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Compassion and dignity for seekers of sanctuary

June 20, 2020 12:00 PM
By Liberal Democrats
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

World Refugee Day is an important reminder that we must do all we can to protect people forced to flee their homes to escape war and persecution.

People who've come to the UK having fled war or persecution should be welcomed with compassion and enabled to contribute to our society.

The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need, but now the Conservative Government is turning its back on refugees and failing to live up to our obligations to them.

The Government has closed the Dubs scheme for child refugees and is ending the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and the Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme, but hasn't announced details of what will replace them.

In the Brexit negotiations, the Government is seeking to end the UK's mandatory obligation to reunite unaccompanied asylum-seeking children with their families. Unlike every EU country except Denmark, the UK does not allow unaccompanied child refugees to sponsor family members to join them.

Thousands of asylum seekers are forced to wait many months for a decision, unable to work, rent a home or support their families.

Asylum seekers are forced to rely on just £5.39 a day. The Government has announced that it will raise it by a miserly 26p a day - not nearly enough, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Too many people are wrongly denied asylum, with 40% of refusals overturned on appeal. LGBT+ applicants face particular hostility, with far too many denied asylum because officials assume that they are lying about who they are.

People who've come to the UK having fled war or persecution should be welcomed with compassion and enabled to contribute to our society, not met with disbelief or trapped in poverty.

That's why Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to:

  • Set out a new long-term commitment to continue providing sanctuary to vulnerable refugees in the UK, including resettling 10,000 refugee children from elsewhere in Europe over the next 10 years.
  • Guarantee continued rights for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Europe to be reunited with family members in the UK.
  • Support Liberal Democrat peer Sally Hamwee's Bill to expand family reunion rights so that unaccompanied child refugees in the UK can sponsor close family members to join them.
  • Give asylum seekers the right to work three months after they have applied, enabling them to work in any role so that they can support themselves, integrate in their communities and contribute through taxation.
  • Give asylum seekers an extra £20 a week in asylum support during the coronavirus crisis, in line with the emergency increase in Universal Credit.
  • Move asylum policymaking out of the discredited Home Office and into the Department for International Development, and establish a dedicated unit to improve the speed and quality of asylum decision-making.
  • Offer asylum to people fleeing the risk of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identification, end the culture of disbelief for LGBT+ asylum seekers and never refuse an LGBT+ applicant on the basis that they could be discreet.

The government must not turn its back on those who need us now. Liberal Democrats will keep fighting to protect refugees.