Hastings Buddy Project and Hastings City of Sanctuary were pleased to be invited to meet with Ms Diane Abbott, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, recently in Hastings. Rossana Leal, founder and director of the Hastings Buddy Project chaired the meeting, and about 15 of us sat round the table, including some of our new friends now with sanctuary in Hastings. We discussed with Ms Abbott aspects of our work in supporting people seeking sanctuary, and raised some of the issues of current concern in the general area of immigration policy. Ms Abbott agreed with us that Home Office policy and practice is deeply hostile to those seeking to migrate or gain asylum to our country, and in fact has been so for a number of decades and though several governments, resulting in the current and profoundly entrenched unwelcoming ethos, as well as difficulties in day-to-day functioning. Ms Abbott explained that these both require total reform. Under a Labour government, such reform would include the closure of Yarlswood and Brook House Immigration Detention Centres. Furthermore, there would be a limit of 28 days upon immigration detention, thus removing the current state of unlimited immigration detention. Labour has also committed to the right to work for people seeking asylum after 6 months, and the removal of the shortage occupation list which currently prevents most from gaining any work for the duration of their asylum process – often years. Strong overall reform would also take place within the Home Office, with a more humane and fair system replacing the procedures we have at the moment.
We were happy to hear these expressions of commitment from Ms Abbott; and we are grateful that she was able to take the time to meet with us. We look forward to similar conversations about their view of Home Office policy with representatives from other political parties whenever the chance might arise.