The NHS can’t recruit the doctors and nurses it needs. Families are separated by complex visa requirements. People without documents are denied access to healthcare and housing. Decades of incompetence and cruelty by Labour and Tory Home Secretaries has shattered confidence in the system.
The Liberal Democrats demand better. We demand a more effective and compassionate immigration system. A system that works for our economy and treats migrants and asylum seekers with dignity.
To build that system, here are the ten key policies we are calling for in the forthcoming Immigration Bill:
1. End the hostile environment
Theresa May’s hostile environment has turned landlords, NHS workers and even teachers into border guards, and seen countless people – including members of the Windrush generation – wrongfully deprived of their rights. It must end.
2. Scrap the net migration target
The Tories’ net migration target is arbitrary and damaging, driving the Home Office to ever-crueller attempts to bring down numbers. It’s also counterproductive. Far from alleviating public concerns, the Tories’ failure to meet their target over the past eight years has only fuelled them.
3. Take powers away from the Home Office
Scandal after scandal proves that the Home Office is not fit for purpose. We are calling for policymaking on work permits, student visas and asylum to be given to the Departments for Business, Education and International Development respectively. A new arms-length, non-political agency should take over processing applications, with the training and resources to make decisions quickly and fairly.
4. Reform skilled-worker visas
We want to replace the current Tier-based visa system with a merit-based system, similar to Canada’s, which would be more flexible and better serve the UK economy. At the very least, the Government must scrap the cap on the number of Tier 2 visas and lower the income threshold for jobs to qualify as ‘skilled’ from £30,000.
5. Limit detention to 28 days
Locking people up for months on end – without giving them any idea how long they’ll be detained – is clearly inhumane. It’s also expensive and unnecessary. That’s why we are campaigning alongside Liberty, Detention Action and others for a 28-day time limit on immigration detention.
6. Invest in an accountable Border Force
Restoring confidence in the immigration system and helping victims of trafficking requires the Government to secure our borders. That means reversing Theresa May’s cuts to Britain’s Border Force and investing in an effective, accountable Border Force to prevent people from entering the country illegally, fight organised crime and combat modern slavery.
7. Complete the exit checks system
In government, Liberal Democrats re-introduced exit checks at the border, after Labour had abandoned them, so that we can record who leaves the UK and when. These checks must be developed fully, so the Border Force can quickly and accurately identify people who overstay their visas.
8. Lift the ban on asylum seekers working
Labour and Tory governments have banned asylum seekers from working, even if their applications drag on for many months. We support the ‘Lift the Ban’ campaign to allow asylum seekers to work. This would give them a sense of dignity and more money, as well as enabling them to contribute to the Exchequer and saving taxpayers money.
9. Cut citizenship fees for children
The Tories have raised the fee for registering a child as a British citizen to £1,012 – even though processing an application costs just £372. This prevents many children who are entitled to British citizenship from applying. The Liberal Democrats, Amnesty International and Citizens UK are all campaigning for fees for children to be reduced to the cost of administration.
10. Reunite refugee families
Refugees who have been separated by their family should be able to be reunited with them here in the UK. Currently, an adult refugee can only sponsor their partner and children under 18 to join them. This right should be expanded to allow older children to join their parents, siblings to be reunited, and child refugees to sponsor their parents.