COVID & Asylum – 10th November

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

Asylum Support Rates

As you will have heard, ministers have completed the latest review of asylum support rates and are increasing payments by just 3p a week, to £39.63 a week.

Asylum Matters have published a new report – ‘Locked into Poverty – life on asylum support’ – which reveals a picture of poverty, exclusion and hardship for people seeking asylum wholly reliant on Government support payments. You can find the report on the Asylum Matters website and read coverage of the review’s outcome, and our and several partners’ views on it, in The Guardian, i News, Independent and Morning Star.

This follows work undertaken in July and August with people in the asylum system, and with over 30 local and national partners who support them, on a survey of people’s experience of living on asylum support; and which was submitted as evidence to the Home Office for its review.

The report sets out the findings of our survey among 184 people seeking asylum, and reveals that:

  •         92% of respondents did not have enough money to buy all they need;

  •         84% said they don’t always have enough money to buy food;

  •         Just 2% of families can afford to buy the shoes and clothes they need for themselves and their  children;

  •         63% of people stated they could not always afford the medicines they needed;

  •         Only 1 in 4 people stated they could afford essential cleaning products;

  •         95% of people stated they could not afford to travel by public transport;

  •         Only 1 in 10 people could afford data and phone credit they needed.

Meanwhile, recent polling commissioned by Asylum Matters and Refugee Action found that 64% of people in the 35 most marginal Conservative-held constituencies thought the amount people currently receive on asylum support was too little.

We’re very grateful for your support so far with highlighting how 3p is an #InsultNotAnIncrease. Please do keep sharing on social media, you can access the infographics here, together with some suggested text. These were designed for partners who were involved in the survey, so do amend and adapt as you see fit, and/or retweet the Asylum Matters thread.

If you are able to engage with your local media and/or your local MP on these findings, do get in touch with us at info@asylummatters.org

And our thanks go to the many partners who disseminated the survey, and people seeking asylum themselves, for sharing their experiences of life on asylum support with us.

Asylum Evictions

In recent weeks, campaigners have continued to make the case for a pause on evictions from asylum accommodation into homelessness, with coverage of both local and national calls to protect communities.

On 5th November the Home Office stated that cessations of asylum support for people with a negative decision on their asylum application have now been suspended in light of the nationwide lockdown, pending a review by the Home Office. There have been no further details provided by the Home Office to date, but more information regarding the length of the pause and clarity on the escalation routes has been sought.

Irrespective of this policy decision regarding negative cessations, the High Court has ordered a stay on Section 4 evictions while a Judicial Review challenging the Home Office’s decision to evict people from Section 4 accommodation waits to be heard. You can see a copy of the order on ASAP’s website. The order will stand until a new hearing takes place, the date of which has yet to be determined after being pushed back from its original date of 6th November, or if the Home Office succeeds in applying to have the order varied. Therefore any evictions of a person on Section 4 support will be in breach of this order, with the Guardian reporting last week on instances where this has happened, speaking directly to the people affected.

The announcement of the pause in evictions makes it crucial for us to continue to apply pressure on the Home Office to clarify their plans urgently and commit to protecting everyone from homelessness and Covid-19. You can use our resources to write to your local authority and MP to ask them to join these calls.

We also support the petition from Crisis and the call from homelessness organisations to restart the ‘Everyone In’ scheme in England to protect everyone in light of rising Covid-19 infection rates across the UK, and winter setting in.

Lift the Ban

With Covid-19 cases on the rise and a new lockdown in place, concerns are rightly being raised in the media over NHS staff shortages as the service looks ahead to a very difficult winter. However, the Home Office continues to prioritise the hostile environment over unlocking skills the nation needs at this time of crisis.

Over the next fortnight, Lift The Ban hopes to highlight this by giving spokespeople who have been shut out of contributing during this crisis a chance to tell their story.

Safe and Legal Routes

Following the devastating news of another tragedy in the Channel, organisations and individuals have been making the urgent case for both the creation and reopening of safe and legal routes to sanctuary. Help Refugees, Kent Refugee Action Network and the British Red Cross are among those who have powerfully made the case in national and regional media, while IMIX have published a new blog arguing that stories rooted in common humanity are needed to build understanding about why people are forced into such dangerous journeys.

Refugee Action have also launched a new campaign push to call for the relaunch of the currently on-hold refugee resettlement programme. They have been running an Email Your MP action for the last couple of months and have now released a new video which sets out that all the pieces in the “resettlement jigsaw” puzzle are ready; the only piece missing is “political will”.

There were some signs of progress at the start of this week, as Baroness Williams, the Home Office minister in the House of Lords, told peers that the UK’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme would restart “ as soon as possible” when “safe to do so”. Campaigners have welcomed the statement, but insisted a long-term commitment was still required.

Refugee Rights Europe have also updated their briefing document on the need for safe and legal routes. The document highlights the urgent need for solutions for those arriving spontaneously at the UK border in northern France but who would not fit the tight criteria inherent in family reunion provisions, or a potential renewed Dubs scheme.

Refugee Rights Europe are also exploring the possibility of setting up a new cross-Channel civil society forum focused on safe and legal routes, which will be comprised of both French and UK groups. If you would be interested in taking part, you can get in touch with Refugee Rights Europe at info@refugee-rights.eu.

RESET have launched the Communities for Refugees campaign, aiming to reach 5000 people to sign up to sponsor refugees to reach safety. The first video of the campaign gives a snapshot of Abdullah Alkhalaf’s experience of being sponsored to Oxford.

2. Research and reports

RAS Voice investigation into quality of interpreters

RAS Voice is investigating the quality of interpreters at interviews, particularly during the pandemic. All answers are kept anonymous, please only respond to questions you want to answer. The survey can be accessed here.

UN report on the right to adequate housing

The United Nations has published its report Adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, which examines the impact of Covid-19 on the experiences of marginalised groups in accessing safe and adequate housing.

Locked In Abuse, Locked Out of Safety report

Safety 4 Sisters North West have released a powerful report, ‘Locked In Abuse, Locked Out of Safety’, which documents the experiences of migrant women without recourse to public funds through the course of the pandemic. The report finds that, at odds with the national ‘Everyone In’ policy, women have faced significant challenges in accessing essential services and securing safe accommodation, with initial refusals for refuge spaces opening them up to new risks, and on some occasions leaving women and their children in high risk situations with violent perpetrators. The report makes a number of important recommendations at both a policy level, including the removal of the NRPF condition and inclusion of migrant women in the Domestic Abuse Bill, and at a service level, including around training for key service providers on the intersection between the NRPF condition and domestic abuse.

3. Home Office and Government Developments 

Changes to asylum support payments

The Minister for Immigration Compliance, Chris Philp MP, has confirmed changes to asylum support payment following the completion of the Home Office’s recent review.

Further details on the implementation of these measures are still awaited from the Home Office.

Update on lockdown measures in England

Following the new national lockdown in England, the Home Office has confirmed that it will continue to operate regional intake units and that asylum interviews will continue with no changes to current procedures. They have also recently confirmed that in-person reporting will continue for some people during lockdown.

Refugee Council are continuing to update their page Changes to Asylum & Resettlement policy and practice in response to Covid-19 where you will be able to find any updates on changes due to the lockdown in England.

4. Resources and what we’ve been reading …

  • Right to Remain have produced a handy new video on delays in asylum and immigration cases, explaining why they’re happening, how long people are waiting, and what you can do.

  • We’ve been following the Just Citizens campaign which makes the case for social citizenship in Scotland for all, regardless of immigration status. By calling for Scotland to rethink citizenship in a more inclusive way, the campaign aims to ensure everyone living there has the right to belong.  You can follow the campaign on twitter or read about why it is important in this blog by Just Citizens member, Pinar Aksu.

  • Refugee Council have launched a new guide to help refugees open bank accounts. The guide is available in English, Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish, Pashto and Tigrinya.

5. Events, jobs and training

  • Maternity Action are running two free webinars:
    • Introduction to NHS charging regulations for maternity care in England. The webinar will be held on Thursday, 12th of November between 10 – 11 am and is for advisers outside of London working with migrant women who are pregnant or new mothers and who may be vulnerable due to persecution, violence or exploitation. You can register for the training here.
    • Introduction to Home Office Support for asylum seekers and refused asylum seekers. This is for organisations outside of London particularly those working with migrant women who are pregnant or new mothers and who may be vulnerable due to persecution, violence or exploitation. The webinar will be held on Tuesday, 17th of November 2-3 pm. You can register here.
  • Migrant Voice has compiled a great list of upcoming online events on the topic of migration.

  • Privacy International are hosting an online training course aimed at people in the immigration and asylum sector to address concerns about data collection, data-sharing, and the need to better understand data protection as a tool to protect people’s fundamental rights. The course consists of seven pre-recorded sessions and a live session on 1st December, which you can register for here.

  • The Refugee, Asylum and Migration Policy Project (RAMP) are recruiting for a new refugee, asylum and migration policy adviser to the Bishop of Durham, based in the House of Lords, working 1 day per week. Full details can be found on their website, with a deadline of 16th November.

  • City of Sanctuary UK are recruiting for a Schools of Sanctuary Support Officer. The deadline for applications is Friday 13th November.

  • RefuAid are recruiting for a Candidate Resourcer and Admissions Officer. The deadline for applications is Friday 13th November.

  • Action Foundation are recruiting for an InterAction Project Manager. The deadline for applications is midnight on Sunday 29th November.

 

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