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F37B: Emergency motion at Conference: Responding to the Crisis in Afghanistan

September 24, 2021 4:56 PM

Spoiler alert! - the Motion was passed but the speeches from two members of LD4SOS in the debate are worth reading.

Dr Ruvi Ziegler, Council member LD4SOS spoke to lines 43-51 asylum system and the government's plans

Conference, I am heartened by the compassionate approach this motion adopts regarding Afghani asylum-seekers and refugees. The mass displacement generated by the Taliban takeover highlights the moral depravity and legal irrationality of the government's nationality and borders bill. It also strengthens the case for introducing 'humanitarian visas', which I had the honour to propose at Spring Conference on behalf of LD4SOS and is our official party policy.

I want to sketch the impact of the discriminatory two-tier asylum system which the Home Sec's bill seeks to introduce on those arriving at our shores from Afghanistan. If you are a 'good' refugee, fortunate enough to make the cut for the 5,000 promised resettlement slots, and able to wait safely until resettlement takes place, the government will grant you protection status and family reunion rights and keep you out of detention.

But imagine that you are not so lucky to win this lottery or that you are at immediate risk of persecution and simply cannot wait, and are trying to reach the UK, crammed in lorries and unsafe dinghies, you will be penalised for 'illegally' fleeing the horrors of the Taliban. You could be detained on arrival. For the first six months, the government will consider your application inadmissible, and seek to send you back to a 'safe country' which you may or may not have passed through on the way to the UK, and to which you have no connections. And even if your asylum application is ultimately considered and granted, you will forever carry the legal stain of having arrived irregularly: no family reunion rights and no long-term residence status. Imagine two Afghanis with identical protection claims - both fearing persecution on grounds of their gender identity or sexual orientation - receiving diametrically opposed treatment solely based on their method of arrival in the UK.

It does not have to be this way. We can create genuinely safe and legal routes to asylum through introducing humanitarian visas for people who managed to leave Afghanistan but have not yet reached the UK. We must not criminalise asylum-seekers due to their spontaneous arrival. We can ensure that those fortunate enough to receive protection here can be joined by their family members.

….and we should properly treat Afghanis already here:

  • immediately grant status to over 3,000 Afghani asylum-seekers who are still waiting for decisions - part of an ever-increasing Home Office backlog;
  • restore the protection status of Afghanis whose asylum applications were rejected because until 16 August, as the takeover was near fait acompli, the government position was that it is safe to execute returns to parts of Afghanistan
  • immediately release Afghanis held in immigration detention on spurious grounds.

Vote proudly for this motion, and campaign relentlessly to reject the government's cruel immigration & borders bill. Readers - they did.

Suzanne Fletcher, founding member of Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary said:

I want to talk about those Afghans who are already here, and the next stage of the journey for the recent arrivals.

The problem in Afghanistan is not new, as most of us know, and people have been fleeing here for a long time, seeking sanctuary. It just hasn't hit the headlines.

About 2.6 million people from Afghanistan are refugees, representing one of the largest long-term refugee situations in the world - and that number increases to 2.8 million when you add asylum-seekers applying for refugee status. Another 2.9 million Afghans are displaced within the country due to conflict, drought, and other natural disasters.

In the UK now 1 in 10 crossing the Channel are from Afghanistan.

In 2020 1546 arrived here, making up 4% of all asylum seekers. Of those 68% were granted asylum. That sounds a lot but 32% were refused. That's around 500 people

Since 2009, there have been 21,613 applications for asylum in the UK from people from Afghanistan.

7,619 of these applicants were declined any form of protection. 2,609 of these applications were from women, and 875 from children.

That means that well over 7,000 are here now, with a refusal. The Home Office has said it is safe to return. They say there is not enough evidence it is dangerous for them to return. Well now the world knows that it is unsafe to return, and this has not happened overnight. Anyone can work out that collecting evidence from people, newspapers and other records is impossible in the situation there is now. That number includes the 16 year old child being fostered by someone I know who is not being granted leave to remain as he has no proof his father and other family were killed.

Isn't it bad enough that those Afghans here are desperately worried about what is happening in their beautiful homeland with its rich culture, and family and friends as it is plunged deeper into wicked chaos? Without them also being frantically worried about our Home Office returning them. Some of those 7,000 are still appealing; some have no protection at all - nowhere to live, no allowance, and not being allowed to work. They are destitute.

The Home Office should be giving leave to remain to all Afghans who have claimed asylum here, and not prolong the agony, and I hope our Parliamentarians will demand this again and again till it happens.

  • The situation in Afghanistan has the potential to expose the failures in the UK's refugee protection system at a time when the Government engages in an assault on people's right to claim asylum. There is no structure in place agile enough to readily offer protection to people in the context of a humanitarian crisis like this. We need an asylum system that protects those seeking safety irrespective of the means of their arrival in the UK, and complementary and vastly expanded Government-mandated schemes.
  • Given the lack of Government-mandated routes, Afghanistan is one of the biggest countries of origin for asylum applicants in the UK. Changes to the Immigration Rules made in December 2020 mean that anyone who arrives in the UK irregularly and applies for asylum can have that claim ruled inadmissible, and never be granted full refugee protection in the UK.