London elections – impact on asylum and refugee policy?

What are the likely effects on asylum seekers and refugees in the capital, particularly for the future of London’s refugee integration strategy, of a victory by the main candidates? While the subject of asylum and refugees is not a clear campaigning issue and is unlikely to appear explicitly in candidates manifestos, they are impacted upon by general attitudes toward immigration, poverty and diversity, amongst other things. The following summarises what can be weaned from the candidates’ policy proposals.

Livingstone: The current mayor has been active in the area of refugee integration and has consistently advocated for asylum seekers and refugees amongst other often marginalised groups. Yet he is not making this a specific election issue. This partly relates to what he actually has the power to do as mayor, but it is likely that if Livingstone is returned to power we will see a continuation of the developing refugee integration strategy, continued support for RCOs and avowed ideological support for a ‘multiculturalist’ approach to integration and community cohesion.

Johnson: There is little on the candidate’s website that will have an impact on asylum seekers or refugee specifically, despite many verbal references to appointing a team reflecting London’s diversity. There is no mention of diversity or community policies in general, only a focus on the elderly (in terms of ‘age equality’) and crime in the community more specifically. Nor is there mention of the attitudes toward immigration, perhaps a vote loser in London with the people that Boris needs to draw in to generate critical mass? However, not discussing the subject now does not necessarily mean that a conservative mayor will de-rail existing work on refugee integration, though the tone and proposed support structure of the current refugee integration strategy may sit a little uneasily well with conservative principles.

Paddick: Once again, there is little in the Liberal candidates manifesto on issues that will specifically affect asylum seekers and refugees, which is perhaps more surprising from a Liberal candidate. The Liberals often have a particular stance on issues related to asylum and human rights, yet have an indifferent electoral record in London (only very few parliamentary constituencies and no City Hall constituencies). This perhaps explains why Paddick’s focus is more on core issues – such as the environment and crime – that reflect his own interests and experience rather than that of the party. It is even less likely, however, that were he to reach power, that he would reverse existing work on refugee integration.

The lack of specifics is perhaps not surprising. Yet refugee integration in particular is one area where the current Mayor has negotiated more policy-making power for City Hall, arguing that there is something specific to being a refugee in London compared to elsewhere in the UK. A specific policy on asylum and/or refugees by other candidates could possibly have presented a different side to the overall feel of their candidacy.

So, it is difficult to gauge the future direction of asylum and refugee policies and/or advocacy under the three main candidates, yet, it is likely that once in power each candidate may revert to asylum and refugee policies closer to those of their own party generally rather than the specific tone and approach being adopted for election purposes.

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