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Fri, 3 April 2020

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Lord Roberts: We must end the ‘hostile environment’ and allow asylum seekers to work three months after they apply

Lord Roberts: We must end the ‘hostile environment’ and allow asylum seekers to work three months after they apply
3 min read

A Liberal Democract Government would treat asylum seekers fairly and with dignity, lifting the ban to allow them to work three months after they have applied, ending the callous actions of this Tory Government, writes Lord Roberts.

As the Extinction Rebellion protests begin for the next fortnight in central London, one particular issue that I am raising is the people being displaced by natural disasters right across the globe.

These are people fleeing their homes, often with little other than their lives, looking for somewhere to call their home.

And it is not just the damage to our planet that is displacing people, but conflicts and the risk of persecution has been displacing people for hundreds of years.

The UK has a proud history of offering sanctuary, allowing people to make their homes here in the UK whilst contributing to our society with whatever skills they have to offer. However, this record has been tarnished by the cold-hearted actions of the current Tory Government.

It was just three and a half years ago that the House of Commons decided by 18 votes, to turn its back on 3,000 vulnerable unaccompanied children fleeing the war in Syria. Instead, the Government promised to resettle just 480 children, and hasn’t even fulfilled half of that promise.

Just imagine how frightened those children must be, forced from their homes, separated from their families and stranded in refugee camps. We must do all we can to help them.

That is why in Government, the Liberal Democrats would provide safe and legal routes to sanctuary in the UK.

This would mean resettling 10,000 vulnerable refugees each year as well as a further 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children from elsewhere in Europe over the next 10 years.

And it is not just the Conservative Government’s refusal to grant people sanctuary in the UK that needs to change.

We must treat them fairly and with dignity when they are here.

The UK is amongst those countries that force refugees to wait the longest – a full 12 months before being allowed to work. This, in reality, means months of poverty, months of mental strain and months of idleness when they could be working and paying taxes.

It is a whole year of stopping them from contributing to UK society and integrating into our communities.

That is why yesterday I asked the Minister why the Government insists on a 12-month ban when many other countries can allow asylum seekers to work after a much shorter time. What benefit comes from forcing them to wait?

A Liberal Democrat government would lift the ban and allow asylum seekers to work three months after they have applied. This would not only give them a sense of dignity, but through their income we will save the exchequer money.

The Tory Government’s actions are not only callous, but do not actually make sense and end up costing the public purse more.

Not only that but the Liberal Democrats would strip the Home Office of their right over asylum policy making. From Windrush, to settled status for EU citizens, to refugees – it is clear the toxic nature of the Home Office has had a detrimental impact to thousands of people who have made their lives in the UK.

If this Government truly wanted a ‘Global Britain’, the Tories would be ending their “hostile environment” rather than ending freedom of movement. 

The Liberal Democrats welcome people who want to build their lives in the UK, and we celebrate the contributions they make - whether it’s benefitting our economy, enriching our culture or helping to create an open, accepting and multicultural society. We will keep fighting to keep the UK open.


Lord Roberts of Llandudno is a Liberal Democract Member of the House of Lords.


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