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Rwandan ‘Cash for Refugees’

Last week, I signed a joint letter to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, urging him to cancel plans over the coming weeks to deport over 100 Asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda.

The proposed deportations are a threat both to the individuals concerned, and to the principles of the Refugee Convention.

The full text of the letter:

Re: Refugee deportation flight to Rwanda scheduled 14 June

Dear Prime Minister,

We write to urge you to cancel the planned deportation of at least one hundred people who have sought sanctuary in the UK to Rwanda in the coming weeks, including flights scheduled imminently for 14 June. We write on behalf of our constituents, many of whom have expressed their opposition to the deportation agreement with the Rwandan Government, and in defence of the international principles of refugee protection, which the UK has a moral and legal duty to uphold.

We share the concerns of expert groups, the UN Refugee Agency, and people across the four nations that the proposed deportations represent both a serious risk to the individuals concerned, and a wider threat to the safeguarding of the Refugee Convention. If the United Kingdom is seen to shirk responsibility for assessing the claims of asylum seekers presenting themselves on our shores in a tawdry ‘cash for refugees’ deal with an economically poorer country, there is the potential to fatally undermine refugee protection on an international scale. Refugees must be offered protection on the basis of need, not on their method of escape from danger.

Many, if not most, of the people crossing the Channel on small boats are refugees seeking protection, to which they are legally entitled. They enter the UK through such dangerous means only because we have failed to offer adequate safe modes of travel. All too often, our asylum system is practically inaccessible, even to people who are escaping real danger.

Several of the people who have been served with notice of their removal to Rwanda on June 14th are survivors of torture, trafficking, and other human rights violations. Some have family members settled in the UK with whom they are desperate to be reunited. Some may not have been able to avail themselves of adequate legal advice and representation. Others may be children.

There is scant evidence that the UK’s deportation deal with the Rwandan government will be effective in preventing people from attempting to reach safety in the UK in the future. There is, however, very clear evidence of the significant harm it will cause to the individuals faced with imminent expulsion thousands of miles from their support networks.

It is not too late to take control of the issue of unregulated migration into the UK through means that respect international human rights law, and the basic principles of dignity and humanity. We implore you to withdraw from the deportation deal with the Rwandan government, and cancel the flights scheduled for 14th June.

Yours sincerely,

Caroline Lucas MP, Ed Davey MP, Hannah Bardell MP, Deidre Brock MP, Alan Brown MP, Amy Callaghan MP, Wendy Chamberlain MP, Joanna Cherry QC MP, Daisy Cooper MP, Dave Doogan MP, Allan Dorans MP, Tim Farron MP, Stephen Farry MP, Marion Fellows MP, Patrick Grady MP, Sarah Green MP, Wera Hobhouse MP, Chris Law MP, Clive Lewis MP, Rachael Maskell MP, Layla Moran MP, Sarah Olney MP, Stuart McDonald MP, Stewart McDonald MP, Anne McLaughlin MP, Gavin Newlands MP, Brendan O’Hara MP, Tommy Sheppard MP, Paul Sweeney MSP, Alison Thewliss MP, Richard Thomson MP, Dr Philippa Whitford MP, Nadia Whittome MP, Munira Wilson MP

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Backlog in Passport Applications

I have written to the Minister for Safe and Legal Migration regarding the backlog in processing British Passports.

We need commitments from the UK Government to ensuring that:

  1. Passport applications are processed quicker,
  2. More call handlers are employed to cope with the volume of calls being made,
  3. People are refunded their passport application fee where non-delivery of their passport has resulted in holidays being cancelled.

The full text of the letter:

We, the undersigned write in relation to the backlog in processing British Passports. Members of Parliament are being inundated with complaints from constituents regarding the delays in processing their passport applications. This has resulted in many families losing out on hundreds or thousands of pounds as holidays must be cancelled.

Director General of HM Passport Office, Abi Tierney has advised that applicants must allow ‘up to’ ten weeks to apply for passports, but many constituents are reporting that passports are failing to arrive before departure dates despite being submitted more than ten weeks previously.

Applicants have also reported they have cancelled their online application when deadlines are nearing and made appointments at local offices for the fast-track service only to be turned away as HMPO has failed to cancel the online application when requested by the applicant.

Others report that despite paying for fast-track services these are failing to deliver on time.

Assistance is not being provided where HMPO has been guilty of process errors, failing to record supporting documentation and on occasions terminating applications in error.

Applicants also report that assistance is not being provided because helplines are uncontactable with some waiting 2 hours and more before being cut off.

This is also the case with the MP hotlines. MPs and staff are reporting being held in a queue for an hour before being forced to terminate their call as they are not moving up the queue.

We call on the UK Government to act urgently to ensure British Passport applications are being processed much more quickly. Additionally, we request more call handlers are employed to cope with the volume of calls being made to both the general public and MPs’ lines.

Furthermore, we call on the UK Government to ensure that every application fee paid for non-delivery of passports which have resulted in holidays being cancelled are refunded immediately.

Yours sincerely
Marion Fellows MP

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The Rights and Safety of Disabled People in Ukraine

Last week, I wrote to the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, regarding growing concerns for the rights and safety of disabled people in Ukraine.

I received a response from the Foreign Office that failed to mention disabled people once.

We need concrete commitments from the UK Government to protect disabled people’s rights on the ground now.

The full text of the letter:

Dear Liz,

Re: Disabled people’s rights and safety in Ukraine

We, the undersigned write in relation to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and the continued concern for disabled people’s rights and safety.

The European Disability Forum has estimated that 2.7 million disabled people currently live in Ukraine. Disabled people are disproportionately impacted by war and emergency situations. Factors such as access to medication, accessible transport and infrastructure, care, equipment and mobility aids create barriers for disabled people to seek refuge, safety or evacuate through the same means as non-disabled people.

The Regional Governor in Kyiv, Oleksei Kuleba, raised concerns about the evacuation of people from hospitals, particularly those with additional needs or requiring essential access to medication, following Russian forces seizing a psychiatric hospital in Borodyanka on the 5th of March. Following the most recent air strike on a hospital in Mariupol on the 9th of March, we are deeply concerned that disabled people or people with long term health conditions are not getting equal access to safety, shelter and support during this crisis. The European Disability Forum has also reported that shelters in Kyiv are inaccessible for many disabled people, preventing people from finding safety.

Despite being disproportionately impacted by humanitarian crises, disabled people are also often excluded from aid programmes that are inaccessible or not targeting disabled people’s needs. Given the scale of this humanitarian crisis, assurance is needed that disabled people in Ukraine have full access to humanitarian aid and accessible information is being provided to ensure disabled people are directed towards the latest safety, aid support and evacuation advice on the ground.

We call on the UK Government to ensure the protection of disabled people’s rights in Ukraine, as stated in Article 11 of the UNCRPD, and the accessibility of humanitarian aid provided in Ukraine. Disabled people are too often abandoned or merely an afterthought in evacuation and safety plans during conflict. It is essential that disabled people have equal access to safety, shelter and support. Disabled people and their representative organisations must be consulted to ensure equal protection and safety for all in Ukraine.

Yours sincerely

Marion Fellows MP

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February Newsletter

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January Newsletter

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Holocaust Memorial Day

I was grateful to speak in what was a very moving debate for Holocaust Memorial Day yesterday.

We can never forget what happened and what is still happening across the world. Solidarity with those persecuted and denied basic human rights because of who they are across the world .

I also had the opportunity to sign the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment.

Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity for people from across Motherwell and Wishaw to reflect on the darkest times of European history. As the Holocaust moves from living history, to history, it becomes ever more important that we take the time to remember the six million Jewish victims and also pay tribute to the survivors.