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The BIG Cambridgeshire County Council debate on asylum seekers

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Rarely will we invite CambsNews readers to consider reading a verbatim report of a council debate.

But there’s always a first and we felt the debate on calls for a migrant champion for Cambridgeshire was such an occasion.

Cambridgeshire County Council voted in favour of the motion but not without a lengthy debate.

The proposal was put forward by Cllr Alex Bulat as part of a series of initiatives to support asylum seekers.

One other outcome is for chief executive Stephen Moir to write to the Home Secretary to press for safe legal routes for people to seek asylum.

The council is being invited to commit to the development of a county-wide place of safety pledge, work with partners to support the welfare of destitute individuals or families and establish a member migrant champion role.

Better funding for local authorities to support those housing asylum seekers is also being called by the council.

Here’s the debate.



Elected on:
Thu 06-May-2021

Division: Abbey

Cllr Alex Bulat (right)

There could not be better timing for this motion because this Sunday on the 18th of December we celebrate the United Nations International migrants day.

It is a day for all of us to reflect on the social economic and cultural contributions of migrants but also on the very pressing challenges we face in the world.

Conflict war disease and disasters forcing many people out of their homes. No human is illegal.

The UK is a party of the 1951 refugee convention and for those interested article 31 of the refugee convention is essential reading.

I am really proud of our compassionate response as a county towards people from Syria, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, most recently Ukraine and many other countries.

But we cannot underestimate the challenges that we face as more legal routes have been closed over time.

We have seen increased numbers of Channel crossings even in the freezing temperatures these last few days and also the very hot days in the summer.

Whilst we sat in this lovely building or the comfort of our safe homes, people in desperate circumstances continue to make those journeys.

In addition to people seeking asylum, we also have seen the highest net migration on record this year – over half a million – so that these people who come through the flagship points-based immigration system of this government.

So, I hope we can really all see now that ending freedom of movement post-Brexit was of course not the secret ingredient to deliver the unachievable tens of thousands migration target.

While local authorities try to do their best to support new residents with ever squeezed local budgets what does the central government do?

Please let me list a few achievements of central government

1: Placing asylum seekers in unsuitable accommodation without proper consultation with local authorities

2: The Home Office was recently found to be conducting hundreds of immigration raids during lockdown including in care homes

3: Not allowing asylum seekers the right to work which is essential to integration speaking about integration while taking ages to process asylum claims and thus forcing asylum seekers to rely on 40 quid a week or less of benefits while skill shortages remain in pretty much every sector of our economy

4:  No time limit on immigration detention unlike many other countries and horrible conditions of overcrowded and public health risks

Millions of taxpayer money is being spent to appear tough on immigration and presumably save what is left in the opinion polls.

Good luck.

it did not surprise me at all to see recently that even a group of Home Office staff wrote to the Home Secretary through their union saying that the only solution to this crisis is to create safe passage.

So, there’s much more I can say about the government’s asylum and immigration policies, but I have tried my best in this motion to avoid strong language in the written form of the motion as it focuses on our local response and what we can positively do within our limited control as the local authority

The motion therefore includes recommendations on three main themes

On our practices encouraging the council not to participate in hostile environment immigration practices so that our residents can seek advice and access services without fear.

On our partnerships it suggests the council joins networks such as the no recourse to public funds and the City of Sanctuary local authority networks to learn, collaborate and share good practices on those challenges faced by all local authorities across the UK

Last but not least on our communications.

The motion proposes developing a place of safety pledge as well as a migrant champion role within the council.

Overall, the motion recognizes that they will have a growing pressure posed by the government’s full dispersal scheme and the conversation following on for that on all local authorities across the UK.

And it ultimately calls for adequate funding from central government and to look at the fairness of the funding distribution as all areas have different needs

I will end on this note

No human chooses where they are born, I didn’t choose where I was born no one in this room did.

But we do choose whether we dream of a world of Windrush scandals and planes flying to Rwanda or a world with safe legal routes and an immigration system that treats all lives with dignity and respect.

I certainly choose the latter option and I sometimes do dream myself that the Home Secretary would change her mind and choose it too.

Thank you very much


(Lib Dem)

Elected on:
Thu 06-May-2021

Division: Sawston and Shelford

Cllr Maria King

I came to this country as a migrant 22 years ago and moving country even for positive reasons like mine to be with someone I love is a stressful traumatic and life-changing experience; it’s not a one-off.

It’s a process that involves the whole cycle of change or grief, from shock and denial to eventual acceptance

In the last six months we have welcomed more Ukrainian families into Cambridgeshire than many other counties and it’s a real testament to generosity of our residents and I think in a way gives a mandate to Cllr Bulat’s motion today

We also currently look after 77 migrant children who arrived here unaccompanied, 60 of whom are aged 16 or 17.

They will soon be ready or at least expected to gain further education or employment t to bring their talent, to bring their culture to our community

In my recent experience of supporting Ukrainians those who arrive from Ukraine and my own personal experience the fundamental needs of those who just arrive in the country are not all material and costly.

It could be as easy as sitting down the mum of young children and talking them through our education system explaining to them our fair but rather complicated process of admissions to schools.

It could be adding them to village Facebook groups with information on food hubs toddler groups church services.

It could be sending them a guide of where help is available translated into a language they understand.

So, what can or can’t we as a county council as a local authority do?

We cannot change the Conservative government’s shocking decision to slash the international aid budget and thus reduce our ability to tackle the causes of migration at source.

We cannot make the application process more efficient and reduce the agonizing wait for people arriving in this country.

Nor we can change the legislation which provides them with the right to work sooner and allows them to contribute to economy.

But it doesn’t and shouldn’t mean we can’t do anything.

We can look out for them, and we can provide help and support; we can give them voice.

We can ensure that asylum seeking children – accompanied and unaccompanied – are looked after welcomed and supported in our schools and they are ready to face adulthood and respect our democratic values.

I’m pretty sure that many of 200 Ukrainian children who are in our schools at the moment will go back to their country and probably some others too and they will have had a welcoming experience.

They will go back and speak in our language, literally and metaphorically.

They will have seen the value of our democratic process and democratic system.

They will become our allies.

So, by supporting councillor Bulat’s motion we act with compassion, but we also invest in peace and prosperity across the world.



Elected on:
Thu 07-May-2015

Division: Whittlesey North

Cllr Chris Boden

Councillor Bulat’s motion is well intentioned I fully accept that, but it is fundamentally misguided in a number of respects.

The first matter is conflation.

We see migrants and asylum seekers conflated, we see legal entrance to this country and illegal entrance to this country conflated and I believe that is fundamentally misguided

The second thing that has failed to be taken into account is the public attitude towards illegal asylum seekers in this country.

And that public attitude towards illegal asylum seekers which is an increasingly strong one is one which then rolls over towards negative attitudes towards legal asylum seekers and also towards legal migrants to this country.

I’d like to place on record my attitude towards migration and towards asylum seekers in this country.

I fully believe that we need managed migration into this country, and I support what the government is doing in that direction.

I’m proud of the record of asylum that this country has had over the last 74 years and I’m proud of what we have done although the system is now being abused and we know that.

But I particularly I’m proud in the last few years what’s happened as far as Syria Afghanistan Hong Kong and Ukraine are concerned both in terms of migration and in terms of asylum.

But we all know in this room and it’s an uncomfortable fact but let’s be honest about it we all know that there is a racist minority in this country and in this county, we’ve seen it in elections. There’s a racist minority who are opposed to legal migration solely on the grounds of race.

And that same racist minority are also opposed to legal asylum seekers solely on the grounds of race.

And it is motions such as this where we are trying to import the concept of sanctuary cities from the U.S into Cambridgeshire, motions such as this motion gives succour to those individuals which allow those individuals to spread their propaganda. now

I think that it is extremely dangerous for us to be copying this U.S concept of not giving support to not giving data to the authorities to remove illegal immigrants or illegal Asylum seekers in this country unless we’re legally obliged to and that’s what this motion says.

It is a matter of law if people have no right to be in this country they should not be in this country and for us to be acting in a in a contrary way and to be advocating that our partners do so as well will I promise you will simply increase the amount of opposition there is to all migration and to all asylum seekers and that’s very dangerous

I believe that we should support legal migrants into this country.

I believe we should support legal asylum seekers into this country and that’s why I oppose this motion.



Elected on:
Thu 06-May-2021

Division: Huntingdon North and Hartford

Cllr Jonas King

I think it’s really important that we remember the difference between legal migration and illegal immigrants.

Now it’s really really important that we separate them so I’m proud of the track record that the government has in supporting legal migration and those genuinely in need of support and legally seeking our support and refuge.

But there is illegal immigration, and we must tackle it

Illegal immigration really undermines those legal and legitimate asylum seekers, and it pushes attitudes negatively towards them so we mustn’t forget that we do need to tackle illegal immigration.

This motion is quite shocking because and I don’t know how it can actually come before this council without being challenged because it is encouraging people to withhold information from the Home Office.

How on earth can that be accepted?

The Home Office is doing everything it can to combat illegal immigration and every time the Home Secretary does something to do that there are groups like this joint administration who undermine that hard work and do something to stop this tackling illegal immigration.

What this motion also doesn’t consider is that by not tackling illegal immigration by encouraging people to withhold information from the Home Office, you’re actually making it much easier for illegal people traffickers to send people on small boats across the channel and risk their lives.

You are going to be aiding and abetting them by trying to get people to withhold information from the Home Office

I can’t accept this motion because that is absolutely despicable.



Elected on:
Thu 06-May-2021

Division: Arbury

Cllr Hilary Cox Condron

Firstly, I want to acknowledge how lucky I believe we are to have councillor Bulat and her in-depth knowledge links and drive for migrant rights as part of our joint administration.

She has demonstrated that the expertise and clarity that she offers is sorely needed

I support this motion. It is very detailed and far-reaching but I’m going to micro focus and start by talking about Glynnis a local resident.

A few years ago, she is watching the news and seeing young asylum seekers stepping off treacherous boats, wanting to do something but not knowing what.

She imagined her son in similar circumstances what would she want for him if he was arriving in an unknown place desperate cold exhausted and scared; a smiling face that she thought, a hug and maybe some warm socks?

And that’s exactly what she did on the shore, month after month and it’s been absolutely joyous to hear of the subsequent love-filled adventures with her ever-growing extended family.

And I hope that she or another Glynnis-hearted human was on the shore when Aisha’s son arrived.

Aisha is a resident in my Arbury ward, a Syrian woman around the same age as me and a sole parent raising three sons same as me but there is so much of her life that I can’t even begin to relate to.

I met her at an arts event at Arbury Court Library

She arrived in the UK in Cambridge two months before lockdown with her two children, scared lonely isolated but is now becoming connected and feeling more confident and safer within the library surroundings with the support of local groups such as Cambridge ethnic forum where she can make links to support friends and networks.

This morning I worried about my 18-year-old slipping on black ice as he cycled to college.

Aisha could barely talk to me as she talked about her terror; she was out of touch with her eldest son around the same age as mine as he made the journey here alone arriving on an unsafe boat to seek asylum so he could eventually bring his mother and younger siblings here to safety.

Although I could feel her pride when she told me that he had recently graduated from university as an architect and is now starting his masters.

Words matter, don’t they? Language matters when Home Secretary Braverman can articulate her hatred but not the asylum process or the limited safe routes for asylum we know that we are caught up in a culture of click bait sensationalism divisive fear mongering among blatant distraction and trickle-down hostility

And it is that culture of fear that means for example that migrants are getting caught up in the exploitation of information sharks in Wisbech rather than finding the free information and support on offer.

Or why organizations like Cambridgeshire and Peterborough stop hate and Cambridge women’s aid recognize these barriers to access to accessing the life-saving support that they offer our vulnerable residents

And it’s why we see the trickle-down hostility and hear the xenophobic abuse that for example councillor Meschini and councillor Bulat receive.

It was wonderful to meet Aisha in the library.

I know that cross party we have supported and campaigned and nurtured for our libraries and I’m proud that we are working through a libraries of sanctuary model recognizing the importance of welcoming spaces of empathy learning and shared stories and cultures.

Spaces to find information connected digital support to Cambridge’s skills to the community threads that strengthen bond represent and support us all.

That is what being in a place of safety is; that is the culture that we can aspire to represent and work for county-wide.

And which as a fellow human and vice chair of communities social abilities and inclusion alongside the entirety of the emotion of this motion.



Elected on:
Thu 04-May-2017

Division: Wisbech West

Cllr Steve Tierney

I come from a town which is by some accounts 40 per cent of people who weren’t born in this country.

They are friends and colleagues, and we all get along pretty well despite the odd hiccup if you like.

We all work together to try and deliver a better town for everyone.

And I can tell you that you cannot group people together in the way that some people want to do.

You can’t say all people who have integrated, emigrated here are the same because they all hold such different views, and I can assure you I encounter a great many who are just as sceptical about the idea of uncontrolled immigration here by people who are coming illegally as people who are born here are.

You can’t pretend that this is one side and another they are not the same thing.

There are three types of people who are coming to this country I would say.

There are those that have come here to become part of the country to live here. They have come legally through legal channels; they’re doing their best to integrate.

They’ve got jobs they’re working they’re part of the community.

The majority of people are just like that; great, love them they’re working well.

There’s a second group of people who are coming because they are fleeing from countries where it’s horrible where they have faced things that we can’t even imagine and they’re coming here to escape that and again of course we should support those people.

But there are a third group that seems to be conflated with the other two that are not the same.

These are people who are coming here illegally and they’re coming here for economic reasons often through multiple countries where they could perfectly possibly stop and then coming illegally into our country.

Now unless you think that there are unlimited infinite resources there must be a limit to that.

Denying it is just lying.

It’s simply lying that we do not have infinite numbers of houses there is not infinite money to pay for benefits and to pay for people to have things that they need when they come.

There must be a limit

Ordinary people who recognize this get called names. They get called racist because they recognize they are limited resources.

But here’s the truth. When you support unlimited immigration with this ‘love everyone approach’ that sounds so nice what you’re actually doing is taking from people who need it.

I work on a Saturday night with a group who feed the homeless, feed people who are having a hard time meeting their bills and getting food.

And to a man and to a lady they arrive, and they say, they often say, we’re very frustrated because we can’t get what we need, and we have to do this. And over there in our local hotel there are people being put up in the lap of luxury being given everything thrown at them and they’re not wrong.

It’s not fair it’s not reasonable

And people in this country have had enough of it.

The idea that the Conservatives are tough on immigration, are you joking? What Conservative are you talking about.

That’s not true at all if only they would do half the things, they said they would do

it’s absolutely possible to be compassionate and caring for people who need it but to stand firm against people who are just coming because it’s an easier life for them.

Now I would probably do the same in their place but that doesn’t mean we should accept it and it doesn’t mean we should treat the two things as though they’re the same because they’re not the same


(Lib Dem)

Elected on:
Thu 18-Feb-2016

Division: Sutton

Cllr Lorna Dupre

I’ve heard various councillors from the opposition group talking about illegal people, illegal entry into this country, illegal migration, illegal asylum seekers.

Councillor Boden said he was proud of the UK record on all of this, and I want to remind him that the record that he is proud of is the record of a government which has closed down the legal routes for entry into this country for almost every country in the world.

Thereby forcing desperate people into the only remaining routes which are the dangerous the life-threatening ones and aiding and abetting the human traffickers and the exploiters who make their money from the fact that there are for almost every country in the world no safe legal routes into this country anymore.

The conservative MP Tim Loughton made that point very clearly and powerfully in cross-questioning the Home Secretary a few weeks ago in committee in Parliament.

It was a very powerful piece of questioning and I encourage everybody here who hasn’t yet seen it to watch it.

And it was clear from that questioning that the Home Secretary had absolutely no idea what she was talking about had no idea what her brief was had no idea of the consequences of her actions for vulnerable people trying desperately to get to this country.

Instead talking about her dream of flying those vulnerable people and dumping them somewhere in Africa.

And as for her appalling treatment of those seeking safety, we only have to look at the dreadful conditions that she allowed to develop in Manston before those people seeking sanctuary in this country were eventually dispersed without the proper involvement of the local authorities.

it’s been a disaster and a disaster absolutely of the kind of thinking that we are hearing from the group opposite.

This is the fundamental divide isn’t it it’s the divide between those who believe that people and movement of people are good things and those who do not

I came to this country at the age of 18 and chose to make my life here.

I wasn’t an economic migrant I don’t think. I wasn’t a refugee, but I was someone who chose to come from the place where I was born and brought up and to make my home in this country.

I’ve been very fortunate because English is my first language and because I look as I do that nobody has ever asked me where I’m really from.

But I have made my home here as have many many thousands of people who have contributed positively to life in the United Kingdom as far as the government allows them to.

And it is very evident that those coming to this country make a much greater financial contribution than the group opposite gives them credit for.

They are productive where they are allowed to be and contribute to the well-being of our country and what we have seen as people have left the country as a result of Brexit that we have lost so many of those people who contribute so positively to our public services and to everything else.

I’m appalled by the tone of this debate from the group opposite.

I think we absolutely have a right a responsibility to treat people with dignity with respect and to allow them to have safe routes by which they can pursue their legitimate claims and have those claims properly considered by the authorities

It is absolutely clear that where those claims are not founded there are opportunities for the government to remove people who have no right to be here, and the government has simply given up on that and has not done the right thing.

We need to maintain those legal safe routes, stop putting people vulnerable people at risk and start treating people with some respect thank you



Elected on:
Thu 03-Mar-2011

Division: March North and Waldersey

Cllr Steve Count

The first thing I want to do is to congratulate Alex Bulat on a lot of sensible stuff in this motion.

Eighty per cent of the good stuff that was in there I agreed with.

My heart goes out to genuine asylum seekers and the way we look out after them and we should embrace them and give them every opportunity to discover the facts behind their case and behave appropriately.

Unfortunately, some of the other stuff the other 20 per cent. You say you designed it to be not inflammatory to the Conservatives but there was so much in there which I’ll talk about in a moment that I can’t actually support this motion

And it’s a shame because I’d like to have worked with you on this to actually put forward a motion that we could all support, but this doesn’t go there.

I want to congratulate Cambridgeshire County Council officers and the other authorities here.

We have done a sterling job in welcoming, looking after and accommodating genuine asylum seekers and also the non-genuine ones whilst their cases are heard; asylum seekers that may not end up being asylum seekers at the end of the day.

So, I just want to pass on my thanks for the resources that we’ve been able to put in and actually the reception they’ve received in this great county of Cambridgeshire.

But I want to talk about one specific point really bringing that out why I can’t support this motion. It’s been mentioned already and it’s the direct call in the recommendation to withhold our partners, to withhold information from the Home Office so that people can’t be deported or detained.

It stops slightly short of breaking the law but surely if you if you want to accelerate the speed with which we deal with asylum claims genuine asylum seekers and stop the illegal migrants then we need to get as much information as possible.

Putting a Blocker in there just encourages illegal immigration in the boats coming across; at the moment there are 12 000 people came across from Albania

Albania doesn’t have a war at the moment; it’s basically an economic migrant situation the vast majority of which when they get to the end of the process are in fact refused and 14 000 have been deported so far over the years.

Once you get hold of the information to withhold that information and call the Home Office basically the enemy it’s not something I can agree with.

It’s not how things are done. These are civil servants going about their day-to-day work and we shouldn’t be getting in their way.

What we should be doing is helping them ascertain the true status of whether somebody’s a genuine asylum seeker and warrants asylum or whether an illegal migrant and actually deportation is perhaps the right answer.

And what I also worry about with this is ‘Project Fear’ because what we have now is there will be tweets at the end of the day saying how bad the Conservatives are how much we hate foreign people which is simply untrue.

I am the son of migrants

My father came from Latvia, my mother came from Germany. I might look to everybody here as if I’m English 100 pc through and through, but my parents had a hard time coming over here, so I understand the things that are being said.

I relate to the things being said but as we had it from Councillor Tierney you need to draw a line somewhere.

We have a system that embraces looking after people that come from war-torn countries and I respect, and I appreciate that.

We should not have a system that just lets everybody turn up and undermines the actual living of the people that are living here and that is what worries me.

So, I can’t support this and the big stickler apart from all the attacks on the Conservative policies the big stickler for me is actually asking our partners to withhold information so that even legal migrants are unable to stay in this country.

I can’t support that.


(Lib Dem)

Elected on:
Thu 04-Jun-2009

Division: Newnham

Cllr Lucy Nethsingha

It has been implied that this motion is recommending unlimited migration and that is clearly not the case; the motion is about making sure that we support those who have arrived in Cambridgeshire.

It is very clearly not about an open borders policy, and I think it is really important that we challenge things that are said in this chamber which are not accurate.

There is an increasing tendency in our politics for there to be more and more misinformation so that’s mostly what I will be focusing on.

I want to challenge something said by councillor Tierney that a higher level of migration would mean taking from those who are already in need.

That is demonstrably untrue especially in the case of economic migrants which is what I think he was talking about. Economic migrants make an absolutely enormous contribution to our economy and at a time of extreme labour shortages there is a strong argument that we should have more economic migrants.

I want to challenge some of the comments that were made early on by councillor Boden about this motion being likely to increase the chances of racism in our county.

I think that is an outrageous suggestion.

This motion is about supporting those who have come from other places to live here but in fact having a policy which is supportive and demonstratively supportive of migrants helps those who have been born here.

And I know this because I live with somebody who is mixed race who was born here, and my children are also mixed race and were born here. They have no other home; this is their home they have lived most of their lives in Cambridgeshire.

However, they are asked where you come from, they are treated as if they might not come from this place. A welcoming policy and a sense that all are welcome is not only helpful for those who have chosen to come and build their lives here, but it is helpful to those who were born here but might perhaps look as if they were not.


(on a point of order)

Economic migrant as defined by the Oxford dictionary is a person who travels from one country or area to another in order to improve their standard of living

So, it doesn’t refer to whether they’ve come and are able to work or are just in a hotel having everything paid for them so my comment stands.



Elected on:
Thu 06-May-2021

Division: Romsey

Cllr Neil Shailler

I also wasn’t going to speak on this but in reply to councillor Tierney’s comments economic migrants support the economy

I think his comments relate more to the current cost of Tories crisis than to migration.

Having been on the doorstep often with councillor Bulat I have seen the abuse first hand and perhaps because I’m a migrant myself I absolutely support everything in this motion.

But I would like to focus on the establishment of a migrant champion and given her expertise and her experience I hope at the time that councillor Bulat considers taking up this role.



Elected on:
Thu 04-Jun-2015

Division: Wisbech East

Cllr Sam Hoy

I think councillor Dupre is saying this debate is just about those who believe in freedom of movement and those who don’t is actually a real oversimplification and I think that’s part of the problem.

I wasn’t actually going to mention Wisbech until councillor Cox Condron did and I’m glad you’ve given me an ‘in’ because me personally I absolutely love the diverse community we’ve got there.

Next year we’ve had we’ve got candidates that were born in Pakistan in Poland – as a Conservative party locally we actually do really support and understand the benefits of people from all backgrounds.

Whatever you know and wherever they’re from I don’t really kind of sign up to that and also, I was one of the only few Remainers in Wisbech I have to say and put that on the record it’s no secret because I was massively worried at the time that my friends from Eastern Europe would be sent home

Obviously, I was told that was an unnecessary worry and it did turn out to be, so I was wrong there.

However, that’s kind of where I was where I was on that, and I think the problem is I’ve kind of come a long way from there.

Without trying to be really twee and have kind of like a personal journey story I think one thing I’ve learned that if you sort of say to people, I know better than you, you know I love everybody I support everyone whilst that is also true, and we do need to support everyone.

But that extremism and toxicity that everyone’s talking about they’re so worried about that does actually come up and that does rise because if you say to people, we’re going to open the doors and we’re going to let people come in and as many peoples as possible come in these people with these with these views will get quite nervous.

They will get quite scared, and they will say some quite unpleasant comments.

And if we just say you’re stupid idiots we don’t agree with anything you say you’re a racist bigot they aren’t going to suddenly stop being a racist bigot overnight. They’re not going to be like oh well then, the county council tell me I’m a racist bigot so that’s me not being one anymore they will carry on and they will get worse and there will be more people doing it.

And saying it so we actually need to address this issue and talk about it in an adult way otherwise we are just absolutely sleep walking into problems for the future.

Councillor Nethsingha says that this is not an open-door motion, but we’ve literally said at the end of the motion that we want to call on the government for safe legal routes.

She has given no limit to that, and we’ve not specified any number. We’ve not said that there shouldn’t be but how many people there should be?

I also agree with a number of things that have been said in the motion. The system is totally broken nationally. We have people from Lithuania right now they’ve got no recourse to public funds that are sleeping on the streets and people that came across the channel in 4-star hotels and I’m sorry that’s just fundamentally wrong.

We should not – and that is a fault of the Conservative government you know – be saying to people that you had a right to come over here under the EU treaty and then we’re not going to support you. That is wrong.

Another number of other things in the motion I agree with such as calling on the government to give local authorities support because it’s not fair to send a number of people here that do have complex needs and provide no funding for them

However, there’s a couple of things I object to in the motion first of all the idea of a migrant champion.

I find it really offensive to lump everyone into a group – it’s actually quite offensive to say, ‘oh you’re not English therefore you must want a migrant champion’, How is that the same as how everyone is the same whether or not you come from Latvia you’ve lived here six years you’ve worked you’ve bought a house are you the same as someone that’s fleeing a terrible war in Syria.

I don’t know maybe you are maybe you aren’t but no one’s actually kind of saying that they are or not, but they are assuming that.

Another thing that’s not right is the point in the motion about the fast process not allowing for asylum seekers to work.

I understand the logic if asylum seekers can work obviously, it’s not a burden on the system and the state. However, if you increase the labour supply, we all know you decrease wages and then obviously again local people are going to be very angry about that.

That not necessarily even a Conservative view as we’ve got a former Labour member standing for the Conservatives next May purely because they believe Labour have consistently failed to understand the negative impacts on migration to the poorest in society.

Now this isn’t a party-political broadcast I think the conservative party have been woefully lacking in their approach to migration as well if only they hadn’t.

Finally, the main thing I find frustrating is people not practicing what they preach. Under the asylum dispersal scheme, we’re told that Cambridge will be taking some 500 asylum seekers which will be allocated based on population size.

Obviously, this means South Cambs and Cambridge City would take the lion’s share being larger areas however they are commonly making excuses as to why they can’t take them and trying to voice them off in larger numbers to other districts.

So, I believe in practicing what you preach.

If you are pro asylum seeker, please do welcome them into a district please go and speak to your representatives on Cambridge City and South Cambs because for me people speak at council and at a national level about how they have all these feelings and how they understand stuff and then they don’t put it into practice when it comes to putting into practice.


(Lib Dem)

Elected on:
Thu 06-May-2021

Division: Queen Ediths

Cllr Alex Beckett

I want to start by saying the hostile environment created for refugees in this country is repugnant.

We only have to look to Ukraine to see how many of these people have come and been through so much and now Ukraine in some ways has opened our eyes to what some of these people have been through but there’s so many other conflicts around the world that the general public just don’t know about.

I mean Syria hopefully everyone’s heard about Syria.  Afghanistan the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan and the things that they are running from there but then we look to Sudan what’s going on there and then Ethiopia.

It goes around the world from Burma to wherever else there’s so many people in this world that are fleeing dreadful persecution

We live a very privileged life in this country to know that we are actually safe and that our greatest worries- well really great worries – the cost of living. We are not fearful for our lives every day or being locked up for some political cause

The public attitude towards asylum seekers in this country has often been stoked by the mainstream media.

We hear many stories of asylum seekers being lazy or being you know in hotels you know claiming so many benefits of our state but it’s us that forces them to do that.

Asylum seekers aren’t allowed to work. Their only option is to sit in those detention centres or hotels. So, we lock them up in there, we give them no ability to work, give them no ability to contribute to our society.

And we do that for years because we don’t process them quickly.

it’s not like they’re there for a week; it’s our systems that hold them in these prison cells essentially for years on end while we do nothing

now I want to share with you back in 2015 I actually spent some time in Greece volunteering at a refugee camp.

While I was there it was when everything was going wrong in Syria, and we had many people coming over people on boats trying to flee Syria to be able to get out be able to come to safety.

One of the things we ran for some of the children because there were a large number of children coming over, were art classes where they had the ability to kind of do some art and draw as a way of helping them deal with some of the trauma that they’d been through.

The one that will always stick with me, and I will never ever forget is a nine-year-old girl.

The drawing she chose to draw was of boats in the sea with people drowning next to it begging for their lives.

And if you can imagine a nine-year-old girl that that was her experience of coming over.

People on her boat drowned and that’s what we allowed to happen because there are no safe asylum routes to the UK at the moment.

Also, while I was there, I met a bunch of other great people, and we tend to think of asylum seekers as being low-skilled workers.

I’ll never forget the case of Mo who was a doctor; he was a doctor in Syria now the reason he was fleeing was because his family was in Isis controlled areas and he lived in Assad control areas.

And the Assad regime said that you need to come and work as a doctor on the front line for us otherwise we will kill you.

And Isis said if you work for the Assad regime, we will kill your family and your people

What the hell do you do in that case? He had to run; he had no choice.

But what’s more when he came over and I met him in Greece he was looking at where he should go and the only option available to him was Germany because they were open, and they were allowing refugees and asylum seekers at that point.

Mo is now a doctor in Germany, and we look at our health service where we are crying out for doctors and nurses, and we don’t allow these people in because we say ‘oh they’re refugees they’re migrants’. Yet there are so many of these people that could contribute so well to our society, and we simply do not let them in

So, I welcome this motion and I welcome everything we can do to help these people around the world that are in need of our help, and I hope that it demonstrates that we are a caring a compassionate county and that we really do want to do our bit to help everybody



Elected on:
Thu 04-May-2017

Division: Huntingdon West

Councillor Bulat is widely acknowledged as one of the hardest working most dedicated people that I certainly know. She does a lot of great work to help to help migrants um

Like a lot of members, I find it absolutely ridiculous that people are sat in detention centres or as councillor Tierney said they’re living in hotels supposedly having a very nice lifestyle, but they don’t have the opportunity to work.

We have a labour shortage in this country, and we know the reasons. Which is why I think it would be good if the government could come up with a scheme that would improve that.

Living on £40 a week is certainly not a liveable income.

I really think that this idea of uncontrolled immigration as Councillor Tierney kept coming out with (incidentally I won’t be proposing him as the migrant champion) I thought frankly was outrageous

I thought his speech was more a rehearsal to be the next leader of UKIP to be perfectly honest.

Councillor Hoy said there’s no figures in this motion well it’s not the role of the county council to decide migrant figures. It’s the role of central government and they’ve clearly failed in this as I think we all acknowledge

And as council Dupre said quite rightly, Conservative MP Tim Loughton asked the Home Secretary what safe passage there is for migrants, and she was unable to answer that question.

So, I think it’s clear that there’s been a huge failure there, but I welcome this motion I’m very proud to second it and I commend councillor Bulat for proposing it.


(summing up)

Some quite unsurprising comments from the opposition they’d expect that of course but let’s start with some of the positives.

Thank you to councillor King for sharing your experiences and focusing on the practical suggestions of what we can do.

One important point I wanted to underline is the issue around immigration advice that is actually offered unlawfully.

I know as someone who volunteers as an immigration advisor and is accredited by the immigration advice there’s a huge problem not only in Wisbech but in many other towns and cities across the UK people getting false information and actually putting them into more dangerous situations.

I’m really keen that we look at this and how can we work with our partners in tackling that.

I do agree with do need a fair distribution of asylum seekers and this is true across the UK not only in our county and that’s why I think calling for proper local funding is so important.

At the moment a lot of the decisions are being taken by where it’s cheaper to host asylum seekers so of course this will create unequal distributions of course having like a hotel in Cambridge would be more expensive have a hotel in Huntington share or Wisbech where we have the current debate with the hotels, so I think actually the government looking at that and the impact on the wider population is really really important.

Councillor Count, thank you very much for your more balanced approach compared to some of your colleagues and I’m always keen to debate other immigration topics.

If you perhaps wanted to make some suggestions on this motion if you have any other ideas, I’m always keen to discuss that.

Councillor Tierney of course there is a diversity of views on immigration including in the migrant population not everyone has the same views I do accept this I never claims that everyone does.

I do not think that the number of asylum seekers or refugees that we take in the UK which by the way is much smaller than many comparable countries economically speaking – I do not think that this number that we take of successful applications we take is the cause of the impact of many years of austerity and lack of planning and house building in many areas of our country

The sanctuary models exist in many other UK councils as well it’s not only a thing in the U.S right now so there are other councils that passed similar motions.

Under the recommendations of my motion there is a bracket at the end if you actually read the detail when it speaks about encouraging the council’s partners not to participate in the hostile environment. It says except where there is a legal obligation and it’s precisely because there are issues around National Security and other national law that’s you know like we have to mention this.

But what is not right is when people seek advice and there have been reports for example of members of Parliament reporting the Home Office and all sorts of stories, so I think that we are not trained to be border guards

The Home Office needs to do their job and we shouldn’t be encouraged to actually report on this except when there’s a very specific legal obligation.


FOR  31




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