Author: Suzanne Fletcher
Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary held a joint fringe meeting at Lib Dem Conference in York with Social and Liberal Forum, addressing the Immigration Bill currently being debated in Parliament.
Ed Davey MP spoke of some of the impact that Brexit would have on immigration issues, and how he was using some of the new Lib Dem policies in the debates around the Bill.
Only some amendments would be allowed, those that fit in with the “Long title” of the Bill, which ties it to European issues. Success on many of the amendments to the Bill will depend on full support from Labour though.
There is the big problem of those without settled status from the EU who are living here. If they haven’t applied and gone through system there will be huge problems by 2020 for them. It is outrageous to take existing rights away. A declaratory system would be a much better way. Talking of the proposal of the ending of free movement of labour, he spoke of how this was going to impact on those from the UK who worked in the EU.
Interestingly, whilst talking about the benefits of immigration, he also talked about how people’s attitude to immigration is beginning to change as the impact of Brexit is becoming more apparent. People are realising there is a real benefit to immigration as the impact on loss of health care staff is going to affect them and their friends.
There is the possibility of an end to indefinite detention for immigration purposes, something Lib Dems have been at the forefront of campaigning on till taken up by other parties. There are amendments to the Immigration Bill that might be taken, and have support from at least some MPs from all parties, and there is finally a chance of success. Whatever others may say, Ed emphasised that Lib Dems would stick to our line, that indefinite detention should end for all, including Foreign National Offenders.
Some of the positives around include a success in the fight against the hostile environment with the successful court case taken by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants against the Government’s “Right to Rent” policy. The High Court ruled that the policy not only causes institutional racism, but cannot be reformed.
The Right to Work campaign that Lib Dems have long campaigned for has now got wide support and there is the “Lift the Ban” campaign, to give asylum seekers the right to use their skills, and earn money.
He ended with saying how he had seen a big difference in how the Home Office was working after his two year “sabbatical”, and how much worse they were. They should be required to do the job properly, albeit that the Home Office is not fit for purpose, and should be completely reformed, as in our Lib Dem proposals.
Suzanne Fletcher, from LD4SOS spoke of the positive policies that had been developed for the party, to tackle the issues around such as detention, right to work, decision making, and forced bedroom sharing. The positive proposals are about refugees and unaccompanied children, and overall having a safe and welcoming environment for asylum seekers and refugees.
Holly Matthies from Lib Dem Immigrants explained how they were founded to fill in the gap left by LD4SOS’s sterling work on asylum and refugees. She said they existed to represent those who’ve chosen to come to live in the UK from elsewhere, and to highlight issues that disproportionately affect immigrants. She said how she was glad to hear Ed say that people are starting to understand the usefulness of immigrants post-referendum, but wanted to emphasize that people have value beyond economic value. Such rhetoric can have unintended consequences on disabled people who, if they are immigrants, may not be able to work and, if married to an immigrant, might not be able to bring their spouse to the UK. This is why they currently have a campaign to “scrap the spousal income test,” which currently is set high enough that over half of Brits wouldn’t be able to live here with foreign spouses. “As Lib Dems we believe in marriage equality, and we aren’t quite there yet for mixed-nationality couples.”
Lord Roger Roberts, LD4SOS President, talked about his work in the House of Lords, campaigning on the rights on those who came to the UK as unaccompanied children and are coming up to eighteen years of age. He is preparing a Bill to come before the House, and asked us to spread the word that, on November 30th, he is planning a festival of celebration. There is a website “Action for Humanity” that is updated each week.
* Suzanne Fletcher was a councillor for nearly 30 years and a voluntary advice worker with the CAB for 40 years. Now retired, she is active as a campaigner in the community both as a Lib Dem and with local organisations. She is Liberal Democrat Seekers of Sanctuary’s parliamentary and external relations officer.