Tag Archives: refugees

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 …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

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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Recent Comments

  • User Avatarexpats 17th Mar - 10:21am
    William Fowler 17th Mar '18 - 9:25am....I do think Labour are keen to completely obliterate other left-leaning parties..... C'm off it, Bill.. I have read...
  • User Avatartheakes 17th Mar - 10:14am
    I must admit I am struggling a bit with this, in my professional opinion the message is reasonably sound, it is not necessarily misognyist. It...
  • User AvatarJennie 17th Mar - 10:11am
    Labour group are doubling down on defending this on Twitter too.
  • User AvatarTom Harney 17th Mar - 10:05am
    For us in the U.K. the question must be about what do we want to see achieved. There seems little doubt that North Korea believes...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 17th Mar - 10:05am
    William, Is it really so odd that the LibDems are so out in the cold? Surely coalition was only better for the *short term* health...
  • User AvatarJayne mansfield 17th Mar - 9:26am
    @ nvelope2003, I directed my comment to you because I agreed with your comment. I was simply musing on how easily some shed avered values...