A fair new deal for refugees

Open letter to political leaders: we need a fair new plan for refugees 

11 December 2023

Lord Richard Dannatt, Gary Lineker, Sophie Okonedo, Big Zuu and other influential figures from across British society have joined forces to sign an open letter to political leaders on the launch of our campaign, Fair Begins Here, to call for a plan for refugees that is fair, kind and gets the system working again, for everyone.  

The signatories represent people from across the UK and all parts of society including the BMA, UNISON, National Association of Head Teachers, faith leaders and stars of sport, stage and screen, and those with experience of being a refugee. 

Here is the full letter and list of signatories

Dear political leaders

Britain’s refugee system has become ever-more uncaring, chaotic and costly.

Our government is still trying to banish people fleeing persecution to Rwanda despite the highest court in the land ruling the scheme unlawful. Tens of thousands of people are stuck in limbo waiting for their refugee protection to be processed, separated from their families and barred from working.

These policies aren’t working for refugees and they aren’t working for local communities.
That’s why we have come together to say we’ve had enough. Enough of the division. Enough of the short-term thinking. Enough of the wasted human potential. And it’s why we now call for something better.

Given the chance, we know communities across our country go the extra mile to welcome refugees – opening their homes, volunteering, speaking up, donating. And, given the chance, refugees do so much to enrich our society as they build new lives.

So today, on the launch of Fair Begins Here, a new campaign from the Together With Refugees coalition, we are calling on you, our political leaders of all parties, to commit to a fair new plan for refugees that:

  • Ensures protection for people fleeing war and persecution by upholding the UK’s commitment under international law to the right to claim asylum and by scrapping the Rwanda scheme.
  • Provides a proper strategy for welcoming and integrating refugees by ensuring fair, rapid decisions on their application for asylum, and the chance to rebuild their lives through settling in a community, being allowed to work and the chance to learn English.
  • Forges stronger global cooperation to tackle the root causes that force people to flee their homes and provides positive solutions when they do, including through safe routes to refugee protection.

We invite people from all parts of society and corners of the country to join us in this call for a new plan for refugees – one that is fair, kind and gets the system working again, for everyone. Because fair begins here.

Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen
Dr Nicola Brady, General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland
Brian Cox CBE, actor
General The Lord Dannatt GCB CBE MC DL, former head of the British Army
Dr Sohail Hanif, CEO, National Zakat Foundation
Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE, Chair and Founder of the Muslim-Jewish Forum
Martins Imhangbe, actor
Dr Ronx Ikharia, Emergency Medicine Doctor, NHS, TV presenter and activist
Simon Kidwell, President, National Association of Headteachers
Kathy Lette, author
Gary Lineker OBE, TV presenter and former England football player
Dr Saad Maida, Senior Registrar in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, NHS, and former refugee from Syria
Christina McAnea, General Secretary, UNISON
Sheikh Nuru Mohammed, Al-Abbas Islamic Centre, Birmingham
Zara Mohammed, Secretary-General, Muslim Council of Britain
Patrick Monahan, comedian and former refugee from Iran
David Morrissey, actor
Lucian Msamati, actor
Paul O’Connor, Head of Bargaining, The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)
Sophie Okonedo CBE, actor
Helen Pankhurst CBE, writer and women’s rights campaigner
Dr Latifa Patel, Representative Body Chair, British Medical Association (BMA)
The Rt Revd Dr John Perumbalath, Bishop of Liverpool and chair of the Churches’ Refugee Network
Simon Rix, musician in the Kaiser Chiefs
Suzi Ruffell, comedian
Bishop Mike Royal, General Secretary, Churches Together in England
Gillian Slovo, writer and former refugee from South Africa
Juliet Stevenson CBE, actor
Patrick Vernon OBE, Windrush campaigner
Dame Harriet Walter DBE, actor
Natasha Walter, writer and human rights campaigner
Gill Walton, CEO and General Secretary, Royal College of Midwives
Matt Wrack, General Secretary, Fire Brigades Union (FBU)
Sabir Zazai OBE, Chair of Together With Refugees and CEO of Scottish Refugee Council and former refugee from Afghanistan
Big Zuu, TV chef and personality and son of refugee from Sierra Leone