Mayor of London Sadiq Khan must remember refugees and asylum seekers in his bespoke Brexit deal

Madeleine Crowther
Sadiq Khan Presents London Labour's Campaign Adverts Ahead Mayoral Vote
Sadiq Khan has indicated he will seek a bespoke Brexit deal for the capital (Source: Getty)

Earlier this week, Sadiq Khan delivered a speech to the Confederation of British Industry counselling against a "hard Brexit", in which the UK would leave the single market without privileged access for its businesses.

This forms part of Khan’s concerted efforts to protect his metropolitan constituents, a very large number of whom own or are employed in companies that thrive on their connections with Europe, and who overwhelmingly voted remain, making London the only region in England to do so.

Khan has previously even suggested that London be granted a bespoke Brexit deal in recognition of our continental ties.

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But Khan failed to mention asylum seekers and refugees in his London deal. To continue as a global city we need to lead the way in housing and supporting these communities, alongside the highly-skilled migrants on which the City relies.

One key reason why is to avoid the accusations of double standards that helped foment the tensions that led to Brexit.

Dispersal policies by the Home Office mean asylum seekers are usually provided with accommodation in the north of the country, where rent prices are cheaper. This means asylum disproportionately affects these regions.

Read more: Failure to reform refugee laws risks the unravelling of liberal democracy

In theory, the EU vote dealt with immigration from just this bloc, but migration from other areas and for different reasons was easily conflated by the public, spurred by unhelpful media coverage and that UKIP poster.

In response, many voted leave to combat what they felt were unchecked numbers of people reaching Britain, even where discontinuing EU membership was not the solution it was presented as.

After all, EU law does not underpin our commitments under the Refugee Convention, so we will still be legally bound to process genuine asylum claims from individuals who are fleeing brutal government violence.

In avoiding dealing with these groups, and instead picking and choosing from the pool of highly-skilled migrants, the "London bubble" could conveniently ignore concerns with immigration, a fact the Leave camp then exploited.

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It was never going to be a solution to ring-fence the M25, stick our heads in the sand and hope this Brexit stuff all went away. But Khan is right that we do need to retain the global outlook of which we are so rightly proud.

One way to do this is to allow a greater number of asylum-seekers to remain in London, and to support recently-recognised refugees with integration in the city.

This would also allow us to genuinely champion the positive contribution these groups can make, without leaving us open to claims, by now becoming staid, that we are a "liberal metropolitan elite" lacking understanding of the true impact of immigration.

So Sadiq, by all means push for a better Brexit for Londoners, but include asylum seekers and refugees in your plans.

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