Our weekly summary of ongoing advocacy initiatives, interesting surveys and research, government developments and useful resources. Contact us if you’d like to get this update directly into your inbox!
1. Ongoing advocacy initiatives
Updates on the campaign to raise asylum support rates
There’s been plenty of media coverage of the ongoing campaign to raise asylum support rates. Last week, Refugee Action published a piece on politics.co.uk outlining the case for change, the campaign was covered on the Victoria Derbyshire show and a number of organisations spoke to the Independent about a pending legal challenge relating to asylum support rates during COVID-19.
Yvette Cooper MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, also raised the issue of low asylum support rates in the committee session on Thursday May 7th. You can see a clip of her comments on the issue here, and download a version to share here.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to keep up the pressure. We are still encouraging individuals and organisations to write to your MP calling for an emergency uplift of £20 in asylum support rates, as well as bringing asylum support rates back in line with mainstream benefits.
Want to show your support on social media? Here’s a couple of draft tweets:
Could you do a week’s food shop with just £23 in your pocket? Limited funds and rising costs due to #Coronavirus has made food poverty worse for those seeking #asylum. Write to your MP to call on the @ukhomeoffice to raise support levels now https://act.refugee-action.org.uk/page/59805/action/1
Could you entertain your children in lockdown with just a slate and some chalk? Support levels for people seeking #asylum makes it impossible to support children’s development. Write to your MP to call on the @ukhomeoffice to raise support levels now https://act.refugee-action.org.uk/page/59805/action/1
(The figures for food budgeting and resources for children’s educational activities have been taken from the Home Office’s most recent review of asylum support rates, where they calculate how much people seeking asylum need to meet their essential living needs.)
If you’re interested in getting more involved in the campaign, please get in touch with Emma Birks (emma[at]asylummatters.org)
Home Affairs Select Committee session on asylum accommodation
On Thursday May 7th, as part of its ongoing inquiry into Home Office preparedness for Covid-19, the Home Affairs Committee held an oral evidence session on conditions in asylum accommodation and detention. Issues highlighted included the continued practice of enforced room sharing, low asylum support rates and their impact on residents’ ability to follow social distancing rules and the lack of public health oversight of asylum accommodation.
Asylum Matters submitted evidence ahead of the session with input from partners around the UK, which you can read in full here, alongside evidence from local authorities and other stakeholders.
High Court ruling on NRPF conditions for migrants on the ten-year route to settlement
In a case brought by Deighton Pierce Glynn (DPG) solicitors on behalf of an 8 year old boy and supported by the Unity Project, the High Court ruled on Thursday May 7th that No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) conditions on migrants on the ten-year route to settlement are unlawful as they breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights which prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment.
A detailed judgement will be published later, which will set out the steps the Home Office must take to comply with the ruling. However, you can read DPG’s statement on the case here and coverage in the Guardian here.
Advocacy initiatives from across our networks:
Open letter to the Home Secretary from Refugee Council
Refugee Council is calling on the Home Secretary to take further steps to protect all refugees and people seeking asylum during this crisis, including raising asylum support rates, making it possible for people to claim asylum without having to travel, and giving all people seeking asylum accommodation that is suitable for social distancing and self-isolation.
You can sign their urgent letter to the Home Secretary online, here.
Letter to UK Government on from Migrants’ Rights Network and the Public Law Interest Centre on NPRF (England)
Migrants’ Rights Network and the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) have written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, calling on him to issue formal guidance to local authorities in England making it clear that all homeless people must be supported regardless of immigration status, provide ring fenced funding to meet this need and end NRPF conditions permanently. You can read the full letter here.
Petition for WiFi access in all Mears accommodation (Yorkshire)
South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG) have a petition calling on asylum accommodation provider Mears to install wi-fi in all asylum properties, which you can sign here.
New report: Covid-19: No safety net for migrant women
The Women’s Budget Group and Coventry Women’s Partnership have published a report on migrant women’s experiences of the pandemic, which highlights that migrant women are disproportionately represented in key worker occupations, yet are left with no rights to social security or vital services if they are unable to work because of Covid-19. You can read the report here.
New report: Families on the front line
JCWI have published research on the effect of the minimum income requirement (MIR) on families during the Covid-19 pandemic, showing that tens of thousands of families have been left living in fear for their futures during the pandemic and beyond, due to immigration rules that split apart families based on how much they earn. You can read the report here, which recommends suspending the minimum income requirement for couples in the UK, ending NRPF conditions and repealing the MIR for all new applicants.
JCWI is asking supporters to write to your MP to ask them to call on the Home Office to ensure that no family is split up during the crisis.
2. Home Office and Government Developments
Recruitment of a new ICIBI
The Home Office has begun the recruitment process for a new Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI). The role of the ICIBI is to provide independent scrutiny of the Home Office’s border and immigration functions and the current Inspector will remain in post until October 2020.
New translated audio guidance from Doctors of the World
Doctors of the World’s translated guidance on COVID-19, self-isolation, and how to contact the NHS are now available as audio files to download from their website.
Translated guides on Coping Strategies in Anxious Times
The Traumatic Stress Service in Bristol have created this guide to coping in anxious times, with translations in 13 languages. It is based on expertise on supporting people with trauma and includes practical advice that will be useful in the current situation.
The Parenting for Lifelong Health project has produced a resource on parenting during the Covid-19 pandemic, aimed at supporting some of the most vulnerable families during this crisis. The resource is available in over 50 languages at covid19parenting.com
Hope for the young emergency fund
Hope for the young have set up an emergency fund to support young refugees or asylum seekers up to the age of 30 who are assessed as vulnerable, to help in the relief of destitution and poverty in general.
London Migration Film Festival
For those looking for something to watch during lockdown, the London Migration Film Festival has made its best films from past festivals available for free on its website.
Campaign victory on family reunion
Finally, there was good news over the weekend as the campaign to reunite families saw an agreement for 52 people to be able to come to the UK from Greece today to be reunited with their families. Congratulations to everyone who has been campaigning to secure this!