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Liberal Democrats manifesto pledges to scrap Illegal Migration Act and Rwanda scheme and introduce more safe routes for asylum seekers to reach the UK


Lib Dems say immigration system is broken and call for fair, effective system that treats everyone with dignity and respect

Date of Publication:

The Liberal Democrats were today the first of the main UK parties to release their 2024 election manifesto.

Lib Dem logoIt's a sizeable 117 pages long in printed form and has a focus on care and saving the NHS. There's a relatively short, though detailed, section on immigration and asylum.

The Liberal Democrats say they stand for "a fair, effective immigration system that treats everyone with dignity and respect", in contrast to the Conservatives' "broken" immigration system.

The manifesto pledges to end the Conservative government's 'hostile environment' immigration polices, scrap the Illegal Migration Act 2023 and the "unworkable" Rwanda scheme, and lift the ban preventing asylum seekers from working. More safe and legal routes would be introduced, including the creation of a new humanitarian travel permit to allow asylum seekers to travel safely to the UK to claim asylum.

On work-related migration, the manifesto pledges to replace the current Skilled Worker visa salary threshold with a more flexible merit-based system. The Liberal Democrats say the Conservatives' "damaging new rules" prevent British employers from recruiting the workers they need.

Changes increasing the minimum income requirement for family visas would be reversed by the Liberal Democrats.

In addition, the Immigration Rules would get an overhaul to make them "simpler, clearer and fairer".

We've excerpted the section on immigration and asylum from the Liberal Democrats manifesto below (and we'll do the same for the Conservative and Labour manifestos when they are released later this week):

Manifesto 2024


Immigration and Asylum

The UK has a proud history of welcoming newcomers – whether people seeking to build their lives here, or refugees fleeing war and persecution. People from all over the world have greatly enriched our economy, our culture and our communities.

But our immigration system has been broken by the Conservatives. Their damaging new rules mean British employers can't recruit the people they need and families are separated by unfair, complex visa requirements. Their dysfunction has made the asylum backlog soar. Public confidence in the system is shattered. The Home Office is not fit for purpose.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have closed down safe and legal routes to sanctuary, leaving desperate people to make perilous attempts to cross the Channel in small boats – often in the hands of criminal smugglers and traffickers.

Liberal Democrats are fighting for a fair, effective immigration system that treats everyone with dignity and respect.

We will:

• End the Conservatives' Hostile Environment and invest instead in officers, training and technology to tackle smuggling, trafficking and modern slavery.

• Transfer policy-making over work visas and overseas students out of the Home Office and into other departments.

• Scrap the Conservatives' Illegal Migration Act and their Rwanda scheme, uphold the Refugee Convention, and provide safe and legal routes to sanctuary for refugees, helping to prevent dangerous Channel crossings.

• Tackle the asylum backlog by establishing a dedicated unit to improve the speed and quality of asylum decision-making, introducing a service standard of three months for all but the most complex asylum claims to be processed, and speeding up returns of those without a right to stay.

• Lift the ban on asylum seekers working if they have been waiting for a decision for more than three months, enabling them to support themselves, integrate in their communities and contribute to the economy.

• Work closely with Europol and the French authorities to stop the smuggling and trafficking gangs behind dangerous Channel crossings.

More detail

In addition, we will:

• Replace the Conservatives' arbitrary salary threshold with a more flexible merit-based system for work visas, with the relevant department working with employers in each sector to address specific needs as part of a long-term workforce strategy that also focuses on education and training to address skills gaps from within the UK.

• Exempt NHS and care staff from the £1,000-a-year Immigration Skills Charge, and reverse the Conservatives' ban on care workers bringing partners and children.

• Expand the Youth Mobility Scheme by:

o Negotiating with the EU to extend it on a reciprocal basis.

o Increasing the age limit from 30 to 35.

o Abolishing the fees for these visas.

o Extending the length of visas from two to three years.

• Reverse the Conservatives' unfair increase to income thresholds for family visas, so that no more families are torn apart.

• Protect the rights of EU citizens and their families in the UK by:

o Automatically granting full Settled Status to all those with Pre-Settled Status.

o Providing them with physical proof of their right to stay.

• Reduce the fee for registering a child as a British citizen from £1,214 to the cost of administration.

• Overhaul the Immigration Rules to make them simpler, clearer and fairer, and ensure greater parliamentary scrutiny of future changes.

• Extend the participation of devolved administrations in the development of the evidence base for UK-wide policy on work permits and student visas, helping ensure rules are sensitive to the skills needs of every corner of the UK and every sector of the economy.

• Strengthen the powers of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.

• Implement the Windrush Lessons Learned Review in full, without further delay.

• Ensure victims of the Windrush scandal get the compensation they are entitled to by making the compensation scheme independent of the Home Office.

• Repeal the Conservatives' discriminatory 'Right to Rent' scheme that turns landlords into border guards.

• Establish a firewall to prevent public agencies from sharing personal information with the Home Office for the purposes of immigration enforcement and repeal the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Act.

• Expand access to immigration legal advice by making the legal aid system simpler, fairer and more generous, as set out in chapter 19.

• Provide safe and legal routes to sanctuary for refugees by:

o Expanding and properly funding the UK Resettlement Scheme.

o Creating new humanitarian travel permits that would allow asylum seekers to travel to the UK safely to proceed with their claims.

o Establishing a new scheme to resettle unaccompanied child refugees from elsewhere in Europe.

o Reuniting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Europe with family members in the UK.

o Expanding the scope of refugee family reunion, including enabling unaccompanied child refugees in the UK to sponsor close family members to join them.

o Funding community-sponsorship projects for refugees, and rewarding community groups who develop innovative and successful ways of promoting social cohesion.

o Offering asylum to people fleeing the risk of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identification, ending the culture of disbelief for LGBT+ asylum seekers, and never refusing an LGBT+ applicant on the basis that they could be discreet.

• Cancel the Conservatives' unworkable Rwanda scheme and invest the savings in clearing the asylum backlog.

• End the detention of children for immigration purposes, and reduce detention for adults to an absolute last resort, with a 28-day time limit.

• Increase the 'move-on' period for refugees to 60 days, providing vital time for new refugees to prepare for life in the UK while ensuring that other public bodies are not left to pick up the costs of them becoming destitute.