Immigration and asylum are under attack. Immigration is essential to our economy and a benefit to our society. We depend on immigration to ensure we have the people we need contributing to the UK’s economy and society, including doctors, agricultural workers, entrepreneurs, and scientists and so many others. Immigration broadens our horizons and encourages us to be more open, more tolerant.
Refugees are human beings fleeing from war zones and persecution and we have a legal and moral obligation to offer them sanctuary. The Liberal Democrats are proud of the UK’s historic commitments to assisting those seeking refuge from war, persecution and degradation, and believe that we should continue to uphold our responsibilities.
The immigration and asylum systems have suffered from inefficiency and severe backlogs and delays over many years, harming their credibility and ability to operate effectively. We recognise that large-scale immigration has placed strains on some local communities and services. Major improvements are urgently needed.
For that reason, when it comes to immigration the Liberal Democrats will:
- Ensure that the immigration system is operated fairly and efficiently, with strict control of borders, including entry and exit checks and adequately funded Border Force policing of entry by irregular routes.
- Hold an annual debate in Parliament on skill and labour market shortfalls and surpluses to identify the migration necessary to meet the UK’s needs.
- Continue to allow high-skilled immigration to support key sectors of our economy, and ensure work, tourist and family visas are processed quickly and efficiently.
- Recognising their largely temporary status, remove students from the official migration statistics.
- Ensure the UK is an attractive destination for overseas students. We will reinstate post-study work visas for graduates in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects who find suitable employment within six months of graduating. Give the devolved administrations the right to sponsor additional post-study work visas.
- Work with universities to ensure a fair and transparent student visa process and find ways to measure accurately the number of students leaving at the end of their course.
- Establish a centrally-funded Migrant Impact Fund to help local communities to adjust to new migration and meet unexpected pressures on public services and housing.
- Provide additional government funding for English as an Additional Language classes to help migrants and residents gain independence and integrate with their local communities.
And for asylum, the Liberal Democrats will:
- Apply the asylum system fairly, efficiently and humanely including the process for those who have no right to be here.
- Offer safe and legal routes to the UK for refugees to prevent them from making dangerous journeys, which too often result in the loss of life for example via reform of family reunion rules to make it easier for refugees to joining relatives already living in safety in the UK.
- Expand the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme to offer sanctuary to 50,000 over the lifetime of the next Parliament.
- Re-open the Dubs unaccompanied child refugee scheme, ensuring Britain meets its responsibilities by taking in 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children. Liberal Democrats would offer these children indefinite leave to remain, meaning they will not be deported once they turn 18.
- End indefinite immigration detention by introducing a 28-day limit.
- Speed up the processing of asylum claims, reducing the time genuine refugees must wait before they can settle into life in the UK.
- Expect working-age asylum seekers who have waited more than six months for their claim to be processed to seek work like other benefit claimants, and only to receive benefits if they are unable to do so.
- Offer asylum to people fleeing countries where their sexual orientation or gender identification means that they risk imprisonment, torture, or execution and stop deporting people at risk to such countries.