a thoughtful and impassioned break-out session at the Social Liberal Forum conference today.

Suzanne Fletcher gave some interesting updates from her key involvement in the recent policy working party on Immigration, Asylum and Social Cohesion. Suzanne stressed how important it is for policy-makers to get their terminology right. Illegal immigrants get mixed up with asylum seekers. Asylum seekers get confused with refugees. Deportation gets conflated with removal. It’s not just the Daily Mail who need to be more careful of their words.

Suzanne spoke passionately about how the working party aimed to ground their work in what happens to real people involved in the asylum process.

For example, asylum seekers who are refused, and then go through the long process of appeal, are literally left destitute and rely mostly on charities to survive.

Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece spoke about her recent work on fighting particularly illiberal parts of the recent bill which became the Immigration Act 2014. For example, Theresa May was hell-bent on allowing Home Secretaries to be able to revoke the citizenship of British citizens who do not have dual citizenship. This was particularly illiberal and a “red line” for Meral and her team. She noted how the scale of the UK’s acceptance of asylum seekers is small in comparison to countries like the USA, Germany and Pakistan. She also mentioned how asylum seekers have to live on £5.23 a day.

Meral closed with a passionate appeal for us not to be timid, not to be afraid and to continue fighting for people to be treated decently, fairly and with dignity.

Photo above shows (from left to right) Josh Dixon (session chair), Suzanne Fletcher and Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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20 Comments

  • Charles Rothwell 19th Jul '14 - 2:06pm

    The final sentence sums it up for me. Together with immigration taken in a wider sense (as per my comment to the article by Lord Roberts), I agree entirely that this is an area where the Party should stand up and therewith stand out from both the other main parties. (I won’t even bother to talk about certain others and where they stand on such issues!)

  • Angus McKay 20th Jul '14 - 1:45am

    Asylum seekers don’t have to live on £5.23 a day. On choosing the UK as their host country to seek their asylum they are allocated a case worker to ensure they get the all free asylum package … free furnished, repair free accommodation, free heating and lighting, free money, free NHS treatment, free dentistry, free specs, free school and college education, free translation service and free legal aid to keep them here when their cases comes up again and again for review.

    Numbers of asylum seekers should not be equated to countries, asylum numbers should be linked to areas of countries.

  • Sadly, right now, there is not even the political will to protect the families of British citizens with foreign spouses in this country, so I fear for those who dared commit the crime of being born in a war-torn country without having any ‘ties to our lands’.

  • Angus
    There are no official figures but community members and activists say that thousands of Christians have left Pakistan and are seeking asylum in other countries.
    From Karachi, many Christian families have fled silently; from Dastagir, Pahar Ganj, Mianwali Colony, Akhtar Colony and Essa Nagri. A majority of them opt for Thailand, which offers cheap airfare and easy access to tourist visas.No government benefits there.

  • Angus McKay 20th Jul '14 - 1:41pm

    Manfarang
    What be your point? I replied to the published article pointing out asylum seekers don’t have to live on £5.23 a day and provided data in opposition to the £5.23 a day claim. Also, asylum seekers are not spread out over the UK. Glasgow has more asylum seekers than the rest of Scotland and circa six areas in Glasgow have more asylum seekers than the rest of Glasgow. There are government benefits here in the UK to asylum seekers and many asylum seekers opt to make their way when choosing their host country.

    To carry on risking your life to get to the UK after having reached a safe country negates any asylum claim. It proves that the over-riding aim is not safety since that has already been achieved.

  • Angus
    My point is asylum seekers don’t say I will go to Britain because I can get benefits.The first thing they seek is safety.Have you spoken to any of those asylum seekers in Glasgow to ask them?

  • Manfarang
    I disagree with you. Here, from an asylum seeking child’s own mouth …
    Kosovo, the parents decide their children, circa 14 years old, have to leave. Parents arrange for children to be transported in the back of a lorry. Day of leaving, the parents and the brothers and sisters of the leavers say goodbye to the child asylum seekers. Child asylum seekers are not told where they are going. Journey takes five days. Finally lorry stops, driver tells children to get out … “The driver closed the doors again. I looked at his watch. It was 2pm. England. We had arrived. There was hardly any light. We were on a motorway. The driver told us to walk along a road then we would get some help. We followed the road. Finally we saw some light; it was a petrol station. It was the first of November, the start of a new life.”

    That story raises questions … If the area of Kosovo in which they were living was unsafe for the 14-year-olds, why was it not thought to be unsafe for the brothers and sisters (and the parents) who were staying behind? Why did the parents arrange to send their asylum seeking children on a five day trip in the back of a lorry all the way to England – there were nearer safe areas. My thoughts … the 14-year-old children were sent to England to be educated and cared for by the British taxpayers – their “start of a new life”.

    Herewith another one … Why are you here? -” What other countries can offer free medical care, clean drinking water and Sensodene toothpaste?”

  • Paul

    Your £5.23 figure may well be sourced from the Home Office … but … in addition asylum seekers receive the all free asylum package as quoted in my comment at 20th July’14 – 1.45am.

  • Well, I am certainly glad I have more than £5.23 a day for “food, sanitation and clothing”

  • Angus
    Yeah,the lorry is just waved through Dover.
    “In order to be able to make an application for asylum, a separated child must first be able to reach the UK. This has become more difficult in the last decade, with controls immigration officers being placed at ports and Eurostar stations and Airline Liaison Officers placed at airports to check the immigration status of anyone wishing to travel to the UK. If a young person is not legally able to enter the UK under the Immigration Rules, he or she may be turned back before ever formally entering the UK”

  • Angus McKay 21st Jul '14 - 8:36pm

    To answer Suzanne. Asylum seekers in the UK get 70% of that which someone on income support would receive. They get 100% as that received for child benefit. Don’t you forget, many of those who arrive seeking asylum have sold up their possessions to get here, very few of those would admit to having anything of value.

    You offered one case, ie, “an asylum seeker from DRC”. I offer mine, ie, an asylum seeker, Fatou Felicite Gaye, from where?

    Fatou Felicite Gaye, 38, and her four-year-old son Arouna were sent to the Ivory Coast from the immigration removal centre in South Lanarkshire. Ms Gaye had an application rejected in 2005 and has since had five appeals refused. There were two judicial reviews and five appeals into her case in an attempt to prevent her and her son being deported.

    Outcome ….

    “Refugee’ woman jailed for deceit” …

    “An African woman, Fatou Felicite Gaye, who lived in Glasgow while seeking refugee status has been jailed for 18 months after admitting lying about her background. Prosecutor Claudette Elliott said Gaye was given cash, food tokens and accommodation and had cost taxpayers more than £100,000 by taking out legally-aided cases in an attempt to stay. Mrs Elliott said: “The defendant embarked on a web of deceit which involved members of parliament, which went on for some years – from February 2005 to July 2009. Luton Crown Court was told she had duped sympathetic politicians and cost the taxpayer more than £100,000. It was only as they were being flown to the Ivory Coast on 28 May that his Ms Gaye revealed she did not come from there.”

    “As for “choosing England”.” … don’t forget the thousands of “asylum seekers” / “refugees” who supposedly fled from their own countries, having reached their safe haven in France, queued up at the French border “choosing England” to be their host country.

  • Paul.

    Of course asylum seekers do not have the right to work – why would any responsible employer employ someone whose background cannot be checked out – most asylum seekers destroy all personal identification. You really think asylum accommodation is hard to let – when the asylum seekers first came to Glasgow, they were housed in flats which had been modernized, newly decorated and given new furniture. At the same time as the arrival of the asylum seekers, in the Glasgow newspapers there were reports of: ‘‘seven thousand Glasgow pre-war homes, inhabited by Glaswegians which are unsanitary and riddled with damp and rot.’’ … oh … and Glasgow had thousands of our own people homeless … still does.

  • Richard Dean 22nd Jul '14 - 2:49am

    @Angus McKay

    I am shocked by the Fatou Felicite Gaye case. The case speaks of the inhumanity of the present system. Lying is really not such a huge sin, and I would have thought any reasonable human being would have let her and her son stay if they were so keen to do so. Even welcomed them. I see no reports of either of them being bad people.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/ukfs_news/hi/newsid_8290000/newsid_8295200/8295277.stm
    http://news.stv.tv/scotland/96441-ivorian-woman-and-son-held-at-dungavel/

    As for the housing situation for native-born Glaswegians, that sounds like an irresponsible council passing the buck. The council should have arranged for both native Glaswegians and incoming asylum-seekers to be housed in conditions fit for human beings. It is their shame that they didn’t.

  • Angus
    What you are talking about is illegal migrants not asylum seekers in the strici sense of the word.
    The example I mentioned- the Christians in Pakistan do face real danger as do Christains in the Middle East.
    Under Saddam Hussien,Christians lived peaceably in Iraq- some in Basrah.The outcome of the invasion by the Americans and British has resulted in death and misery for these people.Britain is moral obliged to aid these people

  • morally obliged

  • @Richard Dean
    You feel lying isn’t really such a huge sin? Of course the four-year-old child isn’t “bad people”. Mrs/Ms Gaye said her husband was murdered in the Ivory Coast and then she was multiply raped by the soldiers there – she is lying – she was never in the Ivory Coast. You feel it isn’t such a huge sin to lie and accuse others of murder and lie and accuse Ivory Coast soldiers of rape?

    As for the housing situation for native-born Glaswegians – it most certainly is partly down to an irresponsible council. Glasgow City Council should have assured decent housing for Glaswegians before doing the money deal with the Home Office to accommodate asylum seekers. GCC is the only constituency out of 32 in Scotland to house asylum seekers in any great numbers and will remain so – the other 31 have had 14 years to witness the absolute turmoil since asylum seekers arrived in Glasgow, and the other constituencies ain’t biting.

  • Richard Dean 22nd Jul '14 - 5:28pm

    @Angus McKay
    Sounds like the “other constituencies” are actually the problem.

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