By Estelle Worthington CVS Sector Development Officer

The UK is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention – an international agreement for the protection of people fleeing persecution which emerged as a response to the horrors of the second world war. The Convention defines a refugee as someone who has left their home country due to a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”1. It also outlines the basic minimum standards for the treatment of refugees, including the right to housing, work and education while displaced so they can lead a dignified and independent life.  

Over the last decade, the wars in Syria and Afghanistan, other conflicts around the world, and the recent invasion of Ukraine have created an international refugee crisis. Though it remains true that countries neighbouring conflict zones host the vast majority of the world’s refugees, European nations are also being called on to offer refugee protection. We have witnessed the tragedy of lives lost at sea in the Mediterranean, and more recently in the Channel as desperate people seek safety.  

Debates over limiting the number of migrants to the UK intensified in the lead up to the Brexit referendum. We have also seen the ongoing scapegoating of migrants for the county’s economic woes – despite the many contributions migrants have made to the UK (not least in building our NHS), and despite the revelations of the Windrush scandal.  

So, how has the UK responded? 

Across the UK, local communities are committed to supporting refugees to rebuild their lives, while polls show that the public supports a welcoming, fair migration system.  

Here in Cheshire East, communities have come together to welcome resettled refugees and help them rebuild their lives. Community and faith groups have also stepped up to support people accommodated locally while awaiting a decisions on their application for asylum.2 

Yet, at a national level, apart from supporting a limited number of refugee resettlement schemes and community sponsorship schemes, this challenge has been met by the UK Government with increased securitisation and border controls, the creation of a ‘hostile environment’ aimed at forcing some migrants to leave the UK and a raft of policies that undermine our obligations to uphold the Refugee Convention.    

In July 2023, the UK Government’s Illegal Migration Act passed into law, destroying the right to seek safety in the UK3. This piece of legislation followed the 2022 Nationality and Borders Act, which allows the UK Government to criminalise and punish, rather than protect, people seeking safety. The Rwanda Agreement aims to send a significant number of those fleeing persecution who have been unable to find a legal and safe route to the UK to Rwanda. There are currently very few such routes and none available to the citizens of countries that make up the bulk of those granted refugee status in Britain.  

Since the passage of this legislation, over 500 charities, faith groups, local authorities, businesses, and unions, together with dozens of cross-party MPs and Peers, have signed a national pledge to fight what they are calling the anti-refugee laws. Signatories to the Fight the #Anti-Refugee Laws pledge believe that people seeking protection from war and persecution should be welcomed and that everyone’s claim for asylum should be treated equally and fairly. They are calling on all candidates to commit to repealing the harmful anti-refugee laws, and commit to building a refugee protection system based on a series of key principles. 

Here’s how the UK Political Party manifestos measure up to these demands 



Political party  







Lib Dem  

Uphold our international responsibilities and obligations and recommit to the right to 

seek asylum in the UK 

Plan to work with other countries to ‘reform international  

Laws’/ ‘reform asylum rules’.  


Plan to ‘give  

parliament control of how many places we  

offer on safe and legal routes… 

with a cap based on the capacity of  

local areas.’ 

Plan to push for safe routes to sanctuary for  

those fleeing persecution. 

Focus on strengthening borders and security. 

Commit to ‘act upstream, working with international partners to address the humanitarian crises which lead people to flee their homes, and to strengthen support for refugees in their home region.’ 

Commit to uphold the Refugee Convention, and provide safe and legal routes to 

sanctuary for refugees. 

Invest in building a protection system that makes just decisions in 

a timely way and ensures everyone has access to good quality legal advice 

Plan to bring Illegal Migration Act into force  to clear ‘the asylum backlog, with all  

claims processed in six months and the use  

of hotels ended’. 

No mention of just decisions or good quality legal advice.  

Plan to push for Home  

Office to be replaced with a  

new Department of Migration,  

separating this function from  

the criminal justice system. 

Plan to hire  

additional caseworkers to clear the  

asylum application backlog and end use of  

asylum hotels. No mention of just decisions or good quality legal advice. 





Plan to ‘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…’ 

Plan to expand access to immigration legal advice by making the legal aid system 

simpler, fairer and more generous. 

Repealing the Illegal Migration Act 

Plan to bring Illegal Migration Act into force.  


Plan to push for an end to the hostile  


No specific mention.  

 Plan to scrap Illegal Migration Act and Rwanda Scheme.  

Ending the criminalisation of people seeking safety under the Nationality and Borders 


Plan to ‘crack down on organised immigration  


to disrupt supply chains and  

tackle people smugglers’ 

Plan to push for an end to the hostile  


Plan to create a new Border Security  

Command to work internationally, focusing on policing and disrupting ‘criminal gangs’. 

Commit to ending the ‘Hostile Environment and invest instead in 

officers, training and technology to tackle smuggling, trafficking and 

modern slavery.’ 

Plan to create firewall to prevent public agencies from sharing personal information with the Home Office.  

No offshore processing. abandoning the Rwanda-UK agreement. 

Re-commits to the Rwanda-UK deportation agreement.  

Commit to  

signing further  

returns deals with other countries.  


No specific mention. 

Plan to scrap the 

Rwanda agreement.  

Plan to set up a new returns and  

enforcement unit 

to fast-track removals  

to safe countries. No mention of whether this will include offshore processing.  

Plan to scrap the Illegal Migration Act and their Rwanda scheme, 

uphold the Refugee Convention, and provide safe and legal routes to 

sanctuary for refugees.’ 

Restoring the right to work for people seeking safety 

No specific mention. 

Plan to push for those seeking asylum and  

protection to be permitted to  

work while their application is  

being decided 

No specific mention.  

Plan to lift the ban on asylum seekers working if they have been waiting for a 

decision for more than three months 

Accommodation in communities, rather than 

camps or institutionalised accommodation like hotels 

Commit to end use of hotels. No mention of camps.  

No specific mention. 

Commit to end use of  asylum hotels. No mention of camps. 

No specific mention. 

Pulling people out of enforced poverty 

No specific mention. 

No specific mention. 

No specific mention. 

No specific mention. 

Expanding family reunion 

No specific mention, although plans to cap migration numbers could undermine this. 

No specific mention. 

No specific mention. 

Plan to reunite unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Europe with family members in the UK.  

Plan to expand scope of refugee family reunion. 

Ending No Recourse to Public Funds 

No mention, although using No Recourse to Public Funds as a policy tool is embedded in a number of current government policies.  

Abolition of the ‘no recourse  

to public funds’ condition that  

exacerbates social, economic,  

and racial inequalities. 

No specific mention. 

No specific mention. 

Other manifesto commitments with implications for refugee protection 

‘Restrict visa access from countries that don’t work with us.’ 

Sign further return deals for people with no right to be here.  

Give parliament control of how many places we offer on safe and legal routes, with a cap based on the capacity of local areas. 


Plan to push for an end to immigration  

detention for all migrants  

unless they are a danger to  

public safety. 

Set up a new returns and enforcement unit, with an additional 1,000 staff, to fast-track removals to safe countries. 

Negotiate additional returns arrangements. 

Plan to address humanitarian crises which lead people to flee their homes, and strengthen support for refugees in their home region. 

A raft of additional commitments, including: 

Work closely with Europol and the French authorities to stop the smuggling and trafficking gangs. 

Strengthen the powers of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and 


Ending child detention. 

Increasing ‘move-on’ period for refugees to prevent destitution. 


Cheshire East context 

In response to the Syrian war, the British government agreed to take a number of vulnerable families under the VPRS (Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme), with five families arriving in Cheshire East in 2017. Since then families have also been resettled from Afghanistan under a separate scheme, further Syrian families have made Cheshire East their home and more recently a large number of Ukrainian refugees have also arrived following the invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Cheshire East Council has co-ordinated a number of these schemes at a local level.  


Refugees Welcome Cheshire East first emerged in response to the Syrian war. It has been in existence for nearly 9 years, and has blossomed to be the very embodiment of a warm welcome for refugees. 


With a volunteer team of around 50, supported by 8 trustees, Refugees Welcome run conversation cafés, ESOL classes, and work directly with refugee families to help them orientate and settle into the community. Refugees Welcome work alongside the council’s Communities’ Team and local voluntary and faith groups to ensure families are supported and empowered to flourish. Through their commitment and passion, many people who’ve lived through the trauma of leaving everything they know and hold dear have been helped to find safety and community in Cheshire East. 


Community sponsorship schemes have also emerged in recent years, and the work of supporting new arrivals continues.  


Separately, community and faith groups have also stepped up to support people accommodated locally while awaiting a decisions on their asylum applications, including people housed temporarily in hotels in the Crewe and Sandbach areas.  


What can you do?  

You can take action to engage your Parliamentary candidate and call on them to commit to building a compassionate refugee protection system. See here for further guidance: New General Election resources: calling on candidates to defend the right to seek safety - Asylum Matters 


You can also support local initiatives to welcome resettled refugees. Find out more here: RW Home ( 



The 1951 Refugee Convention | UNHCR 


UK Asylum and Policy and the Illegal Migration Act | UNHCR UK 


UK: Priti Patel's Borders Act is 'unlawfully rewriting' what it means to be a refugee ( 


Building a compassionate refugee protection system ( 


Fight the Anti-Refugee Laws - Asylum Matters 


The truth about asylum - Refugee Council 


Asylum and resettlement datasets - GOV.UK (


Refugee Week 17-23 June – Spotlight on Refugees Welcome | CVS Cheshire East ( 


Directory of Social Change - General Election 2024: Manifesto Mashup! ( 

Disclaimer: CVS Cheshire East cannot make any guarantees about news, events and training that have been submitted from external sources