Migration and Refugees
Sheffield is home to people who owe their origins to more than 120 countries, speaking over 160 languages, who have enriched our city enormously. Many came here to work in our factories, hospitals and many other vital roles. Others fled war and persecution and found sanctuary in our city. Many more have come to study, contributing hugely to the Sheffield economy.
I have therefore taken up a lot of migration and refugee issues in Parliament. I was a member of the Public Bill Committee scrutinising the Government’s 2019 Immigration Bill, which you can read more about here, and I served on Public Bill Committee for the previous Immigration Bill too, which you can read more about here. On these committees, I challenged the Government’s approach to creating a ‘hostile environment’, sought to better protect EU Citizens’ Rights, challenged immigration detention, raised concerns about how the immigration system makes migrant workers vulnerable to exploitation, and more.
I raise many issues with the Home Office on behalf of constituents, both individual problems and policy issues, such as their failure to support trafficking victims, opposing their outsourcing of vital services, and treatment of Zimbabwean asylum seekers, on which I challenged their failure to respond properly to my concerns.
Calling for immigration policies that make economic sense
Immigration has enriched our country economically and socially. It also presents challenges, which too many on the right of politics are quick to exploit. We need a positive approach to immigration which is fair, makes economic sense and supports communities.
It makes no sense, for example, that our universities have been losing out because of immigration policies affecting student recruitment, whilst other countries benefit from the boost to their economies that international students bring. I have long campaigned for change with recent success (read more here).
We must also tackle the scourge of modern slavery and make sure our economy is not based on exploitative employment practices. I was a founding trustee of the charity Focus on Labour Exploitation and was heavily involved with scrutinising the Government’s Modern Slavery Act; you can read some of my speeches on it here, here and here. More recently I have challenged the Government on ensuring that the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner can be truly independent.
Our immigration system must be fair, humane and effective, but whilst people can be held in immigration detention indefinitely, I don’t believe it will be. I was Vice Chair of a cross-party Parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention that called for a 28-day time limit on immigration detention as more humane, more effective and less expensive. I led a debate in the House of Commons where the report’s recommendations were approved, and continued to press the issue in the most recent Immigration Bill Committee, on which I served. I was honoured to be made a Detention Forum Champion for my work on the issue, about which I’ve also written in the Guardian (here), and I’m a Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Immigration Detention.
Challenging policies that divide families
The Government’s restrictive family migration rules cause hardship and suffering for British citizens trying to bring their spouses to the UK, and I have challenged the Government on this issue. The APPG on Migration, of which I was previously Chair, launched an inquiry into spousal visas and recommended the Government review its rules. I’ve also backed a Bill on Family Reunion for Refugees and pressed the Government on this issue. When the Government removed the ‘Dubs Amendment’ from the EU Withdrawal Bill, as Shadow Brexit Minister I made sure that this was one of the aspects of the Bill which we challenged, though sadly the Government insisted on removing the commitment to unaccompanied child asylum seekers from the Bill.
Ensuring we live up to our humanitarian obligations
Britain has a strong history of welcoming people fleeing persecution. I’m proud that Sheffield was the UK’s first City of Sanctuary and was pleased to open ‘The Sanctuary’ in Sheffield. I have repeatedly called on the Government to provide more safe and legal routes for people to reach safety and have written about how we need a European solution to the refugee crisis. I organised an appeal for Syrian refugees that raised almost £7000 and work closely with the anti-destitution charity Assist. When the 2018 Immigration White Paper was published, I challenged the Government on their failure to include anything to improve the way we receive and treat refugees. After learning about the lack of a guarantee for funding for refugee integration in the case of a ’no deal’ Brexit, I raised it with the Government and secured reassurances that the funding would be continued.
These are just some of the issues I’ve taken up. Please get in touch if you want to know about my work on an issue that isn’t mentioned here.