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Letter to the Editor:  Stroud District Council condemns government’s asylum plans

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Dear Editor,

Stroud District Council is to write to the government condemning the Illegal Migration Bill for breaching fundamental tenets of international human rights law and attacking the right of asylum seekers to claim refuge in the UK.

This follows the passing of a motion on Thursday, April 27) full council meeting that called for the Bill to be withdrawn. The motion, proposed by Cllr Doina Cornell (Community Independent, Dursley) and seconded by Cllr Steve Hynd (Green, The Stanleys), was passed by a vote of 24 to 9 with one abstention.

The motion was supported by all Community Independent, Green, Independent Left, Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors.

Cllr Cornell said afterwards: “Tens of millions of people have been forcibly displaced across the world, many fleeing war and persecution. The UK is home to only about 1% of them, and our Council works with other Gloucestershire councils and GARAS (Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) to support asylum-seekers and refugees.

“But there are currently no safe routes to the UK for many refugees – some of whom have family members in our local communities – and the abhorrent new Illegal Migration Bill would see them detained or left destitute or in limbo indefinitely, without the right to work. It would also remove vital protections for women and children, and victims of trafficking. This is heartless and illegal.”

Speaking during the debate, Cllr Hynd said: “I’m proud of how we as a council seek to support the most vulnerable in our society and I think it only right that we also use our standing and our voice to advocate against measures we know will undermine this work”.

He continued: “This isn’t just a practical imperative but a profound moral and ethical duty as well. If we as a council and a society turn our back on the support asylum seekers need …then we turn also turn our backs on the foundations of compassion and decency that our society is built upon.”           

The proposed legislation would be an effective ban on the fundamental right to claim asylum, he added.

In 2019, SDC joined the Lift the Ban Coalition, calling on the Government to change the law to give people seeking asylum the ability to seek work. The Council also committed to support asylum seekers in Stroud District, including providing education and training to enable them to better integrate into the District and play an active role in the success of the local economy.

The councillors who voted for the resolution are the latest in hundreds across the country from more than 50 councils who have signed an open letter from the Migrants Champion Network opposing the Bill.

The letter claims the government is recklessly endangering people’s lives by placing them in unsafe accommodation – while lining the pockets of private companies that treat them as commodities.

Sue Fenton

Stroud District Green Party

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