In my first posting on the subject, I set out a proverbial stake in the ground and laid down ten key principles I would like to see adopted when considering this issue. I wish here to turn to a relatively small section of the UK immigrant community, which is often overlooked – those who are seeking sanctuary in the UK, either as an asylum seeker or are looking for refuge and protection from circumstances they face in their country of origin, for a plethora of reasons.
As is becoming now a regular occurrence, I write this in the light of some lively discussions involving some of my Facebook friends. One, who had earlier served as a Conservative councillor, made the important and often missed point (regarding some of his former constituents): “many of whom comfortably vote UKIP (not as a gesture of racism or fascism in my opinion) but absolutely a protest about the twisted dabbling corrupt actions and rhetoric of righteousness from the (my own) Conservative party, Lib Dems and Labour“. He also made reference to US President Obama, who had “recently delivered a message about providing an amnesty for about 5 million illegal immigrants in the USA“, and then posed the question whether something similar could be done in the UK, and what the consequences might be if it happened.
For those who have read my writings and blogs on these matters will know that this is something that resonates with me. While on one hand I accept controls on immigration and even believe we have let too many of the wrong immigrants into the country in the recent past, I deplore the disgraceful way too often the claims of sanctuary seekers have been dealt with and am not a little perturbed at the recent passing of the Immigration Act, supported by all the main political parties, which while having the laudable aim of discouraging illegal activity by immigrants whose status as UK residents and citizens has not been finally resolved, has also worsened the plight of “Immigrants in Distress“. This was the title of a conference I organised three years ago to look at this issue. Sadly, I see the situation worsening and some of the responses I had hoped for has not materialised. I applaud organisations that help, like Community and Asylum Seekers Together (CAST) in my own town of Southend, and the work they do. Notably, CAST hosts immigrant families without the wherewithal to pay, who do not qualify for benefits and are not allowed to work.
I am encouraged too at some of the things going on elsewhere in the UK to practically address some of the issues and in challenging circumstances. I admire the action of my friend Dave Smith, founder of the Boaz Trust, an organisation that deals with some of grass roots fall out when foreigners coming into the UK and find themselves in difficult circumstances, sometimes as a result of system that is broken and successive governments that have not acted as they ought, who returned an award because of the shameful way the people, he had been helping that led to him being given the award in the first place, had been treated. I am also warmed by the “2014 Sanctuary Summit Communiqué – The Birmingham Declaration“, signed by many agencies working in the field of helping sanctuary seekers. Regarding its five main points, I am in complete agreement and hope it will lead to a good outcome:
- All asylum seekers, refugees and migrants should be treated with dignity and respect.
- A fair and effective process to decide whether people need protection should be in place.
- No one should be locked up indefinitely.
- No one should be left sick or destitute in our society.
- We should welcome the stranger and help them to integrate.
I commend this declaration to the reader and hope that it will form a basis of dealing with this important but often neglected aspect of the immigration debate and that when the debate hots up, as no doubt it will in the light of the UKIP factor, these matters will be considered.