“Our responsibility for justice and liberty cannot be confined by national boundaries; we are committed to fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur and to promote the free movement of ideas, people, goods and services.”— Liberal Democrat Constitution
An Outward-Looking Party
The Liberal Democrats are a pro-immigration, and pro-immigrant party. We believe that immigration fundamentally benefits the UK, as well as bringing benefits to the people who choose to move here to build a better life for themselves. Whether people come to the UK fleeing persecution, or to be with the person they love, or to work and contribute to society, we believe they should be welcomed. The party constitution states “Our responsibility for justice and liberty cannot be confined by national boundaries; we are committed to fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur and to promote the free movement of ideas, people, goods and services.”
With that in mind, the party has a position which, while recognising that some border controls are currently necessary, goes a long way to putting those ideals into practice.
The Liberal Democrats are committed to remaining in the European Union. If — despite our best efforts — the current Conservative Government succeeds in taking the UK out of the EU, we will continue to advocate for the closest possible relationship with the EU, including membership of the Single Market.
As part of that membership, we fully support the free movement of people between the independent states within the Single Market, and we are committed to ensuring that EU citizens continue to be able to enjoy that liberty — and that UK citizens do as well. We are utterly opposed to any attempts to water down EU citizens’ rights in the aftermath of leaving the EU. The Lib Dems will do everything we can to avoid Theresa May causing a second Windrush scandal to go with her first.
The Lib Dems believe that every UK resident should have a path open to citizenship, should they choose to pursue it. We want to ensure that if you have made the UK your home, you have the right to have a say in how the country is run. For that reason, it is Lib Dem policy to scrap the extortionate fees currently charged by the Home Office for naturalisation, and only to charge the cost of administration.
Successive Labour and Conservative governments have increased these fees to the point that it now costs well over five thousand pounds in total for a new immigrant from outside the EU to move here and become a citizen. We believe there is no possible justification for this, and that the system that we had in the 1990s, when applicants were only charged the cost of administration, is the fairest system. Under that system, the cost was around a hundred pounds, rather than five thousand, and it is possible that with the efficiencies of modern technology, the cost could be significantly lower than that.
The Home Office
The Home Office has become unfit for purpose. It is institutionally racist, inhumane, and has such an anti-immigrant culture that it is incapable of reform. Liberal Democrats would take powers relating to immigration away from the Home Office.
Some of these functions would be handed to more appropriate departments — so, for example, decisions on work visas would be made by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, while the Department for Education would deal with educational visas and the Department for International Development with refugees. Other functions currently performed by the Home Office would be scrapped altogether.
By taking immigration out of the hands of the Home Office, the Liberal Democrats would end the culture of hostility to immigrants that led to Theresa May’s “Go Home” vans and the Windrush scandal.
Liberal Democrats believe that love is love, and is not confined by borders. Currently, if a British person wishes to marry a non-EU immigrant and live here with them, the British person has to be earning at least £18,600 a year (though following a Supreme Court judgment some other income sources can be taken into account). Much higher thresholds must be reached if children are present.
And if the couple then loses their income — even through illness or disability — in the first five years of marriage, their spouse may be deported. This is quite simply obscene. Under Lib Dem plans, we would return to the system we had until the late 1990s, with no minimum income requirement. We do not believe that love should be a privilege for the rich and abled.
We would also introduce an equivalent of the US DREAM act, which would allow people brought to the UK as children, but who have an irregular immigration status, to regularise that status and gain legal residence.
One of our proudest achievements in Government as Liberal Democrats was ending the immigration detention of children, but far too many adults are still detained for supposed immigration offences (real or imagined). Unfortunately, as long as laws around immigration exist at all, it will be necessary to enforce them. But Lib Dems will move to a system of “detention as a last resort”, rather than, as it appears to be at the moment, the first resort. We will close eight of the ten detention centres currently in use, replacing them with community-based alternatives which allow people to remain in their communities while going through the appeals process. We will ensure vulnerable people, such as pregnant women and those who have mental health problems or been subject to torture, are not detained, that no one is detained more than 72 hours without judicial oversight, and that no one is detained longer than 28 days in any circumstances.
The Liberal Democrats are proudly in favour of LGBT+ rights, and are proud that the Liberal Democrats in Government introduced same-sex marriage. We believe that if you are under threat in your home country, due to your sexuality or your gender identity, you should be able to come to the UK and know that you will be free and protected here.
The Conservative Government disagrees. The asylum system is riddled with humiliating, unfairly intrusive elements that Conservative Ministers continue to defend. For LGBT+ applicants, there is a culture of disbelief about their sexuality, requiring applicants to make public social media postings of a personal sexual nature, screen capture dating apps, and produce submissions by sexual partners; there is also evidence that highly traumatised individuals, including survivors of child sexual abuse, have been refused due to suppressed emotional responses, with no reference to any of the extensive knowledge base in the area.
A Liberal Democrat Government would offer asylum to people fleeing countries where their sexual orientation or gender identification means that they risk family-based hate-related domestic abuse, honour-based violence, imprisonment, torture or execution, and stop removing people at risk of any of these to such countries. It would also abolish the horrific current practice in which officials presume that asylum applicants are lying about their sexuality or gender — Lib Dems believe LGBT+ people.
Data Protection And Privacy
We live in a world in which people are increasingly at risk of having their personal data misused, and every day sees another horror story about someone’s privacy being invaded. Every day we all generate mountains of data, and most of us expect to have that data kept private. Yet the Conservative Government’s ironically-named Data Protection Act 2018 says that immigrants, unlike British citizens, do not have that right to privacy — and that even British citizens’ right to privacy can be overruled in the interests of immigration law. Liberal Democrats would get rid of this exemption, and ensure that everyone in Britain has the right not to have their data misused.
Liberal Democrats believe that integration goes both ways, and so we have proposals both to help immigrants integrate into British society and to help British-born citizens become more able to live side-by-side with people from other cultures. We would establish a national strategy to fund the teaching of English as a second or other language, but we would also introduce a “migrants’ language strategy”, enabling English speakers to learn the languages of immigrant communities in their area and take more advantage of the benefits that multiculturalism brings.
The Liberal Democrats would end the “hostile environment” policy brought in by Theresa May. We will replace it with an assumption of a right to work until proved otherwise — if the Government believes an individual does not have the right to work in the UK, it should be the responsibility of the Government to prove this, not of the individual to prove otherwise.
The Liberal Democrats are resolutely opposed to people-trafficking and modern-day slavery. While a more humane immigration policy will go some way to eradicating this in itself, there will always be individuals brought here under false pretences or duress, afraid to speak out against their kidnappers for fear of reprisal. The Liberal Democrats are committed to supporting these victims, and to ensuring their safety, and that they need not fear deportation if they come forward.