Tag Archives: asylum

Roger Roberts on bringing hope to the most vulnerable

Lib Dem peer Roger Roberts spoke powerfully in the House of Lords this week on the subject of child refugees. He pleaded with the Government to reinstate the Dubs 3000 refugee children commitment. Here’s his speech in full.

My Lords, I am grateful for this opportunity. First, I will quote a friend who was there when the bulldozers came to demolish the camps in Dunkirk and Calais 12 months ago. He said that,

“after I visited the Calais refugee camp, I still have an image in my head, which I’m sure will be with me for the rest of my life. When I arrived at the camp, there were police in riot gear everywhere. There was a pastor standing, holding what was left of two religious buildings—a blue cross, which once stood atop the camp’s church. The look of complete despair. This was a man who had had the last bit of hope ripped away from him. To remove a religious symbol, a place of hope and prayer, from people who have only the clothes they are wearing and a shelter that is surrounded by mud, must be one of the worst, most inhumane things that I have ever witnessed”.

The demolition is not only of the camps, but of hope—replaced by despair. The refugees housed there were dispersed to different locations in France. The agreement was that the UK Home Office would go to all the “welcome centres”, as they were called, and do proper assessments of the young people and their claims. However, the evidence is that the interviews lasted no more than five minutes, and no interpreters were present. A few of the claimants were brought to the United Kingdom in the winter period, but those who qualified under the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, were ignored. Many who had a strong Dublin III claim were also overlooked. People who backed Brexit must realise that the Dublin EU regulations will no longer be there for the UK if we come out of the European Union. Another strand of hope will be gone.

There is evidence, reported by Professor Sue Clayton in her film, “Calais Children”, that in the welcome centres facilities were mixed. Some were good, but others not so, with no medical facilities, not enough food, opposition from local populations and many other problems. Hope was not rebuilt. Calais Action and other refugee organisations are still active in Calais; they are back there. Many refugees returned to Calais and, this very day, sleep in fields, forests and ditches. They dream of being physically present in the United Kingdom, where they have family—and they have the language. They gather at points of transit, in Calais itself, Dunkirk, Brussels and Zeebrugge. They risk their lives on illegal routes.

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Discussing the European Refugee ‘Crisis’ and the UK’s Responsibilities.

We had a very well attended fringe meeting in Bournemouth on this important issue – helped and sustained by the great Dorset  High Tea, kindly provided by Liberal Democrat Voice.

There are over 65 million forcibly displaced persons worldwide, 22 million of whom are refugees who have left their country of origin. Over half of refugees are children. Nearly 90% of refugees currently reside in states bordering conflict zones in the global south. A relatively minimal amount have sought and been granted safety in western European states. This insightful and fascinating fringe event explored and analysed the European response to refugee flows and the UK’s involvement in that response and their policies towards refugees.

Professor Brad Blitz, Professor of International Politics at Middlesex university, opened the discussion with the serious concern that there is very little critical evaluation or accountability of the EU and UK policies towards refugees. Aid and humanitarian polices are not currently based on enough evidence of effectiveness, and decision-making is poorly informed. Numerous reports have condemned French and in particular UK policies as failing to protect refugee children, failing to protect the human rights of refugees and migrants, and the failure of EU’s policy of containment.

Professor Blitz emphasised a note of caution in using the term European refugee ‘crisis’ as it fails to acknowledge that crossings of the Mediterranean and informal settlements have been occurring for over a decade, and the term can invite a reactionary ill-informed response rather than a well-considered and sustainable legal and political framework through which to aid and settle refugees.

A reactionary response aptly describes the majority of EU states’ policies towards the influx of refugees and migrants from 2015-2016 (Germany being a notable exception). European states responded with border enforcement, increased passport control between Schengen area countries, and the construction of fences (notable examples being the 180km fences on the Hungarian border as well as like blockades at Idomeni and Calais). These measures reflect an ‘inhospitality towards migrants’, leave thousands of refugees and migrants stranded on borders. They also have a knock on effect on Lebanon and Jordan who have similarly reinforced border controls in relation to Syrians. 

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Roger Roberts: Could we not be the nation that leads morally in this ruptured world

Yesterday, Roger Roberts was one of many Liberal Democrat peers to take part in the Queen’s Speech debate. He’s sent us his speech on the treatment of refugees, an issue very close to his heart:

 In the wide-ranging speeches, we had one great disappointment, and I am sure the Minister involved will know exactly what I am referring to; there has been no commitment at all to receiving the 20,000 Syrian refugees as promised by David Cameron. It is not there in the Queen’s Speech. Nor is there a commitment to increase the number of unaccompanied child refugees. When you think that in Europe there are still about 88,000 of these children by themselves, we have met no commitment whatever in the Speech that we are discussing this afternoon. It has been a great disappointment in that direction.

We are probably going to get another immigration Bill; we get one every Session. I am not sure what we are going to do in a two-year Session: will we get two or just one and a half? We are going to get new legislation, and every time we do it makes it more difficult for those who are vulnerable and those who wish to escape from total austerity to come here. We can promote many amendments when that new Bill comes. We can ask why asylum seekers are still refused permission to work for the first 12 months of their time in the United Kingdom. Is there any reason whatever? I cannot see any. Why, also, do we have legislation that permits 18 year-olds to be deported? Those who are deported are largely those who have had no access to legal advice. The Government could, quite easily I think, make a commitment that everyone who approaches 18 years of age shall at least have the benefit of top-rate legal advice.

There is one other thing I would like to see in the new immigration Bill. Do you know how much people get every week when they are applying? It is £36.95, and this has not increased at all in the past five or six years. Anything that we can do to uprate that to the present cost of living would be very welcome.

I have come across a poem by Warsan Shire of Somalia that describes the circumstances, and I shall quote part of it:

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John Leech writes…Help save fire-rescue hero from deportation

If I asked you to imagine your ideal community, who and what would be in it? What kind of people would you choose to have as your neighbour? Would you want a neighbour who would be there in your moment of need – maybe even go as far as risking their life for you?

Well, you may have heard that just over a month ago, a resident here in Manchester did just that.

Robert Chilowa ran to the scene of a ferocious blaze engulfing a neighbour’s house after hearing screams of terror. He rescued two young children from the flames and assisted another who had broken her ankle in the disaster that had already claimed the lives of their grandparents. His heroic efforts were the only saving grace in an otherwise tragic event.

Now, I’ll take a pretty good guess that you’d want this man as your neighbour, right? Well, despite braving the devastating fire in Withington, rightly garnering national headlines, he has now been threatened with deportation.

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LibLink: Roger Roberts: Forcing teenagers back to war zones another example of Tory inhumanity

“Inhumanity” is a word that you should use with caution, but when you are looking at a Government that has no compunction about sending child asylum seekers back to war zones the minute they turn 18, when they may have grown up here and have nothing left to go back to, then they’ve earned it.

Roger Roberts is laying down a marker for the future as this country prepares to take in some unaccompanied child refugees. What will become of them when they turn 18? Will they be sent back to a devastated Syria where they may have no connections, no …

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Paddy: Dishonouring service of Afghan interpreters is our worst act of shame

Paddy Ashdown condemned the Government after an Afghan interpreter, Nangyalai Dawoodzai, who had to leave his country after spending 3 years helping the British forces for, killed himself after being told his application for asylum in the UK had failed and he would be returned to Italy, the first European country he had arrived in.

From the Guardian:

The 29-year-old, who paid people smugglers to reach the UK, was told his request for asylum in Britain had been rejected when it was found he had been fingerprinted in Italy on arrival in Europe, according to the Daily Mail.

Under the EU’s Dublin regulation, aimed at preventing multiple asylum claims by individuals, Dawoodzai had to pursue his claim in the first country he applied in.

Faced with being sent back to Italy to claim political asylum there he killed himself, a fellow translator told the newspaper.

Paddy, who has long campaigned for these interpreters to be allowed to settle here, was understandably furious.

Lord Ashdown, who has championed the cause of Afghan war interpreters for years, said their treatment was scandalous.

It wrenches your heart out sideways. Here is a man who served in Helmand, probably on the frontline, who did it day in and day out for British troops, no going back home every six months, whose family were not tucked away safe but was in the community.

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Baroness Sally Hamwee writes…Another win for humanitarians in the Lords

I bumped into the Lords Home Office minister immediately after one of the Government’s socking defeats on the Trade Union Bill, consoling himself that losing by 17 in the vote on an Immigration Bill amendment time-limiting immigration detention was almost a victory.

But the Government lost – we won!  The amendment was led by crossbencher Lord Ramsbotham, who was Chief Inspector of Prisons and so knows whereof he speaks, supported by the Labour and the Liberal Democrat front benches: 63% of our peers voted compared with 46% of Labour’s.  Of course it may not stick.  The Bill will go back to the Commons where the Government could ping it straight back to the Lords (parliamentary ping-pong), or propose a compromise or changes ranging from the substantive to the technical (or accept it unchanged – but that almost never happens), but it cannot be ignored.

There is much to be said about immigration detention and the conditions in immigration removal centres.  I will simply note the paradox which causes detainees so much despair: You have no hope, as you don’t know when you might be released, and at the same time you have no certainty as you might in fact be released tomorrow.

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