Joint Statement on the Rights of BN(O) Passport Holders Petition Presented in Parliament
10 July 2019
RAMP Parliamentarians - Kate Green MP, Tim Farron MP and the Bishop of Durham - welcome a petition that Steve Double MP is presenting in the Commons today, regarding the rights of British National (Overseas) Passport Holders.
"Despite the deteriorating state of human rights, rule of law and democracy in Hong Kong over 150,000 British National (Overseas) holders are unable to access British consular assistance in Hong Kong or seek political asylum in the UK.
Most of the BN(O) passport holders who are living, working and studying in the UK are highly educated and skilled professionals. They feel proud of their historic ties with Britain and shared many of our cultural and political values. These are exactly the kind of people that the Government is seeking to attract and retain under a future immigration system. However, unlike citizens of other former British colonies, BN(O) passport holders are British in name only, as their passports are issued without the right of abode in the UK. Many are being turned away the opportunity to remain in the UK and contribute further to our economy and society after their study or work visa expires.
In view of the current political situation in Hong Kong and the obligation that the UK has to monitor, uphold and protect the people of Hong Kong as set out in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, we call on the government to carry out an urgent review of the rights of BN(O) passport holders, addressing the need for these passport holders to access British consular assistances and re-examining the case for BN(O) passport holders to be given better options to remain in the UK.
We applaud the work of campaigners on this issue and support their petition to Parliament, which is to be formally presented in the Commons by Steve Double MP."
Steve Double MP comments on Theresa May's legacy on immigration
8 July 2019
Steve Double MP has said that next Prime Minister should see Brexit "as a genuine opportunity to reset the national conversation on immigration and to revamp our immigration system", commenting in a recent report published by British Future titled "Immigration After May":
“As the longest serving Home Secretary in five decades,Theresa May introduced important changes to modernise and secure our borders as well as streamline our immigration system. However as Prime Minister, Theresa May misjudged the mood of the country by overemphasising the ending of free movement of people in her Brexit negotiations. The approach from 10 Downing Street has come to be one of ‘as long as we stop free movement, people will view that as delivering on the 2016 referendum’. But the notion of ‘control over our borders’ has moved away from a debate around migration to one focussed on the border down the Irish Sea and the integrity of the Union. Regaining sovereignty over our own laws and trade has instead become a more important issue for the British people.
Instead of viewing Brexit as a challenge to be overcome, a future Prime Minister and Home Secretary should consider it as a genuine opportunity to reset the national conversation on immigration and to revamp our immigration system. It is right that as we leave the EU we do take back control of our borders. But having control over our own immigration policy is not the same as stopping immigration. We should be able to manage immigration in a way that suits our own economic and social needs and concerns, while having a compassionate approach to those fleeing war, persecution and oppression.”
Bishop of Durham Speaks at Annual Tripartite Consultation on Resettlement (ATCR) Conference in Geneva
2 July 2019
Bishop Paul Butler has delivered a speech to the UNHCR's ATCR meeting in Geneva, in which he spoke of the importance of valuing and respecting refugees, and highlighted the transformative impact of Community Sponsorship.
Conservative Leadership Candidates: An Immigration Pledge
18 June 2019
British citizenship is of vital importance to debates around the future of our immigration system, local integration, and our national identity. The decisions our next Prime Minister makes around citizenship will shape the kind of country we want to be.
We should be proud that people seek to become British citizens. Those who have played by the rules, who meet the criteria and wish to apply, should be able to do so with a minimum of fuss and inconvenience. At a very minimum this means the next Prime Minister should offer a route to citizenship for EU citizens after Brexit, reform how decisions are made at the Home Office, and look at options to reduce the high visa fees facing some people in the UK.
This is a chance for the UK to be clear about the values that guide us to celebrate the contribution that new Brits make to our national story.
Steve Double MP (Conservative, St Austell and Newquay)
Tim Farron MP (Liberal Democrat, Westmorland and Lonsdale)
Right Rev Paul Butler (Lord Bishop of Durham)
Jill Rutter (British Future)
Ryan Shorthouse (Bright Blue)
James Kirkup (Social Market Foundation)
Mark Littlewood (Institute of Economic Affairs)
David Goodhart (Policy Exchange)
Roland Smith (Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute)
Bishop of Durham responds to Home Secretary's announcement of new resettlement scheme for refugees
17 June 2019
Four years ago, immigration – and the refugee crisis in particular—was one of the most divisive and emotive topics in politics.
Some saw taking in more refugees as a threat to our community cohesion. To many others, the idea of not doing so was seen as a threat to our values and national reputation.
Activists and faith communities were calling for a major commitment, but would they step up and do something? If they did, could the government work effectively with them? Could we find ways to make it work for communities?
Decisions were taken then that mean today we know that we can meet our obligations to refugees, and to our communities.
Through resettlement schemes, ordinary people up and down the country have played a part in welcoming refugees, and they have found these newcomers to be gifts to our communities, not burdens.
New friendships, bonds that will last for generations, have been built. Perhaps as a result, attitudes towards refugees across the UK are changing for the better, and migration is less of a divisive political topic.
Four years ago, the right risks were taken by government, by faith and community leaders, and by ordinary citizens. They have paid off.
And today we heard that we will continue to resettle a similar number of refugees, and that any refugees who came through the Community Sponsorship Scheme would be additional to the number committed by the Government. In making that announcement, the Home Secretary is grasping the opportunity to strengthen our communities, demonstrate our commitment to a moral role in the world, and perhaps even to heal some of the hurts that linger.
Decisions like these are particularly important in times of uncertainty. They anchor our politics and communities in a larger story of what we want the UK to be. If we let them, these moments can act as markers with which we can navigate the polarisation and paralysis that currently abound.
We have seen the impact that resettlement has had on communities over the last four years. The act of welcoming has drawn mosques, synagogues, churches, schools, charities and councils – even bishops and Home Office officials – into relationship. In the words of one Community Sponsor, ‘it took a community to welcome a family, but it also took a family to make a community.’
Through resettling refugees, we seem to be beginning to find answers to some of the deep questions of identity gripping our politics. Today’s commitment offers hope that that work can continue.
It is not all good news. The announcement is only a one-year extension. The programme’s future must be secured. The ‘refugee crisis’ has not disappeared. There remain 65 million people worldwide displaced from home.
We are not able simply to disengage. I hope that once the Comprehensive Spending Review is complete, the UK will be able to cement its place as a global leader in refugee resettlement.
Today offers the opportunity to reflect and celebrate, yes, but it is foremost a call to action. There has been lots of exciting work in the last four years but there is so much more to do: more families to welcome and more communities to make.
That refugees coming through Community Sponsorship are now additional to the resettlement commitment presents a brilliant challenge to civil society. It is now up to each of us to decide how many refugees the UK resettles. Do you think that the UK should be welcoming more refugees? I do too, looks like we need to set up a Community Sponsorship group!
There is also a wider opportunity to apply the lessons learnt resettling those affected by the Syrian conflict to other parts of Government. Transferring these lessons to all refugees that arrive in the UK, is a vital and necessary next step.
What would an asylum system look like that had at its heart the belief that every person is a gift? This is a question that faith communities and others in civil society can help politicians answer. To do so we need to get around the table and be prepared to work with all parts of government. That will mean taking some risks.
It is the beginning of Refugee Week. This year’s theme, ‘you, me and those who came before’ invites us to reflect on the dislocation, journeys and hospitality that have marked our personal, communal and national stories. We will think about the risks that were taken, and rewarded, in welcoming strangers.
The Home Secretary’s announcement prompts us to also look to the future: how you and I will relate to those who will come after.
We are left asking: What risks will we take to offer them welcome?
Bishop of Durham speech at Action Foundation Dinner
14 June 2019
Last Sunday morning I was stood outside a church in County Durham talking with an Iranian woman I had just confirmed. She was doubly excited as a few days before she had received her notification of ‘leave to remain’. Her attitude to the future revealed joy, passion and determination. She told me she loved being a Maths teacher and that now she longs to teach maths here. ‘Even if I have to retrain from scratch and it takes 4 years I will do it. I just love teaching Maths.’ She never stopped smiling as she told me.
She epitomises my regular experience of asylum seekers and refugees. They are consistently people of resilience, determination, skills, a longing to work and to serve. They are people who smile.
I am very grateful to Julian and the team at Action Foundation for inviting me to speak this evening on this 10th anniversary celebration. It is an honour to speak. As you have heard earlier Action Foundation’s work is inspiring, exciting and greatly needed. Their approach is fully rooted in the conviction that every person matters, is to be valued and treated with dignity. It is rooted in love that takes flesh.
How we view people impacts and shapes deeply how we treat them. How we frame situations shapes how we respond to them.
So in my few minutes I want to pose a question about how we frame the question of asylum seekers and refugees. What happens if we view migration as gift that enhances human life? What different words might we start using if we see asylum seekers and refugees as gift rather than problem, threat, curse or hostile?
What words come to mind if we approach migration issues from an attitude of Gift?
Gift and giving in itself speaks of generosity. The clear attitude of the young woman I began with is that she wants to give. She wants to offer her love of maths and skills as a teacher to the well-being of the nation. I think of Ali excitedly telling me of 35 years driving taxis in Damascus without ever having an accident wanting to use this gift on the streets of Newcastle but struggling to be helped to make it happen because he could not read the questions on the theory test, although he did know what all the signs meant.
A generous response to the gift that comes in the asylum seeker and refugee will always be one that recognises them as a fully equal human being deserving of respect and dignity. Generosity of response and welcome will want to offer adequate, even good, housing not begrudgingly finding the cheapest places to rent and cramming houses over fully. Action Foundation’s approach to housing provision shows this approach. Generosity will also certainly attend to the cultural needs of each person. It will recognise cultural and faith traditions and practices with deep respect.
Gift implies generosity.
My last point under generosity also points towards treating every asylum seeker and refugee with individuality. Each one has their own story. Each one comes from their own village or city, within their home country. Each one has their own story of why they decided to flee. Each one has their own journey to tell, often filled with trouble and pain. I was listening, for example, to another Iranian woman this past week tell of her rescue from death in a boat crossing.
Now these stories are often of persecution and abuse, of fear and pain. They regularly tell of traumatic journeys that have included exploitation, violence, and further abuse. Such realities often leave the individuals bashed down and squashed. They often arrive distrustful of authorities, fearful of uniforms and institutions. They are exhausted.
But listen again and these are individuals who have been resourceful, persistent and determined. They have shown adventure, been entrepreneurial and often come loaded with skills, training and abilities of all kinds. These are amongst the most resourceful human beings on the planet. They are amongst those who most want to succeed and to contribute well to the life of a nation that offers them sanctuary, freedom and hope. Surely thus each individual, each family group is a gift. One whose individuality is to be respected and valued.
This being so then my third word is Flourishing. We should want every individual asylum seeker and refugee to flourish as the person they have been created to be.
I readily acknowledge that not everyone who arrives and present themselves as an asylum seeker should be given refugee status. There are those whose claims do not stand up. There are those for whom it is entirely safe for them to return home at the end of the process. But I still think we want them to flourish whilst here so that when they return voluntarily, or even if they have to be deported, they should be in a better place to flourish when they return than when they arrived.
It obviously goes without saying that all who are given refugee status we must want to flourish for that has to be in both their own best interests and that of our society as a whole. The best for refugees is that they are helped to contribute very fully to the life of the nation – and they do. In her summing up of a debate on poverty and inequality in the House of Lords yesterday Baroness Barran reminded the house that she is a daughter of a refugee. Refugees become successful and significant contributors to our whole society.
But this emphasis on flourishing leads me to some very specific points about policy and action that pick up on some of the key factors we found when producing the ‘Refugees Welcome’ report 2 years ago and backed up by the work of others both before and since.
English language is critical to helping people integrate well. It is also a valuable asset in every country in the world. So good access to English language learning from day one of arrival would help all asylum seekers flourish regardless of the final outcome of their claim. Ongoing English language support for refugees once granted status is also key to good long term integration. The best English language education contains both formal education and opportunity for informal, every day conversation. Action Foundation have a great record on English language provision. As a whole we need nationally to significantly improve this provision for all, from day one.
Flourishing also comes through healthy diets and good healthcare, physical and mental. So from the very outset we should ensure that all are adequately provided for with allowances that mean healthy food can be bought. Good access to GPs and wider health services also need to be in place. This includes a longer term recognition that the mental traumas suffered may only emerge at later dates so ongoing mental health support is essential.
Work skills can whither. They need nurturing. There is inevitably need for retraining into a different cultural context. So I believe asylum seekers should be allowed access to work from an early stage. The current ban on work for asylum seekers is entirely counter productive and fails to assist any flourishing. So we should Lift the Ban.
In all these matters if from the outset good healthcare is provided, healthy food is available in adequate to good housing, English language learning is readily available and work is allowed each individual is much more likely to flourish. The short term extra cost is outweighed by the longer term likelihood of each person being a significant contributor to national life.
Anyone who then found themselves returning to their home nation because they are not given refugee status will do so in a far better position to flourish back home.
Everyone granted refugee status will be far more ready to contribute to national life and integrate well immediately their status is granted.
Viewing people as gift must surely lead us to want their lives to be marked by flourishing.
This leads me to my final Gift word; Thankfulness.
When a family arrives here under the current Syrian Resettlement scheme whether they be received through Community Sponsorship or a local authority the event is always marked by thankfulness. There are so many thank yous said by the arriving family, and by the welcoming community. Over the subsequent early days ‘Thanks’ are often spoken. Smiles are the order of the day.
Community Sponsorship groups when they tell their side of the story often speak of how much more thankful they have become for what they realise they have come to take for granted in life. Thankful for clean water; hot running water; schools; homes; peace and security and so much more. There is a recognition of all that we have in our land. But they then often tell after a few weeks and months of welcoming a family how their thankfulness now includes reflections on all that the refugee family has brought to them. There is a reciprocity of gift that is experienced that leads to deep thankfulness. The refugees have often opened peoples eyes to new things, new possibilities and new understandings. Community Sponsorship itself is a gift that has come to us from Canada. It is a different way of welcoming refugees and integrating them into local community life. It is developing slowly. I sincerely hope that before too long the Government will recognise those who arrive this way as ‘additional’ to the agreed number of refugees coming through the VPRS scheme. I hope too they will open it up as a route not simply for Syrian families but also families from other areas of significant conflict.
Where welcome is done well; where refugees are treated with deep respect and dignity; where adequate provision is made from the outset then thankfulness for the gift flows for all involved and concerned.
I obviously approach this whole question from my position as a follower of Jesus Christ who finds himself as a bishop in the Church of England. As such I am in the privileged position of being able to try and impact and shape policy on these matters.
But my primary approach is simply as a follower of Jesus who said that he came to bring life, life in all its fullness. I follow a Jesus who welcomed the outcast and sought to see the poor lifted up and included. I follow the God who I am convinced is the God of the refugee.
This helps me shape this vision of Gift. Life is a gift to be received and enjoyed.
But I believe that looking at asylum seekers and refugees as Gift works as a way of framing all the questions that flow for us all.
It moves us away from hostility, and from problematising to seeing hope and opportunity.
If we see those who arrive in our midst as asylum seekers and refugees as gift then we will treat them with Generosity, and the Individuality they deserve. We will want them to flourish and we will discover a mutual thankfulness.
The spin off, if you like, will help create a society and nation marked out by an attitude to all people marked by generosity, respect for every individual, the flourishing of all and a thankfulness for what we have and who we are. This strikes me as the kind of society that actually we all want. How we respond to and treat the asylum seeker and refugee ultimately tells us just what kind of society we really want to be.
Joint statement on the Immigration White Paper's £30,000 salary threshold
22 May 2019
RAMP Parliamentarians welcome reports that the Home Office could rethink the £30,000 immigration threshold planned for after Brexit:
“The White Paper’s proposed £30,000 threshold has always been a strange measure of what it means to be skilled. We remain concerned about its impact on both the economy and local integration.
The average salary in Cornwall is just under £20,000. In Cumbria it is just over £20,000. If set at £30,000 per annum, thousands of skilled, motivated migrants, especially if the jobs they wanted were outside London and the south-east, wouldn't meet this seemingly arbitrary threshold. Workers in agriculture, tourism and hospitality, care homes, creative arts and even nurses simply would not qualify.
Under this proposal, many communities outside of London would experience immigration almost exclusively in the churn of short-term worker visas, risking social cohesion and polarising attitudes towards migrants.
RAMP is working with the APPG on Migration to find better answers to the questions that the White Paper raises. We continue to call on the Home Secretary to think again.”
The group work together as part of the Resettlement, Asylum and Migration Policy project (RAMP), which seeks to re-imagine a world-class migration system for a successful and integrated Britain.
"Kate Green: Does the public really oppose immigration? It's more complex than that"
24 April 2019
What do voters want? What does the public really think about immigration? Polling from Ipsos Mori shows that, on balance, we’re actually pretty positive about the impact of immigration. The pollsters found that just under half (45%) of people say they are positive about immigration’s impact, substantially more than those who see immigration as negative (31%).
"Brexit may leave thousands of children undocumented"
17 April 2019
Kate Green MP and Tim Loughton MP have tabled an amendment to the Immigration bill which seeks to ensure that no child will be forced from this country, or separated from their parents by immigration enforcement, without first considering their best interests and the impact of that decision. They discuss their amendment in a Red Box article on the Times.
"Kate Green MP and Mike Buckley: How Labour Can - and Must - Change the Conversation on Immigration"
12 April 2019
Labour’s challenge is not only to develop a coherent and viable immigration and integration policy programme, but also to reshape a national narrative that has for too long been dominated by the right.
Open and Ethical: Building a Fairer Immigration System
Kate Green MP and Mike Buckley, Director of Labour for a People's Vote, have co-authored a Fabian Society pamphlet on ideas for a fairer immigration system, with contributions from the Bishop of Durham and Marvin Rees.
David Barclay's speech at the first preparatory meeting for the Global Refugee Forum
29 March 2019
RAMP's Adviser on Inclusion to the Mayor of Bristol recently addressed a meeting convened by the UNHCR's Global Refugee Forum at their head office in Geneva.
“Mr Co-Chair, Distinguished Delegates,
Firstly I’d like to express my sincere gratitude for the opportunity to participate today. In December of last year over 70 cities came together from around the world to endorse the Marrakesh Mayors Declaration. That Declaration represented the culmination of a sustained process of engagement by cities in the development of the Global Compacts, and affirmed cities’ commitment to work together and with the international community to implement the GCR and improve the lives of refugees in our communities. The Declaration focused on 4 action areas to implement the GCR where city leadership creates positive outcomes for refugees:
2) Meeting refugee needs in our communities
3) Inclusion and self-reliance
4) Working together to engage in regional and global partnerships
Working through initiatives such as the Mayors Migration Council and the Global Parliament of Mayors, cities are committed to exploring participation in the pledging process of the Global Refugee Forum. Topics that we propose investigating as part of this include:
1) Work to promote inclusion and refugee self-reliance in our communities, in line with objective 2 of the Compact. This will build on the experience and expertise of many cities. For example in Bristol we have programmes supporting refugees to enter skills-shortage occupations, and to start and grow new businesses, and we are working with our national Government to create a more enabling policy environment for asylum seekers and refugees to access the labour market.
2) Tracking inclusion outcomes for refugees and host communities at the local level, through harmonising metrics and improving data collection and report (in this we are already working with the OECD, Welcoming International and others).
3) Expanding city-to-city co-operation and pursuing partnerships with other stakeholders, including through the recently established Mayors Mechanism of the GFMD
In order to unlock the potential of cities to contribute fully to the realisation of the Compact’s aims, we believe it is crucial for all stakeholders involved in this process to play their part in enabling our participation. This will involve:
1) Supporting a whole-of-Government approach to implementing the GCR – recognising that local ownership in collaboration with host communities and refugees is critical for successful outcomes
2) Recognising cities as formal actors in decision-making processes – including encouraging Member States to include Local Authority representatives in their delegations
3) Supporting cities welcoming and receiving refugees through investment, technical support and capacity building for institutional capacities, infrastructure and accommodation at the local level. This will include facilitating cities’ access to international financing and partnerships to create inclusive services, including private sector partnerships.
4) Facilitating dialogue and good practice sharing between UNHCR, cities and diaspora communities that create local-to-local co-operation.
Ladies and gentlemen, the cities of the world stand ready to play our role in implementing the Global Compact on Refugees, for the benefit of refugees and host communities alike, and we look forward to continuing to work with you all towards this shared goal. Thank you.”
Letter from Baroness Barran, Government Whip in the Lords for the Home Office, to peers that took part in the QSD on Immigration Procedure
11 March 2019
Baroness Barran responds to the points raised by peers, including the Bishop of Durham's comments on the complexity of the current Immigration Rules and concerns regarding faith literacy across the Home Office.
"Kate Green MP: What kind of Global Britain do we want?"
7 March 2019
Discussion about immigration policy so far has mainly focussed on the supply side of the equation — who do we want to have here? But we also need to think about demand, who is it that we need here? Migration is important to keep our country working, helping us to stay on the long-term path to growth and prosperity.
Question for Short Debate in the Lords: Immigration Procedure
14 February 2019
The Bishop of Durham expresses his concerns about the current Immigration Rules and future system as set out by the Government's White Paper as well as the importance of faith literacy in the recent QSD secured by Lord Roberts.
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill Second Reading
28 January 2019
Steve Double MP, Kate Green MP and Tim Farron MP spoke at the much-anticipated second reading of the Immigration Bill which aims to end free movement after Brexit.
"May has misread the mood of the country over free movement. Now is the time to drop hostile rhetoric."
21 January 2019
Steve Double MP discusses the public's attitudes towards immigration and how Theresa May has misread the mood of the country in his article on Conservative Home.
The Bishop of Durham's Presidential Address to Synod
25 November 2018
Bishop Paul gave his presidential address to synod on 24th November 2018 on Migration; the National situation; and the Local Church.
"Kate Green: We should use foreign aid to create work opportunities for refugees"
17 November 2018
We need to think much more creatively about how we use the power of our aid and influence to encourage economic and employment opportunities for Syrian refugees.
Steve Double MP's PMQ on seasonal workers
17 October 2018
During Prime Minister's Questions Steve Double MP commended the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Pilot Scheme and asked if the Prime Minister would consider exploring a similar scheme for the tourism and hospitality sector.
"Tim Farron MP: The Liberal Democrats would take asylum decisions away from the Home Office"
14 September 2018
Tim Farron MP reflects on recent reports that over a dozen asylum seekers have been waiting for more than twenty years for a Home Office decision, during which they couldn’t work, earn or plan for the future.
Westminster Hall Debate: Homelessness among Refugees
17 July 2018
Kate Green MP has secured a debate on homelessness and destitution among refugees and asylum seekers.
"Kate Green: Refugees are at risk of homelessness and destitution in the UK"
17 July 2018
We should be proud to give refuge to those who flee persecution and seek safety here but too many begin their new lives in penury, and the system is to blame, says Kate Green MP.
"Kate Green: To celebrate the NHS, let's recognise the contributions of migrants"
6 July 2018
From offering a welcome to the first resettled Syrian family in England to being home to the first English football team to win the treble, there’s much to be proud of in my constituency – not least our place in history as the birthplace of the NHS.
"Refugee Week: 'Different Pasts, Shared Future'"
20 June 2018
Part four of Theos Think Tank's blog series to Refugee Week, by the Bishop of Durham, on the potential of Community Sponsorship of refugees.
"Kate Green: Asylum seekers should be given the right to work"
20 June 2018
The time is ripe to make the case that asylum seekers should be granted the right to work.
"Tim Farron: The Tories are breaking their promises to protect child refugees."
14 June 2018
Britain has a proud history of taking in those fleeing war and persecution. But we are falling behind on our responsibilities.
"The Uncertainty Hanging Over Windrush Families Is Unacceptable."
Steve Double MP, Kate Green MP and Tim Farron MP have published a joint article on the Huffington Post in response to news about the treatment of the Windrush Generation.
16 April 2018
Westminster Hall Debate: Minors entering the UK - 1948 to 1971
30 April 2018
Steve Double MP leads a debate in Parliament about the status of the Windrush Generation and their right to remain, work and access services in the UK.
"Lessons from Windrush"
30 April 2018
In his latest article Steve Double MP examines the lessons that the Government should learn from the Windrush Scandal.
"We defeated the govt over child refugees - now they should back down."
19 March 2018
Tim Farron MP comments on the passage of the Refugee and Asylum (Family Reunion) bill on Friday in this Politics.co.uk article.