Party leaders agree on refugee protection

‘There is no place for racism in modern British politics’ - Party leaders agree on importance of refugee protection

All major party leaders sign up to asylum election pledge

(Glasgow – 22 April 2010) – Today Scottish Refugee Council, Refugee Council and leading human rights organisation Liberty announced that all five major party leaders – plus hundreds of other parliamentary candidates – have signed up to the organisations’ asylum election pledge.

Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg signed up in advance of the Prime Ministerial debate due to be aired this evening (focusing on foreign policy). They join SNP and Green Party leaders in agreeing to ‘never play fast and loose with the proud tradition of a nation that must always offer succour to those in fear of persecution.’

John Wilkes, Chief Executive of Scottish Refugee Council said:

“We are acutely aware of the importance of leadership when setting the tone of the debate around refugee and asylum policy. Asylum should have nothing to do with race – it is about providing safety to people who need it. Getting this debate wrong can have a direct and serious impact on the lives of people we work with every day.”

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said:

“It is very good news that even in the heat of election battle, all three leaders have promised to honour the importance of refugee protection. No one should underestimate the ocean of common decency in Britain and we intend to hold our politicians to this proud tradition.”

In addition to the party leaders, scores of parliamentary candidates up and down the country have signed the pledge which will be open until May 6.

The UK is a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which guarantees any person who is not safe in their own country the right to claim asylum elsewhere. The convention has saved millions of lives, and no country has ever withdrawn from it. The UK is home to less than 2% of the world’s refugees, out of 16 million worldwide, with 80% living in developing countries.

 Contact: Scottish Refugee Council press office on 0141 223 7927 or 07734 030 763

Liberty’s press office on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831 128

Notes to Editors

1. The full text of the Asylum Election Pledge is as follows:

‘There is no place for racism and xenophobia in modern British politics.  Nor is democratic debate advanced by the denigration of the most vulnerable in our country, including children and asylum seekers who do not enjoy the right to participate in elections.

I promise to remember the importance of refugee protection, even in free and wide-ranging debates about immigration policy.  I will never play fast and loose with the proud tradition of a nation that must always offer succour to those in genuine fear of persecution’

 2. For a full list of parliamentary candidates who have signed up to the pledge, please contact either press office.  Post-embargo, the information will be available at:

 http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/issues/5-asylum/have-your-candidates-signed-the-pledge-.shtml

 www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/total-pledges

Candidates who want to sign up can do so at both Liberty and the Refugee Council websites – links below:

 http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/issues/5-asylum/sign-the-asylum-pledge.php

 http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/campaigning/electionaction

The top countries of origin for refugees coming to the UK in 2009 were: Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Iran, China, Sri Lanka, and Eritrea. The UK is home to less than 2% of the world’s refugees, with 80% living in developing countries. Europe gives protection to just 14%.