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 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. Therefore, I have always taken up a lot of migration and refugee issues in Parliament and will continue to do so.
Fair and sensible migration policies
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.
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 questioned Boris Johnson on the ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule at PMQs after his comments to Select Committee Chairs, in which he didn’t appear to understand the issue and followed up with a letter to him.
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. I also pressed the Government for the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner to 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.
Living up to our humanitarian obligations
I am deeply concerned about the Nationality and Borders Bill which I spoke against in Parliament and have repeatedly called on the Government to provide more safe and legal routes for people seeking refuge. I pressed Priti Patel on the issue when she announced her “New Plan for Immigration” which forms the basis for the Bill.
I previously challenged the Government on their failure to include anything to improve the way we receive and treat refugees in the 2018 Immigration White Paper. After learning from local groups 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.
Alongside my work in Parliament, I have tried to provide practical support, for example organising an appeal for Syrian refugees that raised almost £7000, and work closely with local groups like Assist.
As a Shadow Brexit Minister I pressed over four years for the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU, and set out many of the concerns over the Settled Status Scheme in this letter to the then Brexit Secretary.
I pressed the Government on the roll back of citizens’ rights which involved a power to revoke the settled status of EU citizens. I also wrote to the then Minister Brandon Lewis about his claim that EU citizens who do not apply for settled status could face deportation.
More recently I secured an Urgent Question, bringing the Immigration Minister to Parliament to answer questions on the EU Settlement Scheme, on the day before applications for the scheme closed – in which I highlighted problems and pressed for an extension to the deadline – and I am continuing to monitor the scheme.
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.