Party leaders agree on importance of refugee protection - Refugee Council
April 22, 2010

Party leaders agree on importance of refugee protection

Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders sign up to asylum election pledge

Today Liberty, the Refugee Council and the Scottish Refugee Council announced that Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and hundreds of other parliamentary candidates have signed up to the organisations’ asylum election pledge. In advance of the second prime ministerial debate (focusing on foreign policy), the party leaders have agreed to ‘never play fast and loose with the proud tradition of a nation that must always offer succour to those in genuine fear of persecution’.

Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:

“People seeking asylum have fled war, torture and persecution and come to the UK to seek safety. In this election, the right to asylum must be defended, so we are delighted the main party leaders have pledged to ensure a balanced debate on immigration and asylum policy, and to honour Britain’s history as a place of refuge for the persecuted.”

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said:

“It is very good news that even in the heat of election battle, all three leaders have promised to honour the importance of refugee protection. No one should underestimate the ocean of common decency in Britain and we intend to hold our politicians to this proud tradition.”

John Wilkes, Chief Executive of Scottish Refugee Council said:

“We are acutely aware of the importance of leadership when setting the tone of the debate around refugee and asylum policy. Asylum should have nothing to do with race – it is about providing safety to people who need it. Getting this debate wrong can have a direct and serious impact on the lives of people we work with every day.”

In addition to the main party leaders, almost 600 parliamentary candidates up and down the country have signed the pledge which will be open until May 6th. Elfyn Llwyd, parliamentary group leader of Plaid Cymru, and Alex Salmond, leader of SNP, have also signed the pledge.

The UK is a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which guarantees any person who is not safe in their own country the right to claim asylum elsewhere. The convention has saved millions of lives, and no country has ever withdrawn from it. The UK is home to less than 2% of the world’s refugees, out of 16 million worldwide, with 80% living in developing countries.