Maria Miller, local Basingstoke MP, attended the Hampshire Health and Wellbeing Board meeting to be briefed on the wider work being done in Hampshire to support Afghan refugees who have been offered sanctuary in the UK to escape the threats they face in their homeland; and also those who have arrived in our country seeking asylum through illegal routes.
Maria said, “ As a country we are facing unprecedented pressures on services to support both the Afghan refugees who we are offering safe haven and those who are entering the UK illegally by boat from France. Basingstoke is playing its part along with other communities across the UK. It has been helpful to hear from Hampshire County Council about the role they are playing.
“Basingstoke Voluntary Action is playing a central role coordinating the support for Afghan refugees, many of whom have faced traumatic journeys to get out of Afghanistan. I pay tribute to everyone in Basingstoke who has come forward to offer support including our local schools, health providers, churches and volunteers. This group of Afghan people have gone through an incredibly difficult experience, leaving their homes with little notice, arriving in our country with little time to prepare. As a country we know the importance of offering safe haven to those who fear for their lives in their home countries; as a community we are showing compassion and the support needed to enable this group of people to establish their lives in a new country.
“Because of the unprecedented numbers of people arriving on our shores the Home Office are using some short term accommodation in Basingstoke for asylum seekers. The Hampshire Health and Wellbeing Board outlined the work they are doing to support this group. I have had a number of meetings with Home Office Ministers, officials, accommodation providers and the local NHS to ensure anyone staying in our town, even for a short period, is treated with dignity and with respect. But it is fundamentally wrong that people use illegal routes to enter the UK. That is why UK law is being changed through the Nationality and Boarders Bill, including one-stop appeals process to prevent the endless appeals that follow too many failed asylum applications, the ability to have an asylum claim processed outside of the UK, the ability to differentiate the status of those who arrive in the UK having passed through safe countries; and life sentences for people smugglers. This new approach is designed to deter illegal entry into the UK by breaking the business model of criminal gangs, while making the system fairer and more effective to better protect those in genuine need of asylum, and also remove those from the UK who have no right to be here. This new legislation is a crucial part of solving this problem for the long term.”