November 6th 2021
I am writing to you on behalf of the Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees group to thank you for so generously giving of your time and attention to meet with us last Tuesday. We were heartened by your statement that you wanted to hear our concerns and would make time to respond accordingly. It was good of you to extend the set time to do just that.
We would agree with the Home Office that Britain has a long, proud tradition of helping refugees; sadly, the Nationality and Borders Bill, as it stands at present will put an end to all that. We can also agree with you that there needs to be an end to the criminal activity of people-smugglers that puts people’s lives at risk. However, as we said at our meeting, we believe that the way forward is to provide safe, legal alternative routes for those with links to the UK who are seeking sanctuary on the Continent, notably France, rather than penalise them with punitive actions or ever stronger measures in France, some of which could endanger their lives. Higher fences, more border police, nets or waves in the channel are unlikely to help and given the amount spent, I believe that you said £54 million a year, it might well be cheaper as well as kinder to process the cases efficiently.
As you said, the UK has indeed accepted significant numbers of refugees under the Resettlement programme, firstly of Syrians and now those from Afghanistan. However, these are only a small number compared to the total number of people in need of sanctuary; people who just want to create a safe future for themselves and their family. The vast majority of the world’s refugees, currently estimated by the UN as being around 80 million, are either displaced in their own country or in surrounding nations. Of those who come to Europe, Britain is not the main destination; we take only a small percentage of the world’s refugees. We also see no evidence of ‘Pull’ factors in the many people we know over and above the desire to be in ‘ the mother country’ or with family. Most people when asked about benefits or work have no idea about the asylum or benefit system until they are here.
We believe that the UK should take its fair share of refugees, not retreat behind the ‘wall’ that is the English Channel .Our country is below the average among European countries for asylum applications per head of population, ranking fourteen out of twenty-seven but, when counting in resettled refugees as well, the ranking rises to sixth. Even so, it is clear that we are far below other European countries in accepting people seeking sanctuary. I hope that you will find the enclosed information from the Migration Observatory, [attached to the University of Oxford and which takes figures from the commons library] helpful in correcting commonly held assumptions.
The Nationality & Borders Bill does not take heed of humanitarian issues, ignoring the concerns and emotional involvement that the majority of the local public at least have about supporting asylum seekers and refugees. These , we believe, are separate issues from concerns about economic migration, post-Brexit. Those of us at the zoom meeting gave valid and important reasons to re-look at the cold language being used to describe the Bill’s outcomes. The Bill outlines problems but does not in our view provide workable or appropriate solutions. Germany for example has many more refugees and asylum seekers that have in the main been moved through a system which shows care and respect for those requiring help and which have also shown economic benefits. Surely, we should be offering the same; ie, a safe and humane system?
We also raised with you the issue about the ‘Right to Work’, even though this is not addressed in the Bill. Many agencies, charitable or otherwise, agree that lifting the ban on being able to work after six months would make economic sense on a number of counts: easing pressures on mental health, contributing to the economy and restoring some measure of self-respect and dignity to those who have been waiting longer, sometimes years, not months, to have their asylum claim resolved. This also has the potential to save the UK money currently spent on Asylum support and would reduce the risks of modern day slavery. Several of us knew Mustafa Dawood whose inquest reported this week. I’m told he had worked for just one day to try to earn some money; hence his fear when the premises were raided.
I trust that this letter will remind you of our discussions and, if you have not already done so, help you to feed these concerns into the scrutiny process or the amendment approval currently taking place as the Bill goes through its Committee Stage. Furthermore, when the Bill returns to the House of Commons, we urge you to give serious consideration to our concerns and vote for a system that is fair and safe to all. Let’s continue the British tradition of offering a welcome and safe haven to those who, through no fault of their own, have had to flee their homes, their work and their country. Indeed several members queried whether your assumption that none of the people on the Zoom meeting had voted Conservative was based upon the incompatibility of compassion with so doing. I trust this was not correct.
We will publish this letter on our web-page so that all of our members can see what was discussed at the meeting.
Once again, thank you for your time and attention. We wish you well as you continue to represent us all in the “ Home of Democracy.”
With my best wishes
The Reverend Margaret Blake
Chair, HBTSR[ 1173570]
HBTSR exists to show and promote support for people forced to seek sanctuary by offering time out to people in need, raising money to help other groups who assist and support and by asking for more humane policies for people seeking sanctuary.
twitter account @hbts4refugees