Unions and celebrities launch campaign for a new, more caring refugee scheme

Only one in four Tory voters think the government’s approach to the asylum system is working well

Gary Lineker

Influential figures including Gary Lineker and actor Brian Cox, along with trade unions, are calling on MPs to scrap the Rwanda deportation scheme, slamming the government’s ‘badly managed, uncaring and costly’ current refugee policies.

The Fair Begins Here campaign was launched today with an open letter to politicians, demanding their commitment to a fair new plan for refugees. This includes ditching the latest revised Rwanda Bill which MPs are set to vote on Tuesday.

Backing the campaign are BMA, UNISON, PCS and National Association of Head Teachers union, along with actress Sophie Okonedo, rapper Big Zuu, General Lord Richard Dannatt as well as prominent faith leaders and human rights campaigner.

The campaign coalition Together for Refugees also released an exclusive poll which revealed that 80% of the British public want a fair, compassionate and better managed approach to the asylum system, with only one in four Conservative voters thinking the government’s current plan is working well.

With a backlog of more than 109,000 asylum cases, over 55,000 people still living in temporary hotel rooms and charities warning of soaring numbers of refugees being made homeless this winter, the current system is clearly failing.

Succession actor Brian Cox who signed the letter said the UK’s asylum system was “in a shambles” and that a “total rethink” of the system was needed.

“Not least with the government’s continued attempts to push through the awful scheme to send people to Rwanda.” Cox said. “We need a total rethink. Political leaders must create a system that is not just properly managed but is fair and has compassion at its heart.”

Former footballer and TV presenter Gary Lineker has previously used his platform to speak out against the government’s hostile environment to asylum seekers.

Speaking on the Fair Begins Here campaign, Lineker said: “Refugees have escaped unthinkable horrors in their home countries. We need a new system that reflects the will of the British people who have opened their homes, donated and volunteered in their local communities.”

Campaign demands include, ensuring protection for people fleeing war and persecution by upholding international law and scrapping the Rwanda scheme. Providing a proper strategy for welcoming and integrating refugees through the application process, for example by allowing them to work and learn English. Forging stronger global cooperation in order to tackle the root causes forcing people to seek asylum, and providing safe routes of travel.  

The letter reads: “Britain’s refugee system has become ever-more uncaring, chaotic and costly.

“These policies aren’t working for refugees and they aren’t working for local communities. That’s why we have come together to say we’ve had enough. Enough of the division. Enough of the short-term thinking. Enough of the wasted human potential. And it’s why we now call for something better.”

“Given the chance, we know communities across our country go the extra mile to welcome refugees – opening their homes, volunteering, speaking up, donating.  And, given the chance, refugees do so much to enrich our society as they build new lives.”

Image credit: Flickr

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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