Here is how London could have its own refugee policy

We wouldn’t be the first country in the world to have multiple immigration systems. In Canada, all ten provinces have different immigration rules

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Brexit was sold to us as an opportunity to take back control of our borders, but this isn’t what all of us wanted. In fact, 60 per cent of London voted remain, and mayor Sadiq Khan has been leading the political backlash against Brexit with his #LondonIsOpen campaign. Adverts have sprung up across the capital to reassure Europeans that they are still welcome.

It’s not just rhetoric — he’s also demanding a seat at the Government’s Brexit negotiations and pushing for London-specific work visas. These are undoubtedly positive developments, not only for business but also to protect hard-earned freedoms to work, live and study across Europe.

But we run the risk of forgetting the people who are most in need of open borders: asylum seekers and refugees. As of April, only 43 Syrians have been welcomed to London. This is despite the fact that 60 per cent of Londoners would like to accept more refugees from Syria and Libya, and 66 per cent support refugees being placed in their local area. If London is to be truly open, Sadiq should be pressuring the Government to accelerate the (incredibly slow) pledged resettlement of 20,000 Syrians and 3000 unaccompanied minors in the UK, most of all by increasing funding.

Refugees rescued and brought to shore in the Mediterranean

The main reason progress has been so slow in London is that there’s not enough money. Local authorities are unable to provide for refugees despite being disproportionately willing to do so. Waltham Forest says there is a yearly £10,000 per refugee funding gap for the ten families the council has promised to accommodate. Tower Hamlets notes that government housing grants for refugees do not cover actual costs. Eight London councils have asked for additional financial help to care for children from Calais. The mayor should make it a priority to demand adequate funds to make refugee acceptance a reality. Yet providing extra funding for refugees is probably the last thing Theresa May’s Government wants to do.

There’s no time to wait for a Labour government to change this; asylum seekers and refugees need help now. Sadiq Khan should act immediately to bypass the Tory refugee deadlock by fighting to devolve asylum and relevant tax raising laws.

He’s already embarking on a grand plan to devolve “fiscal responsibility, including tax raising powers, control over skills, housing and planning, transport, health and policing”. Given that funding is the biggest problem, this plan should include using devolved powers to tax London-based wealthy individuals and corporations specifically for refugee provision. Those individuals and corporations should be happy to oblige, given that Sadiq is fighting so hard to save their EU privileges.

The plan should also include devolving asylum policy itself. Bar the South East, London is the only region in Britain with majority public support for refugees. It should be able to make its own asylum decisions: when to grant asylum and how many people to accept. Given the Government’s reluctance to follow through on its own pledges, devolving asylum law, alongside the tax-raising powers to fund it, would mean that the city could resettle far greater numbers than today.

We need to look at it in perspective – London, with its population of 8.7 million and GDP of $835 bn (£663 bn), has resettled refugees in the double digits. Sweden, with its population of 9.6 million and GDP of just $496 bn (£394 bn), accepted 163,000 last year, with 56 per cent expected to be granted permanent residency rights. With the right taxation and infrastructure, London can do far more.

We wouldn’t be the first country in the world to have multiple immigration systems. In Canada, all ten provinces have different immigration rules, meaning that it is easier to migrate to certain parts of the country if you agree to live and work there for a certain period of time. This is centrally managed. Quebec goes one step further, with fully devolved immigration powers. Immigrants apply directly to province authorities and not to Canada, in order to prioritise French speakers. If the residency requirement is violated, your visa is revoked.

If London or any other region wants to open the door to people fleeing war or persecution, it should have the devolved powers to do so. Brexit was about taking back democratic control of our borders. So let’s do it properly.