In Brecon and Radnor there will be a By- election on the 1st August. The Conservatives, the Welsh Liberal Democrats, The Brexit Party, Welsh Labour, Ukip, and The Official Monster Raving Loony Party have all selected representatives.
The confirmed candidates are:
- The Conservative Party – Chris Davies
- The Welsh Liberal Democrats – Jane Dodds
- The Brexit Party – Des Parkinson
- Welsh Labour – Tomos Davies
- Ukip – Liz Phillips
- The Official Monster Raving Loony Party – Lady Lily The Pink Following discussion, the Trustees and others have worked upon some requests to learn about the views of our prospective parliamentary candidates. The letter is below and as responses come in I will add them here. I have so far been unable to find an email address for the UKIP candidate and will send a letter to their local offices.
——————————————————————————————————-9 July 2019
Dear candidate,I write on behalf of Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees, a local support group with over 450 members in Brecon and Radnorshire who want to know if you will make a commitment to ensure that your party will work to improve conditions for asylum seekers in the UK, please. I will share this letter and any responses with our members and supporters.In particular we are concerned about the areas below ,1 Right to Work. We are part of the Lift the Ban coalition which campaigns to give people seeking asylum the right to work once they have been here for over 6 months.Currently, many are left to live in poverty, struggling to support themselves and their families, whilst the Government wastes the talents of thousands of people who could contribute to our society by paying tax, reducing the burden on the state, and benefiting local communities up and down this country with their skills.There is no evidence to support the Government’s argument that the right to work would attract more asylum seekers.We are particularly concerned as a man we knew died a year ago when, on his first day of work, his workplace was raided by the immigration service. He had been waiting for over 3 years for his asylum claim to be accepted. Desperation, boredom and poverty may force people to work illegally.
Will you make a commitment to ensure that people seeking asylum are given the right to work?
2. Detention. As things stand, it is Government policy to detain people, who have committed no crime and are seeking safety, for months or even years, often in unpleasant conditions with brutal treatment. In 2018 It cost £108 million [ more than £600 a week for an individual in detention] for immigration detention and 2016–17, there were 143 cases of wrongful detention, for which £3.3m compensation was paid.
This is a matter of great concern to us and many others.
Many are released without being deported but enormous psychological harm is done to these individuals. We know a man who was detained unexpectedly last year and released after a few weeks. He has told us how ill he became whilst in detention – fearing for his life in the event of being deported which he was told several times was going to happen imminently. He had been tortured in his own country and being detained brought back these memories.Will you make a commitment to ensure that in line with the rest of Western Europe the UK has a maximum time limit on immigration detention? Will you commit to ensuring that the use of detention is minimised and subject to Judicial review?3 Destitution. The Home Office has a duty to ensure that people who require support whilst waiting for a decision upon their asylum claim do not fall into destitution and homelessness. Yet many vulnerable people are being wrongly denied assistance or are waiting unreasonable lengths of time to receive the support they are entitled to. Thankfully voluntary groups like Share Tawe, Share Dydd and Refugees at Home help out.Will you make a commitment to deliver dignity not destitution for people seeking asylum?4 Home office decision making. Handling of immigration matters by the Home Office has become a national scandal. Combined with wrongful policies (especially ‘hostile environment’) there are persistent and systematic errors and inefficiencies and expense.We are all aware of errors such as the deportation of ‘Windrush immigrants ‘, errors in applying immigration law and the asylum process dragging on for many years. An Iranian man we know was finally granted refugee status last week having applied over 10 years ago when he was 16 – such a waste of formative years and skills. The latest reports of errors with fast track also alarm us.
Will you make a commitment to ensure that your party reviews immigration policy and brings the management of the Home Office in line with human rights?
We look forward to your response on these topics. Whilst there are few if any people seeking asylum in our area, there are 3000 in Wales and our group are united in our concern that people fleeing persecution are welcomed and treated with kindness. Will you assure us that if you are elected as our representative you will take these matters forward, please?Best wishes,
Ailsa Dunn secretary for Hay, Brecon & Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees [ 1173570]———————————————————————————————————-AND OUR FIRST REPLY! 19/07/19
Thank you for your email. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you. As you will appreciate, time is tight in an election campaign, and I wanted to give the issues you raise the attention they deserve.
It was a pleasure to meet you and several of your members at the start of the month. What came across was your obvious passion for an issue that has too often been overlooked and which needs urgent action.
Refugees and asylum seekers often arrive in Wales following traumatic experiences in their countries of origin and on their journeys to the UK. Many have seen and experienced horrors that we can only imagine. We have a responsibility to these people and we want to ensure that they are helped to rebuild their lives and make a full contribution to Welsh society.
Refugees and asylum seekers are people and should not be treated as statistics or a threat, as they are sometimes portrayed in sections of the media.
The Welsh Labour Government is determined to make Wales a ‘nation of sanctuary’ and while asylum policy is a Westminster responsivity, Welsh Labour has acted to ensure:
- Refugees and asylum seekers can access health services (including mental health services) which they require throughout the ‘asylum journey’. This includes health assessments on arrival and during the dispersal and post-trauma phases.
- Refugees and asylum seekers are provided with the information and advice they need to begin to integrate into Welsh society from day one.
- Asylum seekers are not prevented from accessing appropriate Welsh Government schemes which would support their integration.
- New refugees and asylum seekers are less likely to fall into destitution.
- All refugees and asylum seekers (particularly unaccompanied asylum seeking children) are properly safeguarded and can access advocacy support.
- Refugees and asylum seekers can access educational opportunities, including language skills, to help them rebuild their lives and fulfil their potential.
Labour is committed to ending the Tories’ hostile environment policy and overhauling the UK’s detention system. Britain has benefited from people coming from abroad over many generations to contribute to the economic and cultural life of the nation.
In terms of the questions you asked, the answer to each is yes.
- Right to Work:
It is unacceptable that the Home Office takes more than six months to decide an asylum application. Enormous economic potential is being wasted. The Government should listen to the argument that it is wrong to force people to depend on the State when they could be contributing to our society through work and taxes. The Government must get its act together and process applications in a reasonable time.
Labour is committed to treating people who claim asylum with dignity and respect, and Labour in government would allow asylum seekers to work after six months, unconstrained by the shortage occupation list.
Current Labour policy is to close Yarl’s Wood and Brook House detention centres, and we would introduce a 28-day time limit on detention.
Under Labour the Immigration Act 2014 will be repealed and we will end the hostile environment created by the Tories.
Detention facilities should be brought up to a humane standard, and if an individual is detained, the same level of support should be provided by the Home Office as to anyone in detention, including access to legal support.
Instead of making life difficult for those seeking asylum, the Home Office should instead focus on the wellbeing of those individuals within the process. There should be no refusal or delay in receiving the support that people need. Instead, that support should be provided immediately upon those individuals being identified by the Home Office, and provided to all. I will fight to ensure that the Home Office puts the individual first, instead of making it difficult for those seeking asylum.
- Home Office decision-making
The Home Office has become a national embarrassment, with grave errors reported more and more frequently. I am in no doubt that this is due to the hostile environment put in place by Theresa May as then Home Secretary and furthered by the current Conservative Government. As I have said above, we will repeal the Immigration Act 2014 and end the hostile environment policy. We will not accept asylum application decisions taking more than six months. We will overhaul both the efficiency and the culture of the Home Office, and bring its work into line with basic human rights.
We have seen a Conservative MP who has supported the Government’s appalling policies at every turn and shown little appetite to represent you. Only Labour has the desire and the potential numbers in Parliament to make the changes that are so desperately needed, and only by electing a Labour MP can the voice of Brecon and Radnorshire, the Hay, Brecon & Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees, and those seeking asylum be heard in Parliament. I will bring these concerns to Parliament, and ensure that the commitments that I and the Labour Party have made are brought to fruition. Only by electing a Labour MP can we hope to make the changes that are so desperately needed for so many people.
I hope that the above demonstrates my commitment on these issues. Should you require any further information or clarification, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Welsh Labour Llafur Cymru
Reply received from Liberal Democrat’s on 22/7/ 2019
Thank you very much for the opportunity to answer these questions, and please accept my apologies for my delayed response.
I used to work for the Refugee Council, and have worked with voluntary organisations around the world advising them on child protection practices. My first-hand experiences were harrowing, and led me to arrange collections and visit in person the former camps in Calais to witness what was happening there.
My overriding belief is that seekers of sanctuary are above all else human beings, and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. In the actions of this Government and in characterisations by the media we see the exact opposite, and if elected I would strive to do all I can to address that.
Last year the Liberal Democrats adopted a comprehensive policy paper on the issue of migration, which can be found here. In it there is a whole section devoted to the issue of seekers of sanctuary and improving their treatment.
To improve Britain’s record on assisting people seeking sanctuary, Liberal Democrats would:
- Establish a dedicated unit for asylum applications, with the aim of improving the speed and quality of decision-making.
- Give seekers of sanctuary the right to work three months after lodging their application
- Require initial assessments by the new seekers of sanctuary unit within three months to cover, inter alia, any security concerns and caseworker assistance to prepare the individual to be able to work.
- Provide free basic English lessons to any seeker of sanctuary.
- Offer intensive, full-time English language tuition, and scrap the 16 hours per week rule with respect to financial support for asylum-seekers and refugees unable to work due to insufficient English.
- Reassess all government-tendered contracts for asylum seekers’ housing – ending those that compromise people’s basic right to dignity and ensuring that future contracts can be broken down to local authority level.
- Review and reform all aspects of current asylum rules and operations that offend basic measures of fairness and justice, with an initial focus on how the rules affect Christian converts, LGBT+ applicants and child-led family reunification applications.
- Increase the timescale whereby an applicant must find their own accommodation after receiving a decision from 28 days to 60 days and remove the time limit entirely for vulnerable people.
- Ensure children are able to access education and all seekers of sanctuary can access health care during the application process and, if necessary, after they have been refused.
- Expand the Syrian refugee resettlement programme so that it covers other zones of conflict.
To respond to the specific questions you raised:
1 Will you make a commitment to ensure that people seeking asylum are given the right to work?
Absolutely. It is absurd in my mind that people who are waiting for their asylum claims are legally prevented from working and giving back to our society.
Liberal Democrats would give seekers of sanctuary the right to work three months after lodging their application. Not only is this the right policy to give dignity to people who may have fled persecution and worse, but it also makes sense for the taxpayer.
We would lift the current restrictions on the occupations in which seekers of sanctuary can be employed, so that they can use and develop their skills. We would also allow them to volunteer after three months.
2. Will you make a commitment to ensure that in line with the rest of Western Europe the UK has a maximum time limit on immigration detention? Will you commit to ensuring that the use of detention is minimised and subject to Judicial review?
Yes. Our new policy of “Detention as an Absolute Last Resort” would involve the closure of eight of the UK’s ten detention centres. People without status would be allowed, in the first instance, to continue to live and participate in their communities whilst an appeal process is either successful or exhausted. If they reach the end of the appeal process and have been unsuccessful they will be given a departure date. Overstayers would have a grace period of up to two weeks provided they can explain the overstay and demonstrate a willingness to leave. This means that people will be able to stay in the community until they have either achieved lawful status or there is an agreed departure date and the ability to remove them.
Only at that point would they be detained, and they would be detained for the minimum possible period. The maximum would be a 28-day limit on detention, but we would expect that, under our new system, people would not normally be detained for more than a couple of nights. In the case of violent or particularly dangerous individuals, the remaining two detention centres would keep places so they could operate as “the absolute last resort”. We also maintain our policy not to detain vulnerable people.
My personal view is that where robust community-based alternatives to detention are available, that these should always be used instead of detention centres.
3 Will you make a commitment to deliver dignity not destitution for people seeking asylum?
Yes. In addition to the problem on restrictions on the right to work, we know that housing for asylum seekers is notoriously poor, with too many reports of National Asylum Support Service-contracted accommodation being unfit for human habitation. Liberal Democrats would reassess all government-tendered contracts for asylum seekers’ housing. If we find poor value-for-money contracts or housing conditions that compromise people’s basic right to dignity, we will end those contracts. All future contracts will be designed to be capable of being broken down to local authority level, so that a local authority or a group of local authorities can compete for the contracts if they wish to. All future contracts would specify a minimum acceptable level for NASS accommodation, based on existing laws on rental housing standards and ending the indignity of forced bedroom sharing for unrelated adults.
4 Will you make a commitment to ensure that your party reviews immigration policy and brings the management of the Home Office in line with human rights?
Yes. We will end the practice of the “hostile environment” approach which includes everything from multiple expensive and inhumane immigration detention centres to making banks and landlords the frontline of immigration control, resulting in mistakes and unfairness on an industrial scale. We will end the deliberately unsophisticated “fishing trip” approach of the Conservatives that has resulted in British citizens facing intrusive questions and outright discrimination on the grounds of race.
The Home Office’s abuse of section 322(5) of the immigration rules, for example, where highly skilled workers are being deported or refused permit extensions by categorising them as a security threat if they have made minor errors on tax forms, is a classic example where the culture of the Home Office has been infected by Theresa May’s policies of arbitrary targets and caps. We would establish a new non-political organisation with responsibility for the processing of visas, and responsibility for work permits would move from the Home Office to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to ensure the system is run in a way that better reflects the needs of our economy.
——Absolutely yes. I am proud to have already worked with your group and seen first-hand the excellent work you do, and regardless of whether I’m elected I hope to continue our close working relationship.Look forward to hearing from you soon.Many thanks,Jane————————————————————