Tory asylum plans "dangerous and irresponsible"

January 25, 2005 12:45 PM
Michael Howard - Conservative (Tory) leader

Michael Howard's own father fled to the UK from Romania in 1939

Conservative plans to impose quotas on asylum numbers have been widely condemned. The policy, which was laid out in a full page ad in the Sunday Telegraph, would be illegal under European law and would force the UK's withdrawal from the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees.

Refugee Council Chief Executive Maeve Sherlock called the plans "dangerous, ill thought-out and hugely irresponsible". Cambridge Lib Dem PPC David Howarth agreed: "To impose quotas on asylum is appalling and violates international law, as Michael Howard, a lawyer and the son of refugees himself, must know. Asylum claims go up when there are wars and famine, and it is impossible to predict when such events will happen. History knows of no annual quota on human misery."

Most commentators also agree that the UK will need more immigrants in the coming years, as our population ages and labour shortages appear in certain key sectors. Howarth explained: "In this part of the world, we know that we suffer from shortages of labour, especially in jobs we are not happy to do ourselves. It is a sign that a country is successful that people want to go there for work, and we, and the rest of Europe, have successful economies."

Although immigration has become more of an issue in the last few years, polls suggest the media has overplayed the significance of the problem. A MORI poll conducted in 2000 found that, on average, those questioned thought 20% of the British population were immigrants. The actual figure is between 8 and 9%.

The Liberal Democrats support the creation of a common European asylum policy, so that we can be sure all European states take their fair share of those fleeing persecution. We would end asylum seekers' dependence on benefits, so they can work and pay their own way, using their skills to benefit our country.

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