Mover: Tim Farron MP (Spokesperson on Communities and Local Government).
Summation: Alistair Carmichael MP (Spokesperson on Home Affairs).
Motion as passed by conference
Conference believes that:
- Refugees who have been forced to flee their homes to escape war and persecution are some of the most vulnerable people in the world; we must do all we can to protect them.
- 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.
- Providing refugees with safe and legal routes to sanctuary in the UK is the best way to combat people smuggling and human trafficking, and to prevent people from making dangerous attempts to cross the Channel or the Mediterranean.
- The UK must welcome refugees and treat all seekers of sanctuary with dignity and compassion.
- Upon arrival in the UK, asylum-seekers should receive support necessary for their physical and mental wellbeing, and that protects their human dignity (including adequate healthcare, sanitation, and physical security) which the facilities at camps such as the Napier and Penally Barracks fail to provide.
- The inhumane conditions to which asylum-seekers are subjected at camps such as the Napier and Penally Barracks breach the UK’s refugee and human rights obligations.
- Many child refugees and victims of human trafficking arrive in the UK with little or no English or having experienced trauma or exploitation, and need support navigating the challenging and confusing immigration, care, legal and other services they encounter on their arrival.
- Creating pathways for submission of humanitarian visa applications prior to arrival in the UK is a humane and effective way of reducing dangerous irregular journeys.
Conference notes with dismay the lack of safe and legal routes to sanctuary in the UK. In particular:
- The Government closed the 'Dubs scheme' for unaccompanied refugee children elsewhere in Europe after resettling just 480 children.
- The Government closed the UK's refugee resettlement schemes in March 2020. In July 2019, it announced a new 'global resettlement scheme' to replace these schemes from 2020, but it has not yet opened the new scheme or committed any funding for refugee resettlement beyond 2021-22.
- The Government has chosen to withdraw the UK from the Dublin System, which enables people applying for asylum in the EU to be reunited with their family members in another member state.
- Unlike every EU country except Denmark, the UK does not allow unaccompanied child refugees to sponsor family members to join them; Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Hamwee has tabled the Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill that would rectify this.
- In December, the Government changed the rules governing asylum applications so the Home Office can declare claims inadmissible if the applicant has passed through or has a connection to a 'safe third country' - even if that country refuses to readmit them; this is a breach of the UK's commitments under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.
- The Government plans to introduce new legislation to further restrict people's rights to claim asylum in the UK.
- The Conservative Government has delayed the full rollout of a system of independent guardians in England and Wales to represent, support and safeguard child victims of human trafficking in their interactions with different agencies and processes, despite having legislated for it in 2015.
Conference condemns the Conservative Government's heartless and inhumane response to desperate people attempting to seek sanctuary in the UK.
Conference calls on the Government to provide safe and legal routes to sanctuary in the UK by:
- Immediately restarting refugee resettlement and making a new, fully-funded commitment to resettle 10,000 vulnerable refugees each year.
- Establishing a new Dubs Scheme to resettle a further 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees from elsewhere in Europe over the next ten years.
- Guaranteeing the rights of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Europe to be reunited with family members in the UK.
- Supporting Baroness Hamwee's Bill to expand family reunion rights so that unaccompanied child refugees in the UK can sponsor close family members to join them.
- Providing all unaccompanied asylum-seeking children with support and specialist legal advice including by appointing an independent guardian for each child, prioritising those children who are victims of human trafficking.
- Upholding the Refugee Convention, reversing the recent changes to asylum rules that contravene it, and abandoning plans to further restrict the right to seek asylum.
- The closure of facilities such as the Napier and Penally Barracks, and for provision of alternative accommodation for asylum-seekers which ensures adequate healthcare, sanitation, and physical security, and which facilitates their fair and effective access to the asylum system.
- The creation of pathways for submission of humanitarian visa applications, including at embassies and consulates at countries of origin and at channel crossings.