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Lib Dems set to call for UK’s refugees intake to rise to 10,000 applicants a year

Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey arriving at BBC Broadcasting House in central London - Credit: PA

The Liberal Democrats are pushing ahead with a pledge to overhaul the UK’s asylum seeker laws and boost refugee intake numbers at this weekend’s party conference.

Members will be asked to vote on boosting the UK’s refugee intake to 10,000 applicants a year and strengthen family reunion rights.


A motion being brought forward by former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron and Alistair Carmichael will also condemn the settlement of asylum seekers at Napier and Penally Barracks as a “breach [of] the UK’s refugee and human rights obligations”.

A total of 13 MPs are set to vote on the policy shift during this weekend’s Spring party conference, which will take place via video link.

This comes as the government is yet to confirm funding for a new “global resettlement scheme” aimed at replacing the programme it closed in March last year following a steep decline in the number of refugees being resettled in the UK.

Immigration statistics from the Home Office show that only 823 refugees were settled in Britain last year compared to 5,612 in 2019, while the number granted asylum in 2020 fell by more than 5,000.

Downing Street also scrapped the Dubs Scheme to relocate and support unaccompanied refugee children in Europe after only housing 480 children from its target of 10,000.

Carmichael, the Lib Dems spokesperson for Home Affairs, said: “Vulnerable people fleeing danger come to Britain seeking safety, but are met with a cold and callous response from our government. 

“The uncertainty and neglect this government inflicts on these desperate human beings is cruel.

“That’s why the Liberal Democrats are calling for this commitment to 10,000 refugees a year, in addition to 10,000 child refugees in the next ten years. In keeping with our proud history of providing sanctuary to those most in need, we’ll continue to lead the fight for them.

“It’s high time that the government start taking this seriously and stop passing the buck to others. Those arriving on our shores are some of the most at risk people in the world. We must do all we can to protect them, and it starts with ensuring the safe and legal routes they need.” 

The “Safe and Legal Routes to Save Lives” motion aims to pile pressure on Downing Street to provide safe and legal routes to sanctuary in the UK. It also offers support to Baroness Hamwee’s bill to strengthen family reunion rights to unaccompanied child refugees and seeks the closure of the Naprier and Penally Barracks after reports emerged the facilities failed to provide adequate healthcare and security.

This comes after the Home Office changed the rules surrounding asylum applications to reject refugees who passed through another “safe third country” on their way to the Britain.

Home secretary Priti Patel is reportedly considering transferring illegal migrants to offshore accommodation while their application for asylum is being processed and a toughening of sentences for people smugglers.

Unlike nearly every EU country (Denmark notwithstanding), the UK does not allow unaccompanied child refugees to sponsor family members to join them.