Our fortnightly 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
Coverage of the perilous channel crossings has continued at pace over the last two weeks, following the tragic death of a Sudanese teenager who drowned when attempting the journey. In the face of increasingly hostile coverage, colleagues across the sector have responded in force calling for a humane response, and crucially, the restoration of safe and legal routes.
JCWI have created a briefing outlining the case for safe and legal routes into the UK. As we outlined in the last update, you can take action with their write to your MP action and the City of Sanctuary Stand up for Sanctuary campaign.
Key developments have included:
- Led by Donkeys made a very emotive and powerful video starring Hassan which they projected onto the Dover cliffs.
- Kent County Council have reported that they can no longer accommodate or support any further arrivals of unaccompanied young people seeking asylum. Reports have suggested that unaccompanied children and young people will be taken into the ‘care of Border Force’ before being transferred to alternative local authority care.
- There have also been brilliant displays of local welcome, from Refugees Welcome protests in Falmouth to a local football team in North Wales challenging hateful rhetoric from local politicians.
- Another area of concern is that over 40 Conservative MPs who are members of the new ‘Common Sense’ Group have called on the government to overhaul asylum laws including sending anyone back who has travelled through the a safe country to get to the UK. This gathered coverage in the Express and the Telegraph among other outlets.
- The Home Office’s response to the criticism over channel crossings has been to publicly state they are deporting people back to EU countries. A tweet which was highly criticised by the legal profession berated ‘activist lawyers’ for frustrating the process was later taken down, with the Home Office’s Permanent Secretary confirming that it should not have been used on an official government channel. Twelve people were deported to France and Germany but a second flight was halted due to legal challenges. Some of the people detained at Brook House awaiting deportation went on hunger strike. Detained Voices has published statements gathered from detainees about their experiences
Hotels have also received coverage in the local media, and one which countered this negative portrayal of those seeking asylum was an Essex Live piece about the hotel which briefly housed people seeking asylum in Home Secretary Priti Patel’s constituency.
Glasgow’s seven SNP MPs have withdrawn from discussions with Home Office, stating they have no confidence in the department’s operation of the review of accommodation in the city for people seeking asylum during Covid-19. The MPs claim that they are unable to engage with the Home Office in good faith due to a lack of transparency about the proposed review.
We received nearly 200 responses to our survey and we are currently collating the data. We would like to say a massive thank you to all who completed it, promoted it and supported people to complete it!
Destitution / NRPF
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, have both spoken publicly about the need to tackle homelessness, and given their support to Crisis’s call for emergency homelessness legislation, which would guarantee temporary accommodation to all those experiencing homelessness over the next 12 months, regardless of their immigration status.
Lift The Ban
There has also been lots of really strong media coverage, including:
- Campaigners in Wales spoke to the BBC about the importance of the right to work, with expert by experience Mostafa courageously sharing his story and his experience of living on asylum support rates.
- In Coventry, coalition members spoke out in support of the campaign, with Coventry City Council continuing to throw their weight behind it after successfully passing a council motion in March.
- In Leicester, Lift the Ban spokesperson Anju spoke about her experience of waiting nine years for the right to work.
- In Bradford, Diana Flores spoke on BCB radio about her own experience of waiting eight years to be able to work in the UK, explaining why she is campaigning to change this for others.
Groundswell Research paper on the impact of Covid, Homesslessness and Immigration
We have enjoyed working closely on this briefing with Groundswell. It focuses on the impact of Covid-19 for people who are in the asylum system, refugees or those who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF).
NRPF and Local Authority Report
Public Interest Law Centre, along with the University of Wolverhampton, has published a report into local authority support for people with NRPF during the pandemic that may be of interest.
UN report on the use of private actors in immigration systems
Members of GMIAU’s All4One youth group – all with experience of seeking asylum in the UK as children and having their ages disputed – have worked on a guide to age assessments. They want to share their experiences and pass them on to other young people facing similar situations.
Their work is being launched online at 5pm on 9 September, live streamed from the GMIAU Facebook page – see here for details.
In advance of the event, GMIAU is also running a series of blogs on age assessments.
Eviction ban extended in England and Wales
The eviction ban for those in the private rented sector has been extended to 20 September in England and Wales. This follows a decision in Scotland to extend protections from eviction for those in the private rented sector to March 2021, and significant pressure from devolved administrations and health bodies.
No-one should be forcibly evicted until we see a proper plan to keep people seeking asylum safe from homelessness. Beyond this, we maintain the call for a triple lock of protections to prevent the homelessness of people seeking asylum.
Repurposing of Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre
- In the three months to the end of June 2020, 4,732 people claimed asylum in the UK. This marks a 40% decrease on the same period in the previous year.
- Between April-June 2020, the number of main applicants and dependants waiting over six months for a decision on their asylum claim rose for the ninth consecutive quarter. Of the 54,073 main applicants and dependants waiting for an initial decision, 38,756 waited over six months. This means 72% of people waiting waited over six months for a decision.
- No refugee resettlement took place between April-June 2020, as a result of the suspension of flights.
- In the same period, just 131 family reunion visas were granted, a 94% drop compared to the previous quarter.
Home Office reinstates cash payments to those in NRM
4. Resources and what we’ve been reading
New factsheets from ASAP
The Asylum Support Appeals Project (ASAP) has prepared two new factsheets on changes to the Asylum Support Tribunal procedure during Covid-19:
- Factsheet 4 – Filling in the Notice of Appeal during the Covid-19 period replaces the previous Factsheet 4 and gives guidance on how to fill in the new Notice of Appeal published in May 2020.
- Factsheet 4a – Should an oral or paper hearing be requested is a brand new resource giving guidance on the conditions under which the AST will now list an oral hearing and how to apply for one.
ASAP has advised that the factsheets cross-refer to one another and should be read together.
In the media
5. Events, jobs and funding opportunities
Resist, protest, imagine: Art for a new deal on migration
JCWI are commissioning artists
JCWI are also looking for illustrators, graphic designers and other visual artists to work on three briefs to help launch a new campaign (which has a working title of ‘a new deal on migration’). They are looking for:
- A series of illustrations of some of the undocumented workers they have been speaking to;
- An infographic that illustrates how people become undocumented, the harsh realities of the hostile environment, and how difficult it is to get status back again;
- Poster/s that encapsulate the ideas/messages of the new deal and encourage others to get involved
Plus they have a bonus ‘open’ pitch if people have other ideas that tie in with what they are trying to do! If you know anyone who might be interested, please send them this link.