Our fortnightly summary of ongoing advocacy initiatives, new research, government developments and useful resources. Contact us if you’d like to get this update directly into your inbox!
Responding to the New Plan for Immigration
The UK Government’s consultation on its new New Plan for Immigration will remain open until May 6th.
Please see here information about Asylum Matters’ resource for organisations to respond to the consultation. The resource is a live document which we will update on an ongoing basis, and will remain open until the consultation deadline.
The resource is designed to help refugee-led organisations, community groups and frontline organisations working with refugees and people seeking asylum to understand the consultation process and questions, as well as to signpost to other helpful information and resources. It covers the following themes:
About the New Plan for Immigration and the consultation process
Concerns about the consultation process
How to respond to the consultation
Understanding the consultation questions and preparing your response
The consultation questions themselves, with information and resources to help with responses
Please get in touch with us at [email protected] if you have any suggestions of items to include or have any questions.
Other updates on the New Plan for Immigration:
Refugee Action has developed a joint public statement in response to the New Plan for Immigration. To sign, please add your organisation’s name and CEO/Director/chair (if relevant) to the bottom of the GoogleDoc by the end of the day today (Tuesday 27 April) Refugee Action intends to then promote the statement to members of the public for signature; and will provide social media content and aim to secure media coverage in the coming days.
Women for Refugee Women have published their guide for individuals to respond to the consultation, with particular focus on the harm the new plans will cause to women seeking asylum. They are also co-ordinating a private letter to the Home Secretary on concerns about the Government’s proposals and their impact on women seeking asylum, which partners can sign up to before close of play on Wednesday 28 April. You can sign directly in the Googledoc, using your name, title and organisation.
Paul Blomfield MP has written in the Yorkshire Post criticising the plans, saying people seeking asylum ‘deserve better than this inhumanity’
Many organisations, including Asylum Matters, have strong concerns about the consultation process itself, as detailed in our resource above. We have raised these concerns with the Home Office, and encourage our partners to do the same, directly with the Government; by contacting Britain Thinks, the organisation the Home Office has commissioned to carry out the consultation; and/or by writing to your MP.
Launch of Together With Refugees coalition
Over the last few months the Asylum Reform Initiative, set up by a number of organisations who work with people seeking asylum to push for positive reform of the asylum system, has been developing the idea of a new, broad-based coalition to campaign for deep change in the UK’s whole approach to asylum- for a system that is truly fair, effective and humane. The campaign, called Together With Refugees, will be launching on Monday 10 May, and will see many local, national, refugee-led and grassroots groups stand together at this critical time.
The full report from the recent inspections of the Penally and Napier barracks has not yet been released, but Kent Online and The Guardian are among the news outlets to cover the limited findings that have been made available to the media.
The report includes findings that the barracks were “inadequate” and “unsuitable”, with “serious safeguarding concerns” and distressing findings about self harm and mental health issues, and how these were handled. The report concludes that “There were fundamental failures of leadership and planning by the Home Office, which had led to dangerous shortcomings in the nature of the accommodation and poor experiences for the residents.”
Lift the Ban coalition gathering Thursday 29 April
The Lift the Ban coalition gathering is this Thursday, 29 April between 10am-1pm. If you’re a member of the coalition and haven’t already registered, you can still sign up for the event here.
At the gathering we’ll reflect on and celebrate our achievements over the past year; hear from guest speakers on the external context; plan the next steps for the campaign; and get inspired by stories of actions taken by campaigners across the UK.
Research and reports
Two new reports on asylum accommodation
In the past few days both British Red Cross and the Refugee Council have published new reports on asylum accommodation.
The British Red Cross report examines the unsafe, unsanitary and isolated accommodation that many people seeking asylum live in. It calls on the UK Government to address the shortage of adequate asylum accommodation; improve its quality and ensure people’s needs are met. The report rejects the Government’s plans for reception centres, and calls instead for people to be accommodated within communities.
The Refugee Council’s report looks at the experiences of people seeking asylum housed in hotels during the Covid-19 pandemic. It finds people are routinely denied basic everyday essentials; are provided with poor quality food; and are unable to access basic healthcare. The report says these experiences have resulted in the decline in people’s mental health, leading some to self-harm and experience suicidal thoughts.
New report form JCWI We Are Here: Routes to Regularisation for Undocumented People
JCWI is launching a new report, We Are Here, looking at how the immigration system causes people to become undocumented, and proposing new routes to regularisation to break the cycle of insecure immigration status. The report will be launched on Friday 30th April at 16:00, with a panel chaired by Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP who will discuss the research findings and lay out proposals for simple, workable reforms that could prevent people from being forced out of status and becoming vulnerable to the Hostile Environment. You can register for the launch event here.
Doctors of the World survey on vaccine confidence
As part of their Covid-19 project, Doctors of the World are developing new resources which aim to increase take-up and confidence in the vaccine. The evidence shows that for a range of reasons, vaccine take up is lower amongst migrant communities, and they want to find out what partners are hearing from their service users.
They have prepared a short survey on vaccine confidence for organisations supporting migrants and refugees – it only takes five minutes to complete.
Migration and the far-right: new briefing
Hope Not Hate has published a new briefing on migration and the far right as part of its ongoing series. You can sign up to receive these directly by registering here.
The Hope Not Hate team have witnessed an upturn in anti-migrant activism, and expect cross-Channel migration to be a central point of organising for the far-right over the summer. They urge us all to report any harmful and offensive content to social media platforms and/or send to them, which we’ll push to get removed.
Freedom from Torture strategy consultation
Freedom from Torture are consulting on their new four-year strategy and want to hear from people with lived experience of torture or the asylum system and the expertise of others who work with them.
They have created a short survey for anyone with interest in their work to share their views, which is open until April 30th.
New JRS UK Report: Being Human in the Asylum System
Jesuit Refugee Service UK has launched a new report, Being Human in the Asylum System, which seeks to envisage a just and person-centred asylum system. In the report, JRS UK finds that the Home Office has failed to respond to sanctuary seekers as human beings, and is more concerned with refusing asylum claims and removing claimants, than with ensuring that people in need of sanctuary are offered protection and a chance to rebuild their lives.
UNHCR statelessness report
UNHCR has published a new report exploring the experiences of people in the UK who are stateless and find themselves ‘in limbo’ for years and sometimes decades. The participatory assessment makes a number of recommendations to the UK Government to address and improve the challenges faced by people affected.
3. Home Office and Government developments
‘Immediate’ resumption of evictions for people refused asylum
It has recently been reported that the Home Office intends to restart “with immediate effect” evictions of people on Section 95 who have received a negative decision on their asylum claim. Evictions have been on hold for several months during the Covid-19 lockdowns and pending legal proceedings, but according to these reports, ministers wrote to local authorities on 23 April to advise that the Home Office will begin processing and reviewing cases for cessation of Home Office support.
Currently, the plans are restricted to England only and, as we understand it, families with children under 18 should not have their support stopped. You can read more about what we know on the Right to Remain website, and we will continue to update partners as more information becomes available. Frontline partners working with people affected by this change may find guidance on the Asylum Support Appeals Project website or ASAP’s advice line helpful.
We are incredibly concerned that the Home Office is resuming evictions for people who have been refused asylum. Rather than returning to ‘business as usual’, we need an asylum system that keeps everyone safe from homelessness – during the pandemic, and beyond.
Backbench business debate on asylum accommodation
On 27 April, Neil Coyle MP and David Simmonds MP led a debate in the House of Commons about asylum accommodation. The debate saw contributions from a number of parliamentarians, and covered many issues faced by people seeking asylum living in inadequate contingency and dispersal accommodation. You can watch the full debate here.
Resources, events, jobs and training
May 6th elections
A reminder that elections for the devolved parliaments in Wales and Scotland, Police and Crime Commissioners, regional Mayors, London Assembly and many English councils are next Thursday May 6th.
Promote the Migrant Vote has resources and information in multiple languages on their website to encourage and empower migrant communities to make their voices heard and vote in these elections.
ASAP asylum support appeals toolkit
ASAP has published a new ‘easy-read’ guide on asylum support appeals, designed to walk people through the process of appealing decisions to refuse or discontinue asylum support. The guide may be of particular use to advice workers (or other ‘supporters’ helping someone) who have less knowledge around asylum support appeals and are trying to help someone through the process, or to clients themselves.
UK Parliament Knowledge Exchange Training
The UK parliament Knowledge Exchange team are running two practical online training sessions which will focus on how researchers can develop their research impact and knowledge exchange with policy-makers across the UK.
The first session, ‘Policy Engagement for Researchers – Government in contrast to Parliament’ is on 19th May 2021, 2-3pm, you can sign up here.
The second session, ‘Parliament for Researchers – how to engage with devolved legislatures’, featuring speakers from the Scottish Parliament, Northern Ireland Assembly and Senedd Cymru, is on 25th May 2021, 10-11am and you can sign up here.
Lloyds Bank Foundation Racial Equity funding
Lloyds Bank Foundation has opened applications for its Racial Equity funding for charities led by and for Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities. The Foundation is looking to support charities where more than half of their Trustee Board self-identify as Black, Asian or minority ethnic, with an annual income of between £25,000 and £1m, and with a strong track record of helping people from minority communities across complex social issues, including asylum and migration.
More information about the funding and how to apply is available here.
Changing the conversation on asylum: a messaging guide
Freedom From Torture will hold a webinar to discuss its new messaging guide, to help change the debate around people seeking asylum over the coming months.
The webinar will look at the current communication problems facing the sector, and the methodology and messages that can help carve out a new approach that will be successful in persuading the public.
The event takes place on 7 May between 9-10am and you can register for it here.
What we’ve been reading
Covid-19 Chronicles from the Margins is a collection of blogs, photographs, videos and artworks exploring life during the Covid-19 pandemic from the perspectives of people seeking asylum, refugees and migrants in the UK and around the world.