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Council backs safer legal routes for asylum seekers and a migrant champion

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Cambridgeshire County Council has asked its chief executive Stephen Moir to write to the Home Secretary to press for safe legal routes for people to seek asylum.

On Tuesday, a motion from Cllr Alex Bulat, supported by a majority of the full council, looked at the support the council could and should provide to people fleeing conflict, persecution, and economic hardship.

“I am proud of our county’s compassionate response to people from Afghanistan, Syria, Hong Kong and most recently Ukraine and many other countries” she said.

“But we cannot underestimate the challenges that we face, as more legal routes have been closed, we have seen increased numbers of channel crossings.

“People in desperate circumstances will continue to make dangerous choices”

It agreed that the council should 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.

It called on Mr Moir, to write to the Home Secretary to highlight the challenges faced by asylum seekers and to call for safe and legal routes for people seeking asylum – as well as adequate funds for local authorities to support them.

The Cambridgeshire Local Government Pension Scheme is also to be asked to divest from investments in fossil fuels, looking instead to invest in companies that act to minimise climate risk

A motion put by Cllr Alison Whelan, and accepted by a full council majority, calls on the pension fund, to work with companies and funds that it invests in to ensure that they are actively pursuing environmentally positive policies to eliminate carbon emissions, and disinvest in them quickly if not.

She told the meeting that she had been prompted to bring the motion following correspondence from concerned scheme members, members of the public and pressure groups and said it called for a ‘balanced and just divestment.’

It also asks that, where possible – these investments should be in local companies or initiatives that will benefit local climate solutions and so will have a positive impact on fund members, their families, and the wider community.

The fund – which includes 350 scheme employers including the county council and other local authorities as well as academies and various other companies has approximately £97m or 2.3% of its £4bn total, invested in companies which work predominantly in the area of fossil fuel. These are noted to be largely ‘passive’ – that is, intended to track market performance/indices as opposed to funds that have a more active management strategy.

The fund has already agreed a climate action plan that sets out how it will manage the climate risk within its portfolio and over time transition to a more sustainable portfolio.

CLLR ALEX BULAT: She told councillors: “No human chooses where they are born.
“I didn’t choose where I was born and 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 roots 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.”

In doing so the fund agreed a science-based decarbonisation pathway that is targeting a 23% reduction in carbon emissions from listed equities by 2024 (from a 2021 baseline) and a 57% reduction by 2030.

You can watch the debate around these motions and others that weren’t supported on the council’s recorded live stream of its Full Council meeting this week.

 

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