Tag Archives: refugees

Tim Farron MP writes: Lib Dems would restore decency and dignity for refugees

The sight of refugees arriving on the Greek coast in 2015 will never leave me. It’s not the sort of thing you forget.

Parents and children were packed onto makeshift boats in search of safety, fleeing Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and other brutal conflicts around the world.

This isn’t a ‘refugee crisis’, even if that is what we have ended up calling it. It is a crisis of violence and persecution, with dictators and murder squads killing and displacing families across the world. Refugees are the human face of what has gone so badly wrong. 

Refugee Week is underway (it is World Refugee Day tomorrow), which is a timely reminder of Britain’s role supporting people who have been forced to flee their homes, both in the work we do in refugee camps around the world and in how we treat asylum seekers who make it to our shores and ask for help.

The current system lacks decency and dignity. The Lib Dems would restore these values.

Firstly, and crucially, the quality of asylum decisions is nothing short of a national scandal. The Home Office wrongly refuses people sanctuary so often that around 40% decisions are overturned on appeal each year. The result is that people who have already endured so much are left scared and uncertain, when they should have been promised safety here much more quickly. 

This can’t be allowed to continue. The whole process needs reform, from top to bottom.

We shouldn’t just focus on decisions, though. Even as the government focuses on improving integration in our country, for example, asylum seekers are barred from working. 

Work helps people integrate, learn English, and contribute to society – all things asylum seekers badly want to do.

So let’s join-up government a bit better and give people the chance to work if their asylum claim is delayed. There is nothing liberal about forcing people who can work to sit around all day doing nothing. 

Plus we should celebrate what we already do well, and plan for how to do more of it.

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Vision, compassion and inspiration: Roger Roberts’ essential elements for immigration

Roger Roberts spoke in the House of Lords this week on resettling vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers.

Here is his speech:

I appreciate very much the opportunity to take part in the debate introduced by my noble friend Lord Scriven. We all know that, ultimately, the answer lies in Syria and the Middle East, and somehow bringing together a new understanding there. The whole area is the victim of history. Countries like ours, France, Turkey and now Russia want to impose the most individually advantageous solutions on this part of the world. The United Nations appears impotent in the face of

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Christine Jardine: What happened to our humanity, our open arms and our desire to give children the best start in life?

Christine Jardine spoke movingly in a parliamentary debate this week about the plight of refugee children separated from their families. She called on the UK Government to make it easier for refugee children to find their families and to reunite these families.

Here’s her speech in full.

Imagine having to say goodbye to your child, or finding yourself suddenly separated from them without knowing what will happen to them, whether anyone will look after them or whether they will find the rest of your family, if you still have one. That is the situation facing parents among the 22 million refugees across the world. Families are fleeing war or persecution, looking for nothing more than safety and somewhere to live together in peace. Recently, I visited the Red Cross in Scotland and met families who came to this country looking for that very peace and sanctuary. They are now living together in Scotland and making a valuable contribution to their communities. However, we know that it is not the same for all families; for many, things have become impossible.

As a nation, we have been moved by photographs such as the one mentioned by the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Hugh Gaffney)—pictures of children who have lost their lives or been orphaned because of the conflict in Syria. In the Holocaust Memorial Day debate, we heard moving stories from hon. Members about the flight of their families from Nazi persecution and the sanctuary they found here, yet our approach to reuniting refugee families and immigration procedures is one that I, for one, find depressing. What happened to our humanity, our open arms and our desire to give children the best start in life, regardless of geography?

As we have heard, the EU’s Dublin III regulation determines which EU state decides a person’s asylum application. In 2016, under the regulation’s criteria, 700 children were transferred from other European countries to join family members in the UK, but none of us knows what the situation will be after Brexit. We need the UK Government to improve the system to make it easier for children to find their families. They need to amend the immigration rules on refugee family reunions to make it easier for close family members—siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles—with refugee or humanitarian protection status to sponsor children in their family to join them in the UK. They also need to lessen the conditions that must be met by non-refugee sponsors, and help with legal aid for refugee family reunions.

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Sanctuary in Parliament

iving a voice to those with no voice that anyone in a position of power will listen to, is surely one of the key things we believe in as Liberal Democrats.

There was the opportunity for just this at Sanctuary in Parliament last week.

Asylum seekers and refugees from throughout the country were able to go to Parliament to meet with their MPs, and tell them of the impact on their lives of living in poverty, or being destitute, and not having the right to work.

I had gone, with a non-political hat, with a team from Tees Valley, including 2 people seeking asylum who are awaiting decisions, one asylum seeker who is destitute, 2 refugees.

The MPs had been invited to attend beforehand, and with a fair bit of chasing up nearly all of those from Tees Valley did.

Also four Lib Dem Peers, Brian Paddick, Roger Roberts (and his researcher Helen Byrne), Sally Hamwee and Shas Sheehan came along, and we met Sal Brinton there too.  Ed Davey sent his caseworker as he was unable to attend himself, and Layla Moran’s researcher came as she was unwell.

One of our delegates spoke from the platform with a very moving and beautifully delivered speech.  All met with the parliamentarians, and told their stories, specifically relating to the theme, and generally got involved.

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The Calais ‘Jungle’ One Year On

Today marks one year since the makeshift refugee camp in Calais known as the ‘Jungle’ was demolished.

Three weeks after becoming leader I got to visit the Jungle for myself, and the experience was both eye-opening and heart-breaking. The word ‘jungle’ is actually not an appropriate or accurate description of what these desperate people had built for themselves. It was more like a city. It sprawled for miles. Conditions were grim, but it was amazing to see the strength and grit of the people living there, despite the unimaginable situation they had …

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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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What’s on at Conference today? LDV on the Fringe

Here is today’s shameless plug for the events LDV is putting on or helping to run.

At 1pm in the Bayview 2 at the BIC, we’ll be looking at the effect of Brexit on the Irish border and on Gibraltar. We have an incredibly illustrious panel. David Ford was until last year leader of the Alliance Party in Northern Ireland and is a former Justice Minister. The Hon Joseph Garcia MP is the Deputy Chief Minister of Gibraltar. I’m old enough to remember when the border between Gibraltar and Spain was closed. Being part of the EU sorted that out and Brexit casts a huge shadow over the daily lives of people on both sides of that border. Alistair Carmichael will be putting the party’s view. And if that wasn’t enough, we have scones. Lots of them. When we were thinking about refreshments, we thought they would be a bit different, but I thought it would just be a rather unimpressive plateful of miniature scones with a scraping of jam and cream. At our fringe last night, we had the most amazing spread. Large, warm fruit scones with huge bowlfuls of clotted cream and jam to help yourself to. They were utterly delicious and I didn’t need any dinner after eating one and a half of them – which is lucky because I didn’t have time to eat before the disco anyway.  I apologise to those I have offended by doing the jam and cream this way round. I’m from Scotland. You have to make allowances for these things. David Ford gave his perspective on the Irish border situation here.

Although some nationalists are suggesting that Northern Ireland should remain within the Customs Union while GB leaves (citing our vote for Remain), this would be at least as destabilising from a unionist perspective as border posts would be to nationalists, and would also create major difficulties for trade between the constituent parts of the UK.  While there may well be a need for a special deal for Northern Ireland, that is not the same as special status.

Despite the constitutional position, recent years have seen increasing integration of business and public services across the island of Ireland.  Justice agencies work in partnership to fight terrorism and organised crime.  We have a single energy market, significant cross-border supply chains (especially in agri-food), shared provision of acute hospital services.  Business regulation is different in Northern Ireland from that in England, Wales and Scotland.

All of that leads to the possibility that Northern Ireland could remain in the Single Market, even if the rest of the UK left.  It would be a unique arrangement, but might be a way of squaring the circle.

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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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Tim Farron announces plan to take 50,000 Syrian refugees

Since his election as leader in 2015, Tim Farron has been one of the strongest voices arguing that we should offer sanctuary to those fleeing  the appalling, brutal war in Syria. He has made several visits to places like Calais and Lesvos to talk to refugees.

On his agenda  today is a visit to a refugee charity in Gloucestershire where he will announce an ambitious manifesto commitment for refugees.

The manifesto sets out a plan to take 50,000 refugees over five years from Syria in the next parliament, as well as reopening the Dubs programme for unaccompanied asylum seeking children stranded in Europe, and working with international partners to create safe and legal routes.

Under Theresa May, the Conservatives have u-turned on two previous pledges, one to take more refugees from Syria and another to help abandoned child refugees.

Tim will say:

This is about the sort of country we are. The Britain I love is an open, tolerant, united country with a generous spirit and compassion for those in need. I love my country – and I hate it when my government makes me feel ashamed.

Faced with suffering and trauma on a scale not seen since the Second World War, Theresa May has wilfully chosen to tear up her promises to help some of the most vulnerable children and people in the world.

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Dublin versus Dubs

 

Whilst the Home Secretary hails the arrival of 312 unaccompanied asylum seeking children as “a really good result”, the fact remains that domestic legislation allows for the UK to positively impact the lives of hundreds – even thousands – more children.

To explain, unaccompanied asylum seeking children can be brought to the UK under one of two systems. Firstly, the Family Reunification provisions of the Dublin III Regulations allow for asylum seekers who have family members who have already received international protection in another state to be transferred to join those family members and have their asylum claim determined by that country. This is rooted in EU asylum policy – meaning the Government has no choice but to comply with the legislation, and there is no limit to the number of children who can be brought to the UK.

On the other hand, the Dubs system of transfer allows for an unspecified number of unaccompanied children with or without family in the UK to be transferred into British care, providing that they arrived in Europe before 20th March 2016 and that it is deemed to be in the child’s “best interests” to be relocated. Thus, many children who may have been excluded from coming to the UK under the Dublin Regulations because they do not have family members in the UK, may now fall under the criteria of the Dubs amendment.

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Nice start but what next for Calais?

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News that the trickle of children admitted from the Calais jungle has started to become more of a steady flow is, of course, welcome.

But there are still hundreds there and no real sign that there will be a convey of coaches to bring them to the UK, where they can be reunited with their families, as they are entitled.

I wrote before on LDV, and spoke at Conference, about these children being caught in a web of bureaucracy. The Home Office does now, it appears, take this more seriously but the danger that the demolition of the camp might take place before they make their way across the Channel remains all too real.

Demolition was supposed to happen on Monday 17 October. The fact that it has been deferred is good news but there is still a real chance that it might happen as early as next week. Experience tells us that should that happen many children will simply disappear – and thus be even more at the mercy of people traffickers.

Tim Farron speaks for all Liberals when he says:

It is outrageous to hear the Home Secretary now claiming to be acting urgently to ensure the safety of these children.

Where was this urgency for the last year that they have been stuck in Calais, and why does it only extend to a small number of the hundreds of these unaccompanied kids?

He also speaks for some Conservatives too.

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What would you do if you were the Mayor of Calais?

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Inside the Jungle in Calais

I was part of a Local Government Association delegation last week to the ‘jungle’ in Calais.

The ‘camp’ is essentially a shanty town with tents and shacks (including ‘restaurants’) built from scrap materials. It is set in sand dunes next to an industrial estate and alongside one of the key roads heading towards the Channel Tunnel. Its occupants are mainly male and there are over 800 residents classed as children – including many teenagers. The bulk are Afghan, fleeing Taliban conscription and in places combat zones. There are some Syrians as well as Eritreans and Somalis.

The authorities are clearly hostile to the camp: residents feel that the inhabitants are responsible for nuisance and crime. The response to this in March was partial demolition –which meant that 127 children simply disappeared. Meanwhile the CRS (the riot police in other circumstances) harass the inhabitants – confiscating phones, destroying SIM cards – and using plastic bullets, which can cause life-changing injuries.

The camp does not officially exist. Nevertheless, provision has been made for some inhabitants to go into adjacent freight containers – adapted to provide a form of accommodation, aimed at women with younger children, because of the dangers posed by people traffickers in the main camp.

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael on divided refugee families

 

Alistair Carmichael has written a post on PoliticsHome with the title: Refugee families divided by lines of Home Office rule book. He starts:

Imagine that you have had to flee your home because of a repressive government. Imagine that you’ve then faced a long, life-threatening journey to reach a country where you are able to apply for asylum. Imagine going through an extensive, bureaucratic asylum system and eventually experiencing elation at being granted refugee status.

Then imagine being denied the right to bring your family members to come and join you, or facing the invidious choice of only being able to be joined by some of your very closest relatives, but not others.

This is exactly what the current refugee family reunion system operated by the UK Government is doing. Just when family members need each other the most, they are kept apart, divided by a few lines in the Home Office’s rule book.

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How to help refugees in Calais

 

Some may think that this may not be the best of moments to draw attention to the refugees on our doorstep, at a time when we are fighting for Britain to remain in the EU – but I disagree.

It is inevitable that the press will now focus almost exclusively on the in/out debate, but that focus is increasingly being targeted at migrants – the leave campaign having conceded the economic argument, for the moment.

The issue of migrants from the EU is being wilfully conflated with the issue of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria and surrounding regions. But there is no correlation or causation link between the two; whether Britain stays or leaves the EU will have no impact on numbers arriving in Europe.

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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. 

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Register for the Lib Dem Summer webinar series – refugees, EU campaign briefing and same sex marriage

The Lib Dems are holding a series of monthly webinars. Last month saw the first, on the election campaigns. On Wednesday, the second, on the refugee crisis, takes place at 6:30 pm.

If you are a party member, you will have had an email from Sal Brinton on 26th April which will have all the links to register at the entire Summer series. Those links are unique to you.

Next month’s, on Wednesday 8th June, is a briefing as we head into the last fortnight of the referendum campaign.

And on July 27th, we celebrate 3 years since we introduced same …

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Contrasts of Cologne and Kent

Tim Farron in CologneLast month I accompanied Tim Farron on a visit to a British Red Cross centre in Gravesend, Kent to learn about the projects they run for unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASCs). Home to the British end of the Channel Tunnel, Kent has always had a high proportion of UASCs, but 2015 brought an unprecedented number, with over 1000 new children entering into the care of the Local Authority. During our visit we met young people from Sudan and Eritrea who spoke about their experiences both in transit and since they’ve arrived in the UK.

In many ways it was similar to the visit I took with Tim and Catherine Bearder to Cologne in February, but there were also startling differences, and the starkest difference was in access to language courses and education.

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Shas Sheehan talks to the heroes of Calais and Dunkirk

Baroness Shas Sheehan went to Calais and Dunkirk with some supplies a few weeks ago. She is going again this week and invites you to help her get supplies together.

On her last visit, she spoke to some of those heroic volunteers who have given up months of their time to help the refugees survive the Winter. Here’s the video she made.

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LibLink: Tim Farron: Cameron must veto this poisonous deal with Turkey before our response to the Refugee Crisis becomes immoral

Strong words from Tim Farron in today’s Independent about the proposed EU deal with Turkey which would see refugees returned from Greece to Turkey. Rather than create safe and legal routes for refugees, Tim argues that this deal would violate international conventions.

For instance, collective expulsions of people seeking international protection are condemned by the EU’s own Charter of Fundamental Rights. We know Turkey has failed to fully implement the Geneva Convention on refugees and has no functioning asylum policy. David Cameron would do well to re-read the international human rights agreements and principles Britain has committed to, before he signs on the dotted line in Brussels.

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Tim Farron writes: ‘renegotiation not a game changer’

Thursday 18 February

Arriving at St Pancras for the Eurostar early on Thursday morning, I found myself amongst a small gaggle of lobby journalists, all clutching tickets to the same destination – Brussels, presumably with ‘open returns’ with no one being sure how long the negotiations would take.

We were, of course, heading to Brussels ahead of the summit at which David Cameron would try and thrash out the last minute ‘grand deal’ that would allow him to campaign for Britain to stay in Europe.

The substance of the deal has been held up as the greatest political settlement of our time by his more loyal supporters and dismissed as entirely irrelevant by the usual Eurosceptic suspects in the Conservative party.

Neither styling is fair. The renegotiation is not a game changer, but it shows that our European partners are open to working together to achieve reform in Europe.

I was heading to Brussels to talk to the liberal leaders and Prime Ministers from across Europe at the ALDE Pre-Summit meeting.

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Farron holds summit aimed at helping refugee children

As we told you on Monday, Tim Farron got representatives from charities, NGOs and political parties round the table today to work on a practical plan for the UK to accept 3000 unaccompanied child refugees who have reached Europe.

Among those attending were Save the Children, UNICEF, Islington Law Council, Kent Refugee Action Network, Refugee Council, Homes for Good, Coram, Barnardo’s, British Red Cross, ECPAT UK, Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign, The Children’s Society, ILPA and the Local government Association. Also, Leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas MP, Margaret Greenwood (Labour) MP, Heidi Allen MP (Conservative) and Mark Durkan MP (SDLP) came along.

Tim told the meeting:

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A visit to Calais

Jane Dodds Calais

Last week I left Welshpool with my car rather more heavily loaded than usual- with sleeping bags and tarpaulins, all donated by caring Montgomeryshire people wanting to help refugees living in the cold of a Calais winter.

I’ve reported in full on my visit to the Calais refugee camp last week in several posts and videos on my facebook site. Please click the link to have a look.

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Tim Farron talks Wogan, refugees, EU and diversity on Murnaghan

Tim Farron was on Sky News Murnaghan this morning. It was quite refreshing to hear him introduced as “leading the charge” on the refugee crisis. It is actually blindingly obvious that we have been, but it’s not so often acknowledged.

The Murnaghan programme provides very helpful transcripts of their interviews, for which I am very grateful.

Terry Wogan

He was interviewed only an hour or so after the news that Terry Wogan had died and was asked for his reaction:

I am genuinely very, very upset. He formed an enormous part of my childhood, interviewing all sorts of people on his TV show but also the radio programmes, he was a peculiar and unique individual who appeals both to me – somebody who is obsessed with pop music – and my grandparents at the same time and I think that was his great strength, he spoke without arrogance or pomposity and he was a kind of warm and genuine figure in your living room and around the breakfast table and we’ll all very much miss him.

Refugee crisis

On refugees, he was asked if we should avoid creating a “pull factor:. He was clear that the way to do this was by creating safe and legal routes for refugees.

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Baroness Shas Sheehan writes…The refugee crisis on our doorstep

In a situation that goes from bad to worse, with no end point in sight, there has been one ray of hope.

On 18 January, the Upper Tribunal ruled that three  unaccompanied minors and a vulnerable young man with mental health problems, from the camp in Calais, had a bona fide case to be allowed to join relatives already resident in the UK.

Thanks to a legal challenge coordinated by Citizens UK, the Home Office has been told to immediately allow the three children and one adult to join their families.

Hitherto, the Government had been arguing that, under the Dublin III convention, applications for asylum must be made and processed in France. However, the reality is that the French system is broken, and applications from asylum seekers with family already resident in the UK are not being processed and passed on to the UK. In effect, the safe and legal route has been denied to asylum seekers who have done all that has been asked of them.

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Farron: Cameron’s “bunch of migrants” comments diminish his office and Britain

On the Belfast Telegraph website, Tim Farron talks about why he feels we should offer sanctuary to the “desperate” children struggling alone through Winter in refugee camps. He also slammed David Cameron’s “bunch of migrants” comments which have had a great deal of coverage this week.

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The case for making refugees welcome

Over the last year there has been a lot of talk about refugees in the UK, much of it based on the politics of fear. Newport, in particular, has seen is fair share of wolf whistle politics around the issue. “1 refugee for every 319 people” is the latest attention grabbing figures in the South Wales Argus. I don’t blame the editor though, in fact his editorial on the issue, although not a position I fully agreed with, was at least honest and brought some humanity to the issue.

What is often forgotten is that for years refugees weren’t distributed around the UK, they were concentrated in the South East costing the government a huge amount of money on private housing. The decision to distribute refugees was made in Westminster, last time Labour were in power, to reduce the costs to the government finances. This was a decision that even our own wolf whistle politician, Paul Flynn MP, voted in favour of.

The truth is that, in Newport, it is only 0.3% of the population that are refugees. A tiny fraction, we are told, that is putting undue pressure on our health service and on our schools, but any system that can’t handle an increase of 0.3% has much deeper rooted problems. Take a look at the Royal Gwent Hospital, as an example. It is overstretched, with A&E based out of Portakabins. For years, Labour have been telling us it is going to be replaced with a new Critical Care Centre, but every announcement seems to be about another delay. The creaking infrastructure is not due to an increase of less than 500 people in a population of 147,000. It is a symptom of many years of under-funding and poor political leadership from the Welsh Assembly. Newport’s population is growing much faster from commuters than it is ever likely to from refugees.

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Observer: Britain “poised to open door” to refugee children

For months now, there have been repeated calls for the UK to take 3000 unaccompanied child refugees who have fled the Syrian conflict.

Tim Farron has been pressing the Government to do so, going as far as tabling a Bill in Parliament. Most of the opposition parties in Parliament and its International Development Committee are in favour.

Tomorrow’s Observer suggests that action may soon be forthcoming:

Amid growing expectation that an announcement is imminent, Downing Street said ministers were looking seriously at calls from charities, led by Save the Children, for the UK to admit at least 3,000 unaccompanied young people who have arrived in Europe from countries including Syria and Afghanistan, and who are judged to be at serious risk of falling prey to people traffickers. Government sources said such a humanitarian gesture would be in addition to the 20,000 refugees the UK has already agreed to accept, mainly from camps on the borders of Syria, by 2020.

Tim Farron isn’t counting any chickens until the announcement is made, saying tonight that he wants to see firm action:

I have repeatedly called for the UK to take in 3,000 unaccompanied refugee orphans and the government must now move from ‘looking’ at the issue to actually rolling out a plan to offer these youngsters a home.

Those who have made it to European shores now face cold winters, harsh conditions and are vulnerable to traffickers and those who want to exploit them. Every moment longer the Prime Minister takes to decide leaves a child alone, without protection and without a future.

We must open our hearts to those in need and I will keep pressing at this for as long as it takes. We can and must help.

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Farron: We must not pull up the drawbridge because of the Cologne attacks.

Reports of crimes and sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve have now topped 500.

Tim Farron has said that this incident should not lead to us pulling up the drawbridge. It’s hard to see, though, how much further we could pull up our drawbridge. It’s practically wedged shut already.

Tim said:

I condemn in the strongest possible terms the sex attacks in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.

But we also must not pander to those who say pull up the drawbridge to some of the most desperate people in the world.

The values that cause us to embrace those fleeing war are the same values that refuse to tolerate this kind of violence against women. We believe such crimes should be prosecuted with the full force of the law, regardless of whether they are refugees or not.

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LibLink: Tim Farron: Give willing UK families a chance to foster refugee children

Tim Farron has written for Politics Home to explain why he’s put forward a Bill to ensure that this country takes 3000 unaccompanied refugee children:

But tens and thousands of children travel alone. They are without parents or relatives, and have made their way to Europe in the toughest of circumstances.

It is this particularly vulnerable group which our bill aims to support. The bill would award of asylum-seeker status in the United Kingdom to certain unaccompanied children from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Eritrea displaced by conflict and present within the European Union

I know that there are enough families willing to foster an unaccompanied child. For example, Home for Good has registered 10,000 prospective adoptive families. Although they will not be ready to step up immediately, if the Government supports local authorities and agencies to provide the requisite training the UK will be well equipped to support these children.

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LibLink: Tim Farron: Join drive for new kindertransport to save refugee children from Syria

Tim Farron has written a moving, compassionate and persuasive article for Jewish News in which he calls for an initiative to help bring Syrian refugee children to safety in the same way as Jewish children under threat from the Nazis were brought to Britain in the 1930s.

In 2014, of the 13,000 unaccompanied children who were registered in Italy alone, 4,000 of them went missing. Refugee and migrant children in these circumstances are incredibly vulnerable, and there is a real risk that these missing children were subject to trafficking, forced labour and exploitation. Europe cannot continue to let this happen. If the UK government will step up and accept just 3,000 of these children, who have been processed by UNHCR and have been confirmed as having no identifiable family, then we can go on to press the rest of Europe, and indeed the world’s, governments to do the same.

Every politician in this country is agreed the Kindertransport, which brought over unaccompanied Jewish children from Germany in 1938, was the right thing to do. Now we need a new Kindertransport to save another group of vulnerable children, and send a clear signal of the renewal of the British values of which we are so proud.

He started off by wondering what it would take for him to leave his life and all he knows to seek refuge in a strange place:

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  • User AvatarGlenn 19th Jun - 11:54pm
    Martin I dunno why that is. It depends how you define problem. The basic problem re-EU immigrants as far as I can tell is that...
  • User AvatarMartin 19th Jun - 11:37pm
    JoeB: That is the sort of nonsense I was referring to. Glib statements like "to close Germany's borders" - how do you think that could...
  • User AvatarJoeB 19th Jun - 11:20pm
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  • User AvatarMartin 19th Jun - 11:00pm
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