COVID-19 & Asylum – 28th September

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

No evictions into homelessness from asylum accommodation

The Home Office’s recent and sudden decision to resume eviction proceedings for those who have been refused asylum in England – with plans to resume in Wales and Scotland at a later date – mean many people across our communities could be forced into street homelessness in a matter of weeks. We believe this would not be acceptable under normal circumstances; but in the context of rising Covid infection rates across the UK, it is clearly unsafe and irresponsible.

As an urgent measure, we are calling on the Home Office to immediately halt their plans to resume evictions for people who have been refused asylum.

Here are some ways you can help support the call to halt evictions and protect everyone from homelessness and Covid-19, regardless of their immigration status:

Sign the letter to the Prime Minister

Migrants Rights Network, NACCOM and Asylum Matters have written a joint letter to the Prime Minister outlining significant concerns about the decision and calling for an immediate halt on evictions alongside more support for Local Authorities to meet the needs of people with NRPF. We would love your support with this letter and are keen to get as many co-signatories as possible. To do this, we have created a simple form to complete with a deadline of 3pm on Wednesday 30 September.

Write to your Local Authority and MP

We have co-produced some template resources together with NACCOM that we would urge you to use to write to your MP or Local Authority to join the call to halt evictions and protect everyone from homelessness and Covid-19, regardless of their immigration status:

Home Office questions

The issue was raised by MPs in parliament this afternoon at monthly Home Office questions – Shadow Immigration Minister Holly Lynch and the SNP’s Martyn Day both raised their concerns with the Government, but Minister for Immigration Compliance Chris Philp insisted the plans would go ahead.

Scottish MPs call for inquiry into deaths of people seeking asylum

Glasgow’s MPs have jointly written to the Crown Office calling for a Fatal Accident Inquiry into the tragic deaths of Adnan Walid Elbi, Badreddin Abedlla Adam and Mercy Baguma, who all died this year whilst in the care of the UK’s asylum system. The MPs raised concerns about the “broader social and situational factors” which may have contributed to their deaths.

2. Research and reports

PAC report on Home Office immigration enforcement

A scathing new report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee criticises the Home Office for its approach to policy making.

The cross-party committee of MPs have said that the department’s decision making on its immigration enforcement activities is informed by “disturbingly weak evidence”; and as a result, decisions risk being made through “anecdote, assumption and prejudice”. The MPs said the Home Office has “no idea” what its enforcement activities achieve.

3. Inquiries and calls for evidence

Call for evidence on asylum accommodation and support contracts
The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee is taking evidence on the asylum accommodation and support contracts.

To find out more about the scope of the inquiry, and the call for evidence, take a look at the committee’s website. The deadline to submit evidence is 1 October.

MoD sites as asylum accommodation
Last week, news broke of the Home Office using Ministry of Defence (MoD) sites to accommodate people seeking asylum. Two barracks – one in Folkestone, Kent and one in Tenby, Pembrokeshire – are now operational, despite significant concerns being raised by NGOs and politicians, including the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford. These sites have also received significant attention from far right vigilante groups, who have particularly targeted the site in Wales.

We maintain that barracks will never be suitable accommodation for people seeking refugee protection, not least during the Covid-19 pandemic. There has also been increasing parliamentary scrutiny of the use of MoD sites as asylum accommodation, including parliamentary questions from Stuart McDonald MP (SNP).

Third Party interviewing

A recent update from the Home Office has revealed that the department is piloting the use of third party providers to conduct substantive asylum interviews in order to increase the number of decisions made. According to the Home Office, the third party interviewing officer’s remit will be to:

“Conduct substantive interviews; to gather evidence and information that enables a decision to be made by Home Office staff. The outcome of a case will be decided by the Home Office, who will consider the evidence at each stage of the process.”

To find out more, check out Free Movement’s blog, and May Bulman’s recent piece in the Independent.

4. Resources and what we’ve been reading …

All4One Resource on Age Assessments

The All4One group has launched a great new resource on age assessments. The All4One group, based with GMIAU, are in Greater Manchester and have themselves experienced age assessments.You can download the guide here.

Right to Work in The Times

Our co-secretariat for the Lift the Ban coalition, Refugee Action, were quoted in The Times about the ever increasing length of time people are spending waiting for a decision on their asylum claim.

GMIAU hostile environment blog

Following the recent Public Accounts Committee report, GMIAU have published a powerful blog on the impact of the hostile environment and the experiences of some of the people affected in Greater Manchester.

Recommended reads on asylum

Two fascinating recent pieces from the Guardian include a long read on the criminalisation of rescue ships in the Mediterranean; and a photo essay on people who cross the Channel.

5. Events

Refugee Scholar Conference

Registration is now open for the upcoming Refugee Scholar Conference, which is being held on 5-6 October 2020.

Organised by graduates from refugee and asylum seeking backgrounds with the support of STAR and Universities of Sanctuary, the online event is intended for current or soon-to-be students from asylum seeking and refugee backgrounds. Further details and the link to register are here.

Universities of Sanctuary Conference

The Universities of Sanctuary Annual Conference will take place 13-14 October 2020.
Confirmed sessions include:

  • We Belong: hear from the first UK-wide charity to be set up and run entirely by and for young migrants
  • ESOL – A Trauma-Informed Approach
  • Student Finance and Humanitarian Protection – A Toolkit
  • Guidance for Universities Facing Student Removal or Detention
To register your place, see the Eventbrite page.
  • UKLGIG is recruiting an LGBTQI+ Asylum Seeker Support Worker (fixed term) and a Team Assistant. Both roles are open to full or part-time candidates. Closing date for both roles is 9.30am on 8 October. More info can be found on the UKLGIG website.
  • GMIAU is recruiting a Policy Officer. The closing date for applications is Friday 9 October at 12 noon. For more information and to apply, go to the GMIAU website.
  • Action Foundation’s accommodation team is recruiting a Support Worker. The closing date for applications is 11 October. For more information and to apply, see the Action Foundation website.
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