, , , , , , ,

City MP meets refugees with Portsmouth charity City of Sanctuary

Stephen Morgan MP has met with local refugees during a meeting with charity Portsmouth City of Sanctuary.

During his visit, the City MP also toured some of the facilities used by the charity to support refugees with their cases, as well as meeting Trustee and Founder, Shamila Dhana, to discuss ongoing issues and challenges.

Portsmouth City of Sanctuary runs a number of projects in Portsmouth for asylum seekers and refugees, including projects to promote integration, reduce social isolation for migrants in the city, build skills, empower, and promote friendship, volunteering and well-being amongst migrants.

The organisation is currently running gardening projects, bicycle projects, walks, dance sessions, and football sessions in the city.

It comes following the government’s announcement of its intention to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing, despite the Refugee Minister Richard Harrington MP saying only the week before that there was ‘no possibility’ of it happening.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“The work Portsmouth City of Sanctuary is doing is vital, helping to ensure the city plays its part to support those fleeing persecution.

“It was useful to meet with refugees here in Portsmouth, and speaking to them it is clear government needs to do more to support them and their families, who have been forced into such desperate circumstances.

“I was also really grateful for the opportunity to speak with Shamila and her team to learn more about the current issues and challenges they face.”

The city MP is backing the charity in encouraging local people to donate any women’s bicycles to support asylum seekers and an ask for more volunteers to help with English classes. If any constituent can help in this way they should get in touch with Mr Morgan or the City of Sanctuary team directly.

Following a number of local groups and constituents getting in touch with Mr Morgan about the government’s proposed Rwanda Asylum Processing Plan and announced changes to the Border Force,  the city MP commented:

“The proposal to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is a desperate and shameful attempt by Mr Johnson to distract from his own law breaking.

“It is an unworkable, unethical and extortionate policy that would cost the UK taxpayer billions of pounds during a cost-of-living crisis, and would make it harder not easier to get fast and fair asylum decisions.

“The Royal Navy are critical to our defence and national security, and should be left to concentrate on the growing threat from Russia, not forced to fix the failures of Conservative ministers.”

, , , ,

City MP joins call for emergency protection visa to speed up help for Ukraine

Stephen Morgan MP has joined calls on the government to create a simple emergency visa for all Ukrainians that need sanctuary and protection in the UK, helping to end the ongoing confusion over its policy on refugees fleeing Putin’s war.

 

The government repeatedly promised this week that the UK will join other countries in providing protection for those who have fled the Russian bombardment in Ukraine.  

  

However, despite the commitments made by the Prime Minister and Home Secretary on sanctuary, Labour warns the “rhetoric does not match the reality”. 

 

On Tuesday, following pressure from Labour and from communities across the country, the Home Office agreed to widen the Family Migration Visa for Ukraine and promised to establish a community sponsorship scheme open to all. But many relatives of UK residents still do not qualify under the family visa, the community sponsorship programme will take time to set up, and there is still no provision for people in Britain to help Ukrainian friends.   

   

Labour is calling for the Home Office to end the confusion of the past week and urgently introduce emergency protection visas for those fleeing Ukraine who want to reach the UK. It would lift normal visa conditions other than biometrics and security checks which can be swiftly done en route. This would provide a quick, simple and safe route to sanctuary for all who need it – going beyond the current family provisions and ensuring that those fleeing war are not forced to apply through standard visa channels.   

  

Labour is also urging the government to set up an emergency taskforce to accelerate the sponsorship scheme, and work with charities and local government, to ensure that there is adequate support for all Ukrainians when they arrive, especially elderly people and children. These changes would allow families to get protection and sanctuary in the UK swiftly and safely, without the Home Office throwing long delays or barriers in their way at a time of unimaginable trauma and crisis.

 

The latest action by the city MP follows his lobbying of the Immigration Minister earlier this week, with Mr Morgan writing to the Government about issues raised by constituents.

 

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan MP, commented:

Whilst Ukrainian families continue to flee Putin’s war, the government has dithered and delayed in offering a clear plan to support those in urgent need of sanctuary and protection.

 

“So far, we have seen piecemeal progress from Ministers to deliver this, but Labour’s plan would provide a quick, simple and secure route to safety for all who need it.

 

“In times of need, Britain has stepped up to support our European friends and allies where we can. This plan will do this once again. Minister must now stop dragging their heels and implement it now.”

Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said:

“Families fleeing conflict in Ukraine need urgent help right now to reach safety and get support. We’ve all heard the harrowing stories from those driven out by the Russian bombardment who are now desperate to reach friends or family here who can support them. The UK must not turn those Ukrainians away. 

 

“People need a simple and safe route to sanctuary right now. Most want to stay close to home, especially those who have had to leave relatives behind, but the UK must play its part to help people seeking support and safety in our country too.

“Despite Government announcements, desperate families are finding that the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality. They cannot wait for the Home Secretary’s slow and piecemeal approach which just doesn’t match the urgency of this crisis. Ukrainians need help right now to reach safety.”

, , , , , , ,

Portsmouth MP welcomes local Afghan families with ‘open arms’

Stephen Morgan MP welcomed local ARAP Afghan families evacuated during August’s Operation Pitting with ‘open arms’ today, during a welcome event held in the city.
The Portsmouth MP met with eight Afghan national families that fled Afghanistan in the summer under the government’s resettlement scheme and was able to thank them for their efforts in working with British personnel in Afghanistan.
Earlier this week in Parliament, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister met with 120 of the soldiers who served in Operation Pitting and thanked them for their efforts to the secure the safety of the 15,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan, including those now based in Portsmouth.
The city MP has been helping with the evacuation programme in responding to over 300 individual cases of those hoping to flee Afghanistan with the Home Office and other government departments.
He has also been working alongside veteran community organisation Ems4Afghans that is providing support to those families in bridging hotels across the country with clothes, toiletries, and other essential items.
The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“I know from my engagement with our city’s existing Afghan community the challenges many families have faced being evacuated from Afghanistan and the harrowing stories of those loved ones left at home under Taliban control.
“It was a pleasure to finally be able to welcome families seeking sanctuary in Portsmouth, to thank them for their work in supporting the British armed forces and understand their hopes for the future as new constituents.
“Whilst this is a real demonstration of the strength of our community coming together to support each other, this may not be the same elsewhere.
“Many ARAP evacuees and their families now find themselves at the mercy of a postcode lottery of support and constrained by a cliff edge on their immigration status.   
“It’s vital now that Ministers deliver clear and consistent pathways for the support offered through Operation Warm Welcome if they are to keep the promises they have made to those who bravely supported our forces.”

Mr Morgan has been asking questions of Ministers over the handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and has vowed to continue to lobby government on the delivery of Operation Warm Welcome and support those seeking sanctuary in Portsmouth.
In recent weeks, Portsmouth Labour launched a ‘Hug in the Bag’ project to give practical support to Afghan families settling in the city. To find out more about how to get involved, contact Portsmouth Labour via hello@portsmouthlabourparty.org.uk or sign up to updates through its website: https://www.portsmouthlabourparty.org.uk/meetings/
 
 

, , , ,

Portsmouth MP relaunches advice centre with local charity as city steps up response to Afghan crisis 

Stephen Morgan MP has relaunched one of his regular advice centres with local charity Friends without Borders to provide a more direct route for those in his constituency seeking shelter and support.

The charity, which provides support for asylum seekers within the Portsmouth area, will host the Portsmouth representative and a member of his casework team once a month for a dedicated 90-minute surgery for local asylum seekers.

It comes as the city steps up its response to support those fleeing the humanitarian crisis currently unfolding in Afghanistan. Portsmouth City Council has welcomed at least three families so far, with a further six expected over the next few weeks.

Mr Morgan’s office has been dealing with dozens and dozens of cases in recent weeks, liaising with the Home Office and relevant government departments to ensure those that are eligible get the urgent support they need.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“I know our city will be wanting to play its part in supporting those families that have had to leave Afghanistan, as well as those fleeing many other humanitarian crises unfolding at the moment.

“In addition to the recent influx of Afghan related cases my office has been dealing with, I’m glad to be able to once again set up my monthly face-to-face advice centre at Friends without Borders, who have done tremendous work over the years.

“It’s so important those who need it most get access to the support and benefits they need from government. I will be doing all I can to support them in the weeks and months ahead.”

, , , , ,

Government visa fee proposals for Commonwealth veterans to help just one in ten

Proposals to waive visa fees for non-UK service personnel would help just 10% of those who left the Army last year, statistics from the Ministry of Defence reveal.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel announced a public consultation this week (26 May) on proposals which would waive visa fees for those who had served 12 years or more.

But figures from the MoD suggest that this would apply to just 20 of the 200 non-UK personnel who left the Regulars in 2019/20, with the majority serving between 4 and 11 years.

The average length of service for all UK armed forces leavers has been about 10 years since 2015.

Under current rules, Commonwealth personnel face a fee of £2,389 per person to continue to live in the UK after having served at least four years. It means that someone with a partner and two children could face a bill of almost £10,000 to stay in Britain.

The proposed changes also do not apply to family members of those who have served or those who have been medically discharged, meaning they will only help a minority of those affected.

Labour has said the proposals are “frankly insulting” and called the government to extend the fee waiver to all of those who have served four years or more.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Commonwealth service personnel have contributed an enormous amount to our national defence and we owe them a debt of gratitude.

“Extortionate visa fees have left non-UK veterans facing financial ruin and feeling abandoned by the country they have served with courage and distinction.

“The government’s long-overdue proposals are frankly insulting, and will continue to prevent non-UK personnel from living in the country they have fought for.

“Commonwealth veterans have already paid for their citizenship once with their service to our country. This government shouldn’t be making them pay twice.”

, , , , , , ,

Immigration Bill

Some constituents have been in touch with me about the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill which was debated in the House of Commons today – Monday 18 May 2020.

I deeply concerned by the Bill in its current form. This is because I believe it harms our NHS and social care sector, risking creating a shortage of nurses, carers and other key health workers in the middle of a global pandemic.

Labour believe rushing this Bill through Parliament during the current coronavirus crisis when many of those workers are saving lives and keeping the country running is unnecessary.  This legislation, which will hand over sweeping powers to the Government to create a new immigration system, without proper parliamentary scrutiny, that labels so many of the workers who are keeping our country running day by day as unskilled and unwelcome. That is unfair.

The new immigration system proposed by the Government contains a salary threshold of £25,600 that will exclude health and social care workers we desperately need from our country and will have a devastating impact on the health and social care sector. It values workers by what they earn and not what they contribute to our society.

In Portsmouth we rightly show our appreciation and gratitude for NHS staff and carers not just on Thursday evenings, but all year round. Yet this Bill will mean that care workers we need to fill vacancies would no longer be able to come to this country under the Government’s proposed immigration system – I don’t believe that is in the national interest.

For these reasons tonight I voted against the Bill at its Second Reading stage in Parliament.

Stephen Morgan MP

 

, , , , , , , , ,

Stephen Morgan MP calls to abolish visa fees for Commonwealth servicemen and women

The Portsmouth South MP has joined calls from The Royal British Legion for the Government to abolish visa fees for Commonwealth servicemen and women.

Currently, Commonwealth citizens serving in the UK armed forces have the right to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after four years’ service if they choose to stay in the UK. However, application costs have risen considerably in recent years, meaning it would currently cost almost £10,000 in visa fees for a service leaver to settle in the UK with a spouse and two children.

This has created a situation where Commonwealth citizens are often forced to choose between leaving the UK, a country they have sacrificed a great deal to serve, or remaining here and splitting up their family. The Royal British Legion, which has raised awareness of this issue through their ‘Stop the Service Charge’ campaign, say they have provided £36,000 in grants for visa fees last year alone.

They also coordinated a cross-party letter which called on the Home Secretary to recognise those who have served in the UK armed forces by abolishing visa costs for them and their families. This was signed by more than 130 different MPs from 8 different parties, showing the breadth of feeling on this issue.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

 

“These men and women sign up to join the UK’s Armed Forces putting their life on the line for our country, and the current visa fees charged do not reflect the nations gratitude for their service.

 

Having served the UK, Commonwealth service personnel have the right to apply to stay here without having to pay fees so high that some veterans are being pushed into poverty”

 

Charles Byrne, Director General at The Royal British Legion, said,

 

“Charging exorbitant fees to those who have sacrificed so much to serve our country is no way to thank Commonwealth service leavers. We are pleased so many people agree with our Stop the Service Charge campaign and are joining the call to have these fees waived.  We hope the Government will listen to these serious concerns.”