Next stop: Liberal Democrats - Refugee Council
September 25, 2009

Next stop: Liberal Democrats

By Jonathan, Policy and Development team

On Sunday evening we held our fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat conference, on the theme of communicating asylum in the General Election. The day had started badly for me when I had been handing out leaflets inside the conference centre, and was accosted by a steward who asked me to leave the building and leaflet outside. But all the delegates were by then inside the building! Would anyone show up? But just as we started the event, delegates began to stream in.

The star of the show was undoubtedly one of our volunteers who has been seeking asylum since 2003. He gave a powerful personal testimony describing why he had to leave his own country; he caught the first available flight which happened to be to the UK, was detained twice, forced to live on supermarket vouchers and denied the right to work.

The meeting also heard from Donna our chief executive who argued that asylum must be seen as an important and distinctive element in the wider debate on migration. She also referred to our ‘tell it like it is’ leaflet and the importance of promoting the key facts on asylum in the midst of so many myths.

We then heard from Fiyaz Mughal, who is adviser to the Liberal Democrat leader on Interfaith and Tackling Radicalism and Extremism. He also made a powerful speech and was particularly keen to make the link between foreign policy and asylum policy.

In the discussion that followed the speeches, there was a constant theme of the need for politicians to show leadership on this issue and to speak up for asylum seekers and refugees. I left the meeting feeling energised at the passion and support that there was in the room on this issue. Now onto Brighton for the Labour conference, where Shahid Malik MP, Minister for Communities and Local Government is speaking at our event on the links between asylum policy and community cohesion.