LIBDEMS: The importance of safe and legal routes for people seeking asylum

By Lucy Ashton

LibDem MP Wendy Chamberlain has today called on the government to bring forward plans for safe and legal routes for asylum seekers to come to the UK in order to combat people-trafficking. It comes after she this week joined an open letter opposing the Illegal Migration Bill.

Questioning Attorney General Victoria Prentis today, Ms Chamberlain said that prosecuting people traffickers was one way of tackling the problem, but also highlighted the importance of safe and legal routes for people seeking asylum.

On Tuesday, a joint letter of more than sixty NGOs, academics, and MPs, including Ms Chamberlain, was sent to the Prime Minister, expressing opposition to the Illegal Migration Bill.

Organised by the modern slavery research group After Exploitation, the letter said that the legislation would ‘cost lives’ and ‘inflict harm on survivors of modern slavery and other human rights abuses’.

The signatories also criticised the Bill’s ‘attempts to rob people fleeing danger from having an asylum claim processed’, and the lack of blanket safeguards against the detention of women, children, and people who are pregnant or have serious mental or physical illnesses.

Speaking in the Commons chamber, Wendy Chamberlain, right,  said: “Increasing prosecution rates is an important way of tackling people-trafficking, but another way is ensuring safe and legal routes for people seeking asylum.

“As co-chair for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on [Afghan] Women and Girls, we’ve already written to the government looking for support for those very vulnerable groups. Does she accept that her assessment to the government on the Illegal Migration Bill might be better if safe and legal routes were progressed at the same time?”

She later added: “The UK should be proud of international agreements which protect the most vulnerable and in which it played a part in bringing about, but the Conservative government seems intent on trashing that legacy. The majority of asylum seekers around the world remain in the countries neighbouring those they’ve fled. The UK also receives significantly lower numbers of asylum applications than France, Germany and other countries in Europe.

“The government claims that its Illegal Migration Bill is a humanitarian measure but the reality is that it will make problems such as modern slavery worse. It will see people with a legitimate claim to protection put into detention, including children.

“Earlier this month I raised the case of Torpiki Amrakhil, an Afghan journalist, who drowned in Italian waters on the way to Europe, fleeing oppression under the Taliban. It is scandalous that the government still hasn’t brought in a specific route for women and girls fleeing a country.”

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