Tag Archives: immigration

Lib Dem Mum 5: Horrified about immigration

Do you have a problem for Lib Dem Mum? Email [email protected] or DM @lib_mum on twitter in complete confidentiality – only Lib Dem Mum sees messages to these accounts. No one in the team at LDV has access (and for the avoidance of doubt Lib Dem Mum’s views are her own and not those of the LDV team).

All correspondents will be acknowledged, and if you are published you will be given a pseudonym.

I am very excited this week, dears, because I received an actual letter, rather than an email or a DM! I have typed this out myself, but you can see a photo of the original – in green ink and everything – on my twitter account here.

 

 

Dear Lib Dem Mum,

I am writing to you to ask about the horror that is immigration into the UK. What do we need to do to make it easier for people to immigrate into our country and to make the country more welcoming to people who would like to live here?

Yours ever

Horrified by Immigration, Manchester

Dear Horrified

(I hope you don’t mind if I call you Horrified)

You are quite right to highlight that immigrating to the UK is a tortuous, uncaring, expensive, bureaucratic nightmare; the Home Office are unnecessarily cruel and heartless; and the current Home Secretary does utterly evil things when it comes to dealing with immigrants – continuing a tradition that has dogged the last several governments of whatever stripe – yes, even the one with us in. I admit I’m paraphrasing your point a little, but I do not think unfairly.

There’s a lot we need to do to make it easier. I, personally, would start by repealing all anti-immigrant laws (yes, even that one, no, I don’t care if it has some tiny benefit alongside its racism and horror). We’ve only had them for 115 years, we won’t miss them. Then, I would abolish the Home Office. Its actual useful functions (issuing of passports and so forth) could be done by other departments, and its core is too entrenched in racist dogma now to be allowed to survive, and has been so for many years whether the party in charge is red or blue. Thirdly, I would require all newspaper corrections to be printed on the same page and in the same font weight as the original incorrect item. This would have a range of benefits beyond forcing the racist sections of the press to be less racist, but it would help in that regard too. There are a lot of additional educational and cultural changes I would like to make too…

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WATCH: Christine Jardine introduce her Bill to give NHS and care staff indefinite leave to remain

This week, Christine Jardine introduced her Bill to give the citizens of other countries who have been on the Covid front line indefinite leave to remain if they want it. I find it appalling that anyone is put through the expensive, stressful hellscape that is the immigration system and most especially those people who have put their own lives at risk to care for those who have been struck down by Covid. Christine’s speech was one of the highlights of my week. Watch it here. The text is below.

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to grant indefinite leave to remain to health and social care staff; and for connected purposes.

It is fair to say that I did not appreciate that I would need the national health service and its medical staff to save my life until they did. When my hospital bed was surrounded by doctors and nurses in the middle of the night, talking in terms and about things that I was in too much pain and had too high a fever to understand, I did not stop to think about their visa status—and neither, fortunately, did they.

That was a while ago now, but sadly it is a feeling that has been all too common to too many people in this country—our families, our friends and even the Prime Minister—since covid-19 hit our communities this past spring. What has rightly mattered to all of us and all the staff is that people get the best care possible. I do not think it is stretching the point to say that it has felt at times that this country, like most of the world, has been at war with covid-19. Our hospitals and care homes have felt like this generation’s frontline. Again, we have not stopped to think about anyone’s visa status, and neither have they.

Our media these past few months have not been full of stories of foreign nationals in the NHS refusing to work because it is dangerous and puts their lives at risk. No; quite the opposite. What we have seen is row after row of pictures of NHS workers, many of them foreign nationals, who have lost their lives to this virus. We have seen their names; we have read their stories. The 57-year-old healthcare assistant who died on 14 April, and the 51-year-old dental nurse who trained in the Philippines before coming to Swansea and who died on the same day, were both on visas.

Earlier this summer, through the advocacy organisation EveryDoctor, I met someone who had been working on the frontline of this pandemic. A specialist in emergency medicine, he has lost colleagues and knows the daily strain of fighting to keep alive those people struggling to combat the virus, while never being completely sure whether he has been infected himself. He is a migrant. He has been working on the frontline, paying tax and national insurance to the Exchequer, working for us, contributing, but he will in time have to apply for a fresh visa and pay for it—£700.

One reason I find that difficult to accept is that I have been so immensely proud of the way our communities came out on their doorsteps every Thursday to applaud those working in our health and care sectors. I am sure that most, if not all, of us in this place took part. It was spontaneous, it was heartfelt and it was moving—but was it enough? Will it be enough if we have to suffer this winter when, as is widely predicted, the virus returns? I think we all know that the answer to that question is no, it will not. There has to be more, and that has to be down to us in this place.​

Our Government have not yet done enough, either for those born and brought in this country or for those who have come here to work. For all those working in our NHS for the past year, there must surely be more recognition and thanks for putting themselves in harm’s way. The virus has not discriminated in whom it attacks—we are all vulnerable, our black, Asian and ethnic minorities more than any other community—but what we are doing could be seen as discriminating in how we thank those who defend us. It is time we recognised properly the contributions that have been made.

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Observations of an expat: I am an immigrant

Embed from Getty Images

I am an immigrant. I emigrated from the United States to the United Kingdom on the 12th of December 1971.

I had studied for a year in Britain 18 months before and fell in love with the country and one of its citizens and moved back despite the dreary weather and traffic jams.

I did not flee a Middle Eastern War. I did not turf up at Heathrow claiming political persecution. Neither was I escaping a life of poverty in an African mud hut. In fact, if I had stayed in America I would probably be enjoying a comfortable country club existence.

Nevertheless, I feel an affinity with African, Asian, Hispanic, or any person from any race or country who left their homeland to seek a new life. It is not easy to leave the safety net of cultural familiarity, family and friends.

If you are born to a country your acceptance is automatic. As an immigrant you have to constantly prove your worth and justify your decision to uproot your entire life and start afresh.

I feel I have succeeded. I started an international news agency which launched the careers of well over a hundred journalists. My children are all a credit to me as are the 200 boys – many of them now young me – who have passed through my scout group over the past 20 years.

I am not boasting. In fact, I don’t regard myself as particularly unusual. Immigrants in every country have outstanding records of contributing to their adopted homelands.

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WATCH: Christine Jardine stand up for immigrants on Channel 4 Political slot

Channel 4 runs a regular political slot and this week it was the turn of our Christine Jardine to highlight an issue close to her heart. Our Home Affairs spokesperson made a passionate case for immigration and why we need to welcome and support immigrants. This was filmed at the height of the pandemic and she did a Zoom interview with a doctor who was working long hours and taking huge risks, yet still faced exorbitant fees and visa stress to be able to work here.

You can catch up with the three minute programme here. 

 

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UK visa costs will turn away those we need most

It still pains me to admit it, but the reality is sinking in fast: free movement is coming to an end.

Liberal Democrats (and others) fought a valiant fight, but the results of last year’s general election made the majority’s views crystal clear. No more free movement, tougher immigration controls.

So, after a series of delays, the Government’s Immigration Bill – the legislation that will legally put an end to free movement – is making its way through Parliament as we speak. With it will come a whole raft of immigration rule changes, the most well-known being the flagship ‘Australian-style’ points-based visa system.

The pandemic has rightly fuelled a heated debate around the impact this new system will have on those shamefully labelled as “unskilled” workers – our friends and neighbours who help teach our children, treat our sick and look after our elderly. It’s right that as a party the Liberal Democrats continue to stand up for these people, and the Prime Minister’s U-turn over payment of the NHS surcharge for frontline health workers was a good first step in the right direction.

But what about those who, on paper, we see as being at the front of the queue?

Around one third of academic staff working in our higher education sector come from abroad, and over half of those from elsewhere in the EU. But as things stand, the sheer cost and burden of entering the UK threatens to turn away the scientists, researchers and innovators who make an invaluable contribution to our national health and wellbeing. And it will be other countries that benefit from their knowledge and expertise.

Credit where credit is due, the Government has worked with the science sector and others to develop the new ‘Global Talent’ visa category that allows talented and promising individuals in specific research and innovation sectors to work in the UK for up to five years without restrictions such as a sponsor, language tests or a minimum salary threshold.

But the upfront cost of obtaining one of these visas can total more than £2600, compared to around £300 for a similar visa in France, £250 in the US and £0 in Japan. If, god forbid, you want to move here with your spouse or children, those costs skyrocket further.

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After the statues – what next ? A Liberal way forward

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, I have been sharing my experiences as a black Briton with my white friends. It has shown me that we need to educate our country on our past. We must develop our history curriculum and widen the outlook of our galleries and museums.

While it took a century to move from landowners voting to universal suffrage, in our digital age, change should be much swifter. We are an evolutionary not a revolutionary country. The Colston statue incident has shown us how the failure of democratic action results in the use of force.

As Liberals and Democrats, we should be proud that our country is all colours and religions and of no faith at all. The question is, how do we explain to all Britons how we got here? As Gary Younge pointed out in The Guardian, America’s sins are on show as they happened within her borders. In Britain’s case they happened mainly abroad, however the template was made in Ireland. Colonial Ireland with its plantations and dehumanising of the native population was a model that we exported to America. Discrimination is a legacy of a Christian nation justifying inhumane treatment with the pseudo science of race classification.

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Daily View 2×2: 20 May 2020

A big day for some people, and definitely an interesting one, to look forward to, and we’ll be covering that in half an hour, but in the meantime, the debate over the General Election Review rumbles on, and we have some history, and some local politics to offer you during the day, with some thoughts on inter-generational fairness in the evening. So, on with the medley!

2 big stories (apart from that one!)

So much for schools reopening on 1 June. It’s already clear that parents aren’t keen, and that the teaching unions are wary, but when Conservative councils (Essex and …

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Dick Newby: Individual stories of Windrush victims shame politicians who use pejorative language and stoke up resentment

In the Lords recently, Dick Newby talked about the lives of Windrush Generation people damaged because of the actions of the Home Office and the need for a compensation scheme.

His whole speech is below:

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Why the Conservative Party can no longer be considered the natural party of business

Our market economy is certainly far from fair but as a result of a series of poor Government decisions, it is going to get a whole lot worse, for businesses and private citizens. The Conservative Party has often been considered the natural party of business, but a raft of policy outcomes on the horizon means this may no longer be the case.

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Assessing the Johnson Government’s new reform narrative

Over the last week the Johnson government’s narrative approach to reforms in the UK  has become more clear.

Johnson’s personal views on eugenics and poverty are a matter of record. ‘The poor being poor due to low IQ’ brings psychological comfort to those born into the luxuries of inherited wealth and private education. So blaming everything on Cummings might be unwise.

Policy more than personal views are however, our subject of concern. At last, the government’s underlying propositions can be clearly stated, as follows:

1. The UK’s low productivity problem is caused by a surfeit of unskilled migrant workers from Eastern Europe, enabling firms to avoid investment in new technology and avoid employee training.

2. UK poverty is the result of low IQ among sections of the population and of a self-perpetuating underclass, aided by single mums and teenage pregnancies.

3. Whilst UK unemployment is low, there are 8million ‘economically inactive’ citizens who, via further welfare reforms and eugenics, can be reduced in number and induced to take up the low paid jobs formerly taken by EU migrants, receiving training by employers who can no longer access low-skilled EU labour.

4. The core aim of a new immigration points system is thus to raise productivity and raise wage levels, and in the process reduce the cost of in-work benefits.

5. Increased national capital spending by the state will stimulate growth from construction contracts and compensate for the negative effects of EU tariffs and other barriers, creating demand for indigenous low skilled labour, (at least until such time as new global trade deals are in place)

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Listening to people about immigration

When I wrote another Lib Dem Voice article a couple of months ago to share some thoughts following the General Election, I had one line in it that said we need to come up with Liberal answers to some people’s genuine concerns about how immigration has affected them, beyond calling them racist. Following that I was called racist myself and told that I shouldn’t be welcome in the Lib Dems.

So before this article I feel it necessary to say strongly, I support the free movement of people, and we should fight tooth and nail for it. In fact if anything, a freer and more open system that encompasses far more of the world would clearly be of great economic and social value to our country and our freedoms.

We cannot, however, deny that a large part of the electoral coalition the Conservatives have built, is around concerns about how migration has affected local communities. Many of these voters are undoubtedly people who in the past ten or twenty years, voted Lib Dem.

In many cases, particularly in rural communities where populations have increased by 20% over the last decade or so, there are very real issues. These stem from a lack of housing to take account of inward migration, a lack of investment in basic public services and a clash of culture and language in some cases, when previously entirely homogenous communities are changed so quickly. We should, of course, support the rights of individuals seeking to work and live in the UK. We should also work with communities to ensure that we invest to reduce the negative effects that some can see. Public service improvements should come alongside new migration, not in reaction to it twenty years later.

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27 November 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dem poster attacks Johnson for lying to Queen, Parliament and people
  • Lib Dems: Trump to profit from Brexit Britain
  • Lib Dems – Immigration detention must be absolute last resort
  • Welsh Lib Dems welcome votes at 16
  • Leaked documents show US offered PR advice to UK over chlorinated chicken

Lib Dem poster attacks Johnson for lying to Queen, Parliament and people

The Liberal Democrats will today unveil a poster attacking Boris Johnson for lying to the Queen, Parliament and the people.

Another poster will show Boris Johnson flanked by Donald Trump and Nigel Farage, stating: “Brexit is good for …

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Luciana: EU staff critical to our NHS

Lib Dem Health Spokesperson Luciana Berger has spoken out about how Brexit would harm our NHS, emphasising how reliant we are on EU doctors and nurses. Analysis done by the Labour Party highlights that NHS staff work a million hours of unpaid overtime every week.

That doesn’t surprise me. When my husband was seriously ill three years ago, in the 51 nights he was in hospital, only once did I see one member of staff actually leave at the end of their shift. And the situation has got much worse since then as we lose thousands of EU nurses every year.

Luciana criticised Labour’s approach to Brexit:

A key reason NHS staff are working overtime is because of the serious shortages in the number of doctors and nurses working in the NHS. Part of that shortage is due to the net loss of 5,000 EU nurses in the last two years alone.

Only yesterday, Labour failed yet again to confirm their position on freedom of movement. With the NHS reliant on 10,000 EU doctors and 20,000 EU nurses, Labour’s support for Brexit is baffling as it will be so damaging for our NHS and hardworking staff.

In the past week we have learnt about the Conservative plan to impose a Nurse Tax on any new EU health professional coming to treat NHS patients. The stakes could not be higher. Labour and the Conservatives must stop being so irresponsible with our NHS.

The Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit to protect our NHS. We will build a brighter future by investing an extra £35 billion in our NHS by adding a penny on income tax. In addition we will implement a national recruitment strategy to ensure we never again suffer shortages of nurses, doctors and other health professionals.

If Labour are bad, the Tories are terrible. They would charge nurses who come to this country to use the NHS they work for. This would cost their families thousands of pounds.

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15 November 2019 – yesterday’s press releases

  • Tories pushing ‘Trumpian agenda’ on immigration
  • Lib Dems: Record waiting times show Tories “dismal record” on NHS
  • Tusk comments show there is “light at the end of the tunnel” for Remainers
  • Tories pushing ‘Trumpian agenda’ on immigration

    Responding to Priti Patel’s comments regarding cutting overall levels of immigration, Liberal Democrats Shadow Home Affairs spokesperson, Christine Jardine said:

    This country needs people to come here to keep our NHS and so many sectors properly skilled and staffed. The Conservatives’ approach to immigration is an insult to the millions who have come to the UK and made it their home. Immigration brings so much to our

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Roger Roberts: Don’t build walls, build bridges

While all the drama was happening in the Commons yesterday, the Lords was debating the Queen’s Speech.

One of the measures in that is an immigration bill that makes any liberal reach for a sick bag. Roger Roberts very eloquently described why freedom of movement is a good thing – what would Londoners have done for their tea without the Welsh farmers who moved their to set up dairies?

My Lords, listening to the Queen’s Speech, what drew my attention was the reform of the immigration regulations and that these would include restriction of freedom of movement. I agree that we need reform of the Home Office Immigration Rules, because they are totally unfit for purpose. For instance, this year we saw Windrush remembered, and only last week heard that a lass born in Glasgow 30 years ago now faces deportation. The whole thing is agony for so many people. They are here and yet the Home Office seems to treat them very unjustly. I therefore suggest that we make a fair adjustment of the regulations so that nobody will feel that they are being used in an unfair way.

We face immigration problems that will increase as the years progress. We see that climate change in Africa could well turn many people from their homeland to look for somewhere else to survive. Warfare in places such as Syria and Afghanistan will also lead many people to leave their homeland to look for somewhere they can have a fair and peaceful existence. We, as the United Kingdom, could be the leaders in this reform of immigration thinking. So often we are the people who react, not the people who lead. We could be the people who lead on these immigration transformations. That means we would need to take the initiative; we would have to forget building walls and start building bridges. That is the only way we can become a whole human family.

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Lib Dems condemn Home Office treatment of LGBT Christians

One of the Laws of the Universe is that, just when you think the Home Office can’t get any worse, any less humane, it does.

This weekend, Pink News reported on the appalling treatment of LGBT Christian asylum seekers.

One respondent said Home Office officials asked her questions including: “How can you be lesbian and Christian?,” “Isn’t the Bible against being gay?”, and “Doesn’t that contradict with your Christian belief or your belief?”

The report was based on 33 interviews with LGBT+ asylum seekers – 31 of these came from a Christian background and two were Muslims.

Another participant said: “‘In the application process, in my case, everything that I was doing I was doing it in secret, so I got to a point that Home Office is asking me ‘Where’s the proof?’ And it’s very difficult for me to come out with proof, because I’m doing this in a way that my will not find out who I am… I don’t have the right to work.

LGBT+ Lib Dems, Lib Dems 4 Seekers of Sanctuary, the Lib Dem Christian Forum and Lib Dem Immigrants issued a joint statement:

We condemn this ignorance and insensitivity of the Home Office.

We also note that the Home Office’s culture of disbelief has impacted both Christian people and LGBT+ people in the past and that this in turn is just a small part of the injustices that have led to the Liberal Democrats to call for the Home Office to be stripped of all immigration and asylum responsibility.

And Christine Jardine was furious in a piece on the Lib Dem website. 

Earlier this month, Liberal Democrats revealed that over the last three years the Home Office has refused over 3,100 asylum claims on the basis of sexuality, even though the people making them were from countries where consensual same-sex acts are criminalised.

Now, a report on LGBT African asylum seekers has found some being accused of “contradiction” by Home Office interviewers, because they are LGBT and Christian. One person even reported being asked, “How can you be lesbian and Christian?”

This Conservative Government is letting down every LGBT+ person

Imagine being forced to leave your home and making it to the UK, only to be told by Home Office officials that your very identity is a “contradiction”. Imagine having your religion used against you, to discredit your claim to asylum.

That is the culture of disbelief that both LGBT+ people and Christian converts face in the Home Office. Officials too often deny them asylum without any evidence; they simply assume that they are lying about who they are.

This Conservative Government is letting down every LGBT+ person and every individual in this country who cares about human rights.

The UK should be leading the campaign across the world against homophobia and transphobia. Instead, we have a Government that is turning its back and looking the other way.

Liberal Democrats demand better for LGBT+ people wherever they live.

We will establish a new, dedicated unit to handle asylum claims, free of political interference and without the Home Office’s culture of disbelief.

Liberal Democrats will fix our asylum system so that the UK provides sanctuary to those who need it.

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Why do right wing immigration reformists like Liberal Canada’s points system?

oris Johnson may have hoodwinked a number of European liberal activists by promising to instate a points-based, also known as “merit-based”, immigration system, something for which the Liberal Democrats advocated as recently as Brighton Conference last year.

In 2018, proponents of the immigration motion passed by Conference gave weight to their arguments by comparing the policy to Canada’s, a country generally seen as having a generous approach to migrants’ rights. This much is fair. But we should delve a bit deeper into that policy to understand why it’s suddenly popular with the anti-immigrant Conservative government.

Canada’s points system was established in 1967 by the Liberal government of Lester Pearson, an internationalist to his core. Canada’s previous system was based principally on a migrant’s country of origin and ties to Canada and the Commonwealth. At the time, immigration to Canada was 85% European, mostly from the UK and France. Canada was committed to opening its borders and its culture to place itself on the international stage.

But the nature of the Canadian economy restricted Canada’s otherwise bold immigration reform. Canada is, and was, an export economy, with much of the country’s GDP coming from its energy sector, and most of that coming from oil. With the massive consumer economy of the USA on its doorstep, retaining this status was and is crucial. 

So when I hear UK immigration pundits saying “be like Canada”, I often think of some weaselly post-EU theorists saying “be like Norway”. We’re not an export economy, and unless you’re a Brexiteer fantasist, it seems unlikely that we will be. The world doesn’t have an insatiable appetite for marmite, curiously shaped dogs, and novelty cheeses. Like it or not, we need low-skilled immigrants. We need relatively uneducated immigrants. Moreover, Canada did not (and does not) have a substantial demand for temporary workers. Britain, by contrast, needs large numbers of temporary workers to sustain its agricultural and construction sectors, among others.

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Ed and Jo answer Lib Dem Immigrants’ questions

As the hostile environment continues to ruin lives, Lib Dem Immigrants posed questions to the leadership  candidates.

Here are their answers.

Q1:  If Brexit happens, what should the voting eligibility of resident (non-Commonwealth, non-Irish) EU citizens be? What about resident citizens of other (non-Commonwealth) countries?

Jo:I believe that it makes no sense to withhold voting rights from people who live, work, and have settled in the United Kingdom. We saw in the Euro elections this May the impact of having a double standard of voting eligibility – councils unable to administer the system and people unaware that they weren’t going to be able to vote. To add insult to injury, the idea that people born outside the Commonwealth don’t have a vote simply because they weren’t once taken over by Britain as part of the Empire, is outdated and completely unfair. Put simply – I believe that if you’re living in this country long term, you should be able to vote.

Ed:
• the voting eligibility of resident EU citizens (I presume you mean people who have permanent residency rights) should be full, i.e., all elections.
• to widen the franchise to give voting rights to non-EU, non-Commonwealth citizens, would be a major departure. Nonetheless, I would be very keen to do it for local elections, but would want to consult widely before giving voting rights for national elections.


Q2: The party is committed to reducing visa fees to the cost of administration. What other steps could we take to stop visa regulations tormenting immigrants? For example, how could we make work visas less of a barrier to career progression?
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Free movement: UK arrivals and departures

In an increasingly interdependent world UK public policy should acknowledge international mobility and diversity as a permanent social trend

Many people who’ve lived in Britain all their lives dream of winning the National Lottery and being able to move away to some sun-kissed paradise overseas.  Brits routinely holiday abroad and migration, whether short-term or long-term, is common.  

Most of us, however, continue to live in a country where we can enjoy beautiful countryside and coastline, historic buildings, a varied arts and culture scene, and a tradition of volunteering and community support groups. The population of the UK is generally tolerant and easy-going, happy to share these good things with people from other countries. That said, the media keeps telling us that since Brexit there has been growing xenophobia and resentment towards foreign nationals in Britain.

Yet in spite of social and political reserve in some quarters towards foreigners, many people do want to come and live here.  The Migration Statistics Quarterly Report (MSQR) of the Office of National Statistics (ONS) notes that in the year ending June 2017 immigration to the UK was 572,000 (down 80,000 since June 2016) and emigration was 342,000 (up 26,000). To quote the report: “overall, more people are still coming to live in the UK than are leaving and therefore net migration is adding to the UK population.”  

So, what really attracts them to the UK?

In their recent study, Buying into Myths: Free Movement of People and Immigration 2016, Eiko Thielemann and Daniel Schade have suggested that migration flows between EU countries including Britain have been largely the result of high levels of unemployment in southern Europe and poor labour market conditions in Eastern European countries. Unemployment rates in the UK have been low compared to such countries. And when you don’t have work, one obvious option is to move somewhere else to look for a job.

Vasileva first came to Britain from her native Bulgaria in June 2008 She’s now  forty-something-years-old, is raising a family, and has lived in York for almost ten years. She has a permanent job as an office manager with an international training company. Vasileva says she enjoys the cosmopolitan feel of this country, the chance to share meals and conversation with people from all over the world. She loves the sense of community and support, and “people realising the value of these things.”

Something that native monolingual Brits find incredibly hard to understand is that many people come to study, live and work here simply because they know that the best way to learn a language is to come to the country where it is spoken. There is a global hunger for learning English, and with this there is often a natural curiosity to learn about the culture that lies behind the language. Take Céline, for instance. She’s a 32-year-old French teacher who has also lived in the north of England for just under ten years. “I love speaking English every day, and sharing my passion for languages with my students and the children in school.” She loves the kindness she has experienced here as well as the British sense of humour. 

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Chuka’s first parliamentary question as a Lib Dem

Chuka Umunna is no stranger to holding the government to account. He spent four years opposing the Business Secretary, one Vincent Cable. The effect of that seems to have been the formation of a close friendship.

Today he asked his first question as a Lib Dem on a touchstone liberal issue – the benefits of immigration and the awfulness of the Tory Government’s policies:

The King’s Fund says that the earnings threshold in the Government’s immigration proposals, which was mentioned earlier, will definitely impact on the ability to retain and attract NHS staff. The proposals for a transition period during which many social care workers would only be allowed to come here for a limited time with no entitlement to bring dependants will, again, negatively impact on the ability to retain staff. When will this Government realise that immigration is good for our public services and good for our country, and that badly thought out policy in this area that impacts on the retention of NHS staff is wrong and nonsensical?

It’s nice to see him down as a Lib Dem in Hansard, too.

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Just when you thought the Home Office couldn’t get any worse..

…a story in the Sunday Times (£) today tells how details from a suicidal young girl’s medical notes were used to deny her family asylum. And what’s worse, an immigration judge found in favour of the Home Office and the family faces deportation.

The girl, who lives in the northeast and cannot be named, had been given a “sugar-coated” version of why her family had to flee Albania for a new life in Britain. Her father did not tell the child about an alleged assassination attempt on his life by the local mafia.

At an interview with a psychiatric nurse, 48 hours after the girl overdosed in 2016, the child said her family came to Britain to “have access to better healthcare for dad”.

The Home Office was assessing the family’s asylum application at the time and learnt that the girl was “experiencing medical issues”. It requested access to her records for “safeguarding” purposes. But officials found the nurse’s psychiatric assessment and, in an unprecedented step, used it to argue that her father was lying about his reasons for coming to the UK.

If you are in a vulnerable situation, you need to know that you can talk openly to those giving you care in confidence. Of course parents aren’t going to burden their children with dangerous realities if they can avoid it, particularly if they have reason to be worried about a child’s mental state.

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Swinson slams Javid over student visas

Jo Swinson has slammed Home Secretary over his inflexible 3 year student visas for EU nationals in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

For a start, Scottish degree courses last four years.

From The Herald:

The Russell Group of elite universities, which includes Glasgow and Edinburgh, urged UK ministers to scrap the European Temporary Leave to Remain (ELTR) visa.

The Home Office has proposed that if there is a no-deal Brexit, EU citizens would only be able to stay in the UK for three months before being required to obtain an ELTR.

This would let them to live, work and study in the UK for 36 months but would be “non-extendable”.

Although the Government says a new visa system would be devised by 2021, there are no details, leading to fears the ELTR could act as a deterrent to would-be students.

Jo said:

The Scottish University system is a world leader in part because it attracts students from all over the globe who enrich our culture and help grow our economy, but the Government’s new visa plan risks damaging that reputation.

The Home Secretary is asking students who want to study in Scotland to commit to a four-year course with only a guarantee of a non-extendable three-year visa. He has a degree in economics, so he doesn’t need me to tell him that four into three just doesn’t work.

The Home Secretary likes to talk about building an immigration system that attracts the best and the brightest, but what message does it send to students looking to come here when we won’t even guarantee them a visa long enough to cover their studies?

The Government need to urgently rethink their plans and guarantee these students leave to remain to not just complete their studies, but to potentially stay here and contribute to our economy in the years after they graduate.

Jo wrote to Sajid Javid to set out her concernsThe full text of her letter is below:

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Roger Roberts writes…Massive changes needed at the Home Office

I quote from one not of my own party, David Lammy, who, in a speech last week in the House of Commons, stated:

“Your Department’s treatment of the Windrush generation has been nothing less than a national scandal. In November, we learned that at least 164 Windrush citizens were wrongly removed, detained or stopped at the border by our own Government. Eleven of those who were wrongly deported have died. You have announced three more today. Every single one of those cases is a shocking indictment of your Government’s pandering to far right racism, sham immigration targets and the dog whistle of the right-wing press”.—

In addition, I received a letter earlier this week from one who said:

“I am a Portuguese citizen from Lisbon, came here in 1993 on a full scholarship paid for by the Royal Academy of Music to study, when I was just 19 years old. I stayed and have been working as a performer and teacher ever since.

I came here legally, settled with no issues and have had a national insurance number since 1993. I have paid tax since 1997 … When I applied for settled status I wasn’t given a reason for being refused”.

Nor was she asked to provide evidence. She continues:

“It made me both frightened and angry. I’ve been here continuously for nearly 26 years and couldn’t think of any reason why I wouldn’t be immediately put through … I was promised and reassured by this government that the ridiculous process of having to apply for a status I already have (!) was simple, easy and that bar criminal conviction everyone would get through straight away.

I was lied to.

The app doesn’t work for the self-employed.

The app doesn’t come with a helpline number or email to write to, it also doesn’t tell you that if you’re self-employed you’re not likely to get through.

It doesn’t offer help in any way.

What I want to know is why on earth the Home Office cannot just look at my 25 continuous years of NI and understand it is me!

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For richer, for poorer

For Valentine’s day, Lib Dem Immigrants is showcasing some canine (and feline) couples, with a serious message. Many people who’ve not had cause to find out the hard way don’t realise that mixed-nationality couples can be forbidden from living together in the UK if they don’t earn enough. We want to raise awareness of this, and we’re proud that Lib Dem policy is to oppose it. If you’re married to a British person, you should be allowed to live with them. No means-testing. For richer, for poorer. 🐾

Lina is a Dachshund from Munich, Germany; Jamie is an English Bulldog from Croydon. Jamie worries about whether Brexit will mean Lina can’t come and live with him.

Kuniko is a Shiba Inu from Kyoto, Japan. Gary is a Jack Russell Terrier from Bolton. Gary’s income is just enough for Kuniko to be allowed here — but not enough for their puppies too. They don’t know what they should do.

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11 February 2019 – today’s press releases (part 1)

A veritable floodtide of press releases today, so we’ll take them in two parts for ease of access…

  • Govt immigration white paper – an enormous red tape threat to UK businesses
  • Property guardians caught in poverty trap
  • Cable: GDP figures reveal the country is now fairly close to recession
  • PM and Corbyn plot to deliver disastrous Brexit together

Govt immigration white paper – an enormous red tape threat to UK businesses

Responding to a report by Global Future which shows the deep costs to our economy of the Government’s immigration white paper, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

Conservative immigration plans represent

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9-10 February 2019 – the weekend’s press releases

It may be that Parliament is at a bit of a loose end whilst the Government argue amongst themselves over Brexit, but that isn’t to say that there is much for Liberal Democrats to be stirred by…

  • Government ferry plan hits the rocks
  • UK citizens to be left without medical cover in event of no-deal Brexit
  • No specific funding for NHS in no deal scenario
  • Stone: Immigration rules for Commonwealth soldiers are outrageous
  • Cable: PM’s meaningful vote timeline irresponsible and insulting to parliament
  • UK must support Turkey’s stand on Uyghur crisis – Carmichael

Government ferry plan hits the rocks

Responding to news that the Government has scrapped its …

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Highlights of 2018

As you are inclined to do on Hogmanay, I was looking back at the year. 2018 was far from a great year but there were some fantastic moments. Here, in no particular order, are six of mine.

Gabriel in the Commons

 

One of my favourite moments was seeing young Gabriel Hames in the chamber of the House of Commons. Earlier, his mum, Jo Swinson, had taken part in the debate on proxy voting. A few weeks’ earlier, Tory Chairman Brandon Lewis reneged on a pairing arrangement with her on a key Brexit vote that the Government won by a handful of votes.

Jo’s speech was very candid about the realities of working with a young baby:

She also spoke about some of the appalling comments she got on Twitter after that, including the criticism that she had gone to the Trump demo for 45 minutes but couldn’t manage to vote in Parliament, something which would have meant hanging around for 5 hours.

Jo talked about the intricacies of establishing breastfeeding and how you need to concentrate on it during the early days. Her voice cracked with emotion as she talked about the difficulties she had establishing breastfeeding with her first son. I actually cried too as I remembered what it was like to be syringing expressed milk into my baby, 19 years on. She got there, though, with all the support that she needed.

She was also open about the realities of expressing milk several times a day. I think it’s fantastic that she posted a picture of her breast pump on Instagram the other day.

She talked about the need to have proper breastfeeding and expressing facilities for all nursing babies who work on the Parliamentary estate, recognising it was easier for her as she had her own office and control over her diary.

The People’s Vote March

It doesn’t get much better than being amongst 700,000 like minds on a beautiful hot Autumn day. As someone said at the time, marches like this are rarely on the wrong side of history.

It was an amazing atmosphere. Not far off three quarters of a million people peacefully and with great humour, coming together to make their point.

And there’s young Gabriel again.

Radical Kindness

Another highlight was the fringe meeting we held at Conference, trying to inject some kindness and warmth into a horrible atmosphere which developed in the media surrounding  rights of transgender people.

Barely a week goes by without some ill-informed attack on trans people or the charities supporting them. However, in an hour in Brighton, Emma Ritch from the Scottish feminist organisation Engender and James Morton from the Scottish Transgender Alliance talked about how the atmosphere was so much better in Scotland and how feminist and LGBT organisations worked together in an inclusive way. The meeting loved the concept of “radical kindness” which underpinned their dialogue. You can read all about the meeting here

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How dare we treat our friends and neighbours like this?

If you go to the shop and buy an iron, say, you expect it to work and for any manufacturer’s claims or guarantees to stand. You are entering into a contract that can’t be mucked around with. I should emphasise at this point that I would never buy an iron. The quality of my life improved immeasurably when I gave up ironing. But that’s beside the point.

You wouldn’t stand for the manufacturer contacting you a few weeks’ later telling you that you had to pay another £20 for the iron, or reducing the guarantee period.

Yet this is exactly what our government is doing to many people in this country.

Every time I see that Home Office tweet telling the 3 million EU citizens in this country that they will have to apply for settled status, I get angrier.

I am furious that my friends, my next door neighbours, the surgeons who saved my husband’s life two years ago, the nurses who looked after him and comforted him through a terrifying experience, my colleague and so many of my friends’ spouses or children are being put through this.

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3 December 2018 – today’s press releases

It’s been a busy day, perhaps not a great surprise as the Brexit debate in the Commons reaches its denouement…

  • Cable: Halt “egregious imbalance” of May vs Corbyn Brexit debate
  • Lib Dems back amendment to stop no deal Brexit
  • Lib Dems: Govt have held Parliament in contempt
  • Govt remain clueless on immigration
  • Lib Dem peers defeat Government on civil liberties (see here for our earlier coverage)
  • PM must stop pandering to the Saudi regime
  • Lib Dems lead fight for renters’ rights
  • Govt must publish Brexit legal advice

Cable: Halt “egregious imbalance” of May vs Corbyn Brexit debate

Today Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable has called on the …

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29 November 2018 – today’s press releases (the 500 miles edition)

Later than usual this evening, as I’ve spent the evening at a Proclaimers concert, courtesy of my lovely wife… it wasn’t 500 miles away…

  • PM leaving us in the dark on immigration
  • Cable: May “running scared” of real opposition
  • Lib Dems warn BBC that ‘Brexit debate’ may breach Ofcom code
  • Government has let down victims over second Leveson Inquiry

PM leaving us in the dark on immigration

Theresa May has today refused to confirm when the immigration white paper will be published. She was asked by Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb after Ministers originally promised to publish the white paper last year, but that deadline has …

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