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  • Article: Apr 17, 2016
    By suzanne

    The Immigration Bill returns to the House of Commons on Monday, April 25th. Some very important amendments will be coming from significant wins in the House of Lords, when it was debated there. ALL MPs need to be lobbied and told how important it is that these amendments are incorporated into what is a terrible Bill, to at least make a difference to many asylum seekers already in the UK, as well as the 3,000 unaccompanied children seeking refuge, already in Europe.

    Please do take the time to write, meet, or otherwise lobby your own MP on these issues.

  • Article: Apr 8, 2016
    By suzanne

    REPORT FROM ANN KERRIGAN, Former Pendle Councillor on a visit to Calais and Dunkerque. A personal view of the reality of the situation, and her offer of a solution.

    I went to Calais on Wednesday 24th February with my friend Eva Kawafi. We worked in the distribution centre for the Auberge des Migrants and we also litter picked at the Dunkerque camp as well as visiting the Jungle on two occasions. In the distribution centre were volunteers from France, Germany, the UK and other parts of Europe too.

    The refugees that we met were lovely, traumatised, friendly people. They have tried their best to make community hubs which is so important for displaced people. We ate in the Afghan area and drank tea in the Iranian area. Never did we feel unsafe, everywhere we were welcomed. People shook our hands, hugged us and talked to us.

    There is a school in the Calais camp where the French teachers work. These teachers are passionate about the refugee children and feel that the media ignores them and tries to depict the French as hating the refugees. They told us that local people in Calais welcome refugees into their homes to shower, eat and just relax. There are more children in the camp than is depicted, a census was carried out by the voluntary organisations because of the impending move to containers and the numbers appear to be ignored. There is a great fear that once the containers are full, other refugees in Calais will be moved to camps like that at Dunkerque. The communities will be split and for the children, that will create even more trauma and vulnerability.

    Just as importantly the refugees are not kept informed of what is being planned for them and the image of being fingerprinted to access and leave the container area is very frightening. The new camp is surrounded by barbed wire and to be honest it looks like a concentration camp. I didn't notice any windows in the containers, maybe I just couldn't see them though!

    The camp at Dunkerque makes the Jungle look like a holiday camp.

    It is squalid, the only image I could conjure was that of the trenches during the first world war (just from descriptions I have read). There are even more children at Dunkerque. They live in rat infested tents with toilets that ooze sewage and they need constant changes of clothing as the mud just eats everything they wear. All the refugees we saw had coughs, trench cough, camp cough!

  • Article: Apr 7, 2016
    By suzanne

    Janet King. representative on Detention Forum from Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary writes :

    Agitation and Satisfaction

    When immigration detention activists get together both feelings are present and when the meeting is Detention Forum's annual strategy meeting (30.3.16) you know that there will be positive outcomes.

    Detention Forum began in 2009 because there was a lack of dialogue with the Home Office on detention policy. The aim was and is to put the voices of the detained at the centre of everything they did. The small group has grown and now represents over 30 NGOs and charities including LD4SOS.

    Parliamentary successes.

    Both the Shaw report and that of the APPG Inquiry into the Use of Immigration Detention encouraged the House of Lords to vote for a detention time limit of total 28 days and the right to work after six months in the Immigration Bill currently passing through Parliament.

    At a recent meeting with James Brockenshire, Minister for Immigration, Maurice Wren of Refugee Council reminded him that he was in the unique position now to be able to change the UK immigration system for the better….if he will.

    50 faith leaders will be holding a Parliamentary meeting about detention and the Immigration Bill on 20th April at Westminster. LD4SOS is invited to attend.

    The Sanctuary in Parliament theme is detention this year. More work in Parliament is needed on behalf of LGBT detainees and ex-offenders, who spend the longest time in detention.

    Alternatives to detention.

    Can, and importantly will, HMG provide a humane alternative to detention? How will the UK immigration system look in the future?

    The Government door is now ajar to alternatives to detention but needs reassurance that they can work. We must now come up with credible examples of good practice in other countries and the pilot being run through Detention Action will be key to success.

    JEROME PHELPS, Detention Action, is meeting with the Home Office and making progress. Sadly however the HO still thinks that by making life difficult eg tagging they can persuade migrants to leave voluntarily. We need alternatives which do not include tagging. Trusted community support does work and is being piloted here through Detention Action with the Government's blessing.

    Recent international alternatives to detention are documented at www.idcoalition.org/alternatives-to-detention. The Government is required to work on this issue with the UNHCR Beyond Detention project, which wants to see changes. We must give time and energy to this important campaign and we need to be clear about what we mean by alternatives and which groups can implement them. We must find the most effective organisations to provide alternatives and support them. Sometime local providers are better than national ones. The Human Rights Watch work on alternatives was good but it came up with no plan.

    We need to produce a clear Plan of Action, a road map for alternatives.

    Much more on Detention Forum's work may be found at www.detentionforum.org.uk.

    Detention Forum's year: an appraisal by Jon Featonby and Lisa Matthews

  • Article: Apr 1, 2016
    By suzanne

    Peers Ashdown Wallace and Nicholson on Immigration Bill"Where are the British values that we cherish and highlight?" Lib Dems stand up for the vulnerable in the Immigration Bill

    On Monday last week, the Immigration Bill faced its third day in Report. The Government was defeated over the issue of taking in 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children. Liberal Democrats pushed votes on a number of other issues including; protecting Afghan and Iraqi interpreters who risked their lives to help UK soldiers, protecting the victims of genocide, and loosening regulations to make it easier for children to be reunited with their parents. With Labour sitting on their hands, these votes were lost. Speaking ahead of the vote on Afghan and Iraqi interpreters Paddy Ashdown referred to the current policy as "a shameful policy, the price of which will be paid in the standing not only of our nation but of our own troops, when they seek to draw in the services of interpreters in the future. If we vote for the amendment we can at least make amends in this Bill for three or four years of complete failure to live up to the role that these men have played on behalf of Her Majesty and of our nation in a conflict of our choosing, and who have placed their lives at risk in doing so." Speaking in the debate on genocide, Emma Nicholson referred to her extensive experience in the Middle East and called on the Government to take action: "I am deeply concerned as to where the British values are that we cherish and highlight. Where is the British action? Do we need to turn again to our US allies and friends, since we have failed so vastly? We have kept [Yazidi] youngsters waiting." William Wallace also argued for amendments to the Bill which will exempt the NHS and educational institutions from the proposed skills charge which William warned was a 'tax on talent.' Following the debate he said: "The Government's plan to tax talent via the introduction of an immigration skills charge would hit our beloved institutions and the drivers of our economy - from the NHS and universities to local business, hardest."

  • Article: Mar 20, 2016
    By suzanne

    This week the House of Lords voted in favour of an amendment to the Immigration Bill proposed by crossbencher Lord Ramsbotham, and also Lib Dem peers Baroness Hamwee and Lord Roger Roberts. The amendment addressed the lack of judicial oversight on detention for immigration purposes in the UK and was passed by 187 votes to 170.

    We are proud of the determination, skill and humanity of our Lib Dem Peers for playing their part in this huge step in parliament recognising the disgrace of indefinite detention.

    The amendment (which can be read at paragraph 84 here) proposes that a person may not be detained for a period longer than 28 days; or for periods of longer than 28 days in aggregate. This period of detention may be extended by the First-tier Tribunal if the Home Office apply for an extension on the basis that "exceptional circumstances of the case require extended detention". The important part is that there would be judicial oversight.

    Currently, the UK has no time-limit on detention: people can be detained indefinitely, for months and even years. Briefing papers on Indefinite Detention, and its future are attached. It is Liberal Democrat policy to end indefinite detention for immigration purposes for all, and was one of the key points in our manifesto last year. We have worked with Detention Forum who has long called for increased judicial oversight of detention, and the introduction of a maximum 28-day time-limit on how long anyone can be detained.

    The debate in Hansard can be read at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201516/ldhansrd/lhan126.pdf, amendment 84. Good speeches were made and some extracts are :

    Roger Roberts said : "We are looking at people and at what they are like when they leave there. Will they feel that British justice was fair and that Britain was handling them in a fair way, or will they feel resentment? What we do not need in the world at the present time are people who are resentful and ready to act in a violent way. They should know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and I would support a period of 28 days"

    Sally Hamwee said " The then Chief Inspector of Prisons commented on how many of the detainees were released back into the community, which poses the question: if they are suitable to be released back into the community, why do they need to be detained in the first place?"

    Whilst we are delighted at the progress made, and recognise that compromises had to be made for the Bill to have the support of others to enable it to be amended, we have grave concerns about the exceptions for those who have been in prison for more than 12 months, and served their sentence given by the courts, will not be included in this ending of indefinite detention and will probably remain detained for a long time. Another sentence should not be imposed "by the backdoor", and once a sentence has been served there are no more grounds to detain someone who is not a British Citizen that for someone who is.

    We recognise that this victory in the House of Lords is no more than the first step, it will need to go to the House of Commons, and we call on everyone to campaign and lobby for MPs to take forward the recommendations of The Shaw Report, commissioned by the Government, and the APPG on this very issue.