Covid-19 & Asylum – 25th May

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.
  1. Ongoing advocacy

Together with Refugees launch and next steps

The Together with Refugees campaign launched on 10th May, with over 200 organisations and individuals now board, taking to social media to call for a kinder, fairer and more effective asylum system. Some of the highlights from activity across the Together with Refugees coalition include:

Next steps for the campaign include:

  • A media launch for the campaign in w/c 1st June;

  • Highlighting members’ activities during Refugee Week, from 14th to 20th June. Coalition members are encouraged to incorporate the orange symbol 🧡 and/or campaign slogans into plans #WhoWeAre #TogetherWithRefugees;

  • Continuing to build the Together with Refugees coalition, with more activity being developed around the 70th anniversary of the UN Convention in late July.

You can find out how to join the coalition on the Together with Refugees website.

Napier Barracks

The Independent has learned that dozens of people have been wrongly placed in Napier barracks after the Home Office failed to recognise their vulnerabilities. Around one in five individuals placed in the barracks since it reopened on 9 April have been transferred out after the Home Office admitted they had vulnerabilities which, according to its own criteria, made them unsuitable to be in barracks accommodation.

The campaign to close the barracks continues, and last weekend Close the Camps UK held a Festival of Solidarity where more than 200 campaigners from different local groups came together to call for the barracks to be closed.

Glasgow takes a stand against immigration raids

On 13th May, there were amazing scenes of community action and solidarity in Glasgow when two men detained by UK Immigration Enforcement were released back into their community after a day of protest. Following rapid mobilisation by the No Evictions Network, hundreds of residents gathered throughout the day to demand for their neighbour to be released. For Roza Salih, one of the Glasgow Girls, this was a demonstration of what communities can do when they take action together, while Sabir Zazai, Chief Executive of the Scottish Refugee Council has written in the Times that the protest was a demonstration of solidarity in the face of the hostile environment.

Cross-party Glasgow City Councillors, MPs and MSPs have since sent a public letter to the Home Secretary opposing the New Plan for Immigration and standing in solidarity against dawn raids.

Opposition to planned Hassockfield Immigration Removal Centre

National and local opposition to plans for a new detention centre in County Durham continues, as over 200 people from across the North East have written to the Home Secretary to express concerns about the plans for the detention centre for women at the former Hassockfield Secure Training Centre. Women for Refugee Women has also started legal action against the Home Office, challenging whether the Home Office is complying with equality rules in the development of the new detention centre.

JCWI ‘We are Here’ campaign on routes to regularisation for undocumented people

The Early Day Motion (EDM) being backed by JCWI on routes to regularisation for undocumented people is now live. It highlights how the immigration system pushes migrants out of status and into the Hostile Environment, and the harms to which migrants are then vulnerable. The full text is online here. JCWI has created a template letter for campaigners to send to their MPs, asking them to sign the EDM.

They have also drafted a suggested Tweet, as below:

Government policy is pushing migrants into the Hostile Environment. Now is the time for simple, workable reforms to the visa system to stop this happening – write to your MP now via @jcwi_uk #WeAreHere

Many of these themes were also covered within this powerful piece recently published in the Financial Times from Robert Wright.

Privacy International campaign on ASPEN card monitoring

Privacy International have published analysis on the Home Office’s response to a joint letter to the department demanding that it ceases surveillance of asylum seekers through the payments they make on their ASPEN card. They have also published a short piece on what they think should change with the new ASPEN contractor. You can find a short thread about the campaign here.

2.    Research and reports

Freedom from Torture messaging guide

‘Changing the Conversation on Asylum: A Messaging Guide’ is a new report based on research into the most persuasive narratives around refugee rights in the UK.

This messaging guide is a tool to help the refugee and migrant advocacy sector to think tactically, play to our strengths and win. It takes a look at the methodology and messages that can help us carve out a new approach that will be successful in persuading the public that seeking safety is a fundamental human right.

The report includes:

  • A ‘do’s and don’ts’ guide

  • A messaging format for persuading the people we need to persuade, and energising our base

  • Messaging principles

Here’s the link, including both a full report and a summary version. You can also watch the launch webinar for the resource here.

3.    Home Office and Government developments

New Plan for Immigration

The Home Secretary has set out further details on the UK Government’s plan to overhaul the immigration system in a speech on 24th May. Various documents were published by the Home Office on the proposals, which primarily focus on non-asylum aspects of the Government’s imigration plans and which are examined in this helpful piece on Free Movement.

Individuals and organisations across the UK continue to stand against the harmful plans contained within the Government’s New Plan for Immigration. An expert by experience has written a powerful piece for Detention Action explaining why the plans will be disastrous, while a senior cleric in County Durham has written to the Bishop Auckland MP calling on her to meet with experts by experience. The National Director of the Chartered Institute for Housing Scotland has written about the impact the New Plan will have on the number of people subject to NRPF and calling for a fundamental change in the Government’s approach to immigration.

Meanwhile, the Home Office has been officially asked to extend the consultation period on the proposals after it ran concurrently with Scotland and Wales’ parliamentary elections.

ASPEN card transition

Last weekend the Home Office transitioned between the old (Sodexo) to the new (Prepaid Finance Services – PFS) ASPEN card providers. The new ASPEN cards should now be in full operation.

We are keen to understand the impact of this transition on you and your service users. We are therefore interested in any accounts/case studies of people having issues, such as not receiving or understanding the information, struggling during the weekend blackout, having difficulties with the card, problems calling PFS and Migrant Help or not receiving a new card. We would be very grateful if you could please send any examples of this to us at [email protected] by EOP on Thursday 27th May in time for a meeting  with the Home Office on Friday 28th.

APPG on Immigration Detention Inquiry – call for evidence

The APPG on Immigration Detention has launched an inquiry into the UK Government’s use of large-scale institutional sites, such as former military barracks and a temporarily ‘de-designated’ Immigration Removal Centre (IRC), as asylum accommodation.

Such sites replicate many of the features found in detained settings, including isolation from the wider community, visible security measures, and reduced levels of privacy and control/agency for residents. The inquiry therefore refers to them as sites of ‘quasi-detention’.

The inquiry will seek to understand concerns about the suitability of these types of sites for accommodating people seeking asylum, bearing in mind the potential histories of torture, trafficking and/or other forms of serious trauma, and the ongoing health and legal needs of such individuals.

The APPG has issued a call for written evidence to the inquiry. The deadline for submissions is 5pm on Friday 25 June 2021.

Should you have any questions about the inquiry email [email protected]

4.    Resources, events, jobs and training

Free online workshop on Refugee Family Reunion finance
Together Now are running a free online session 10am – 11:30 am on Thursday 10 June on refugee family reunion and specifically the financial impact of the process. This workshop is aimed at everyone working with refugees and asylum seekers who want to gain an overview of the process focused on how the costs can impact families in the long and short term. To register please complete the form here.

JRAN mentoring forum
JRAN has organised a forum on coaching and mentoring in and for the refugee sector. This free event takes place on Wednesday May 26th between 3.30-6pm – further details can be viewed here.

Migrant Help Dream Academy launch
Migrant Help are launching the Dream Academy in partnership with The Supper Club, a networking group for entrepreneurs. The Dream Academy will offer 1:1 mentoring sessions for refugees and those seeking asylum, where their Supper Club mentor will help them identify and take the steps needed to achieve their goals.

To kickstart the project, they are inviting refugees and asylum seekers from across the country to our online Dream Academy webinar on the 26th May from 2-3pm. The webinar will be an opportunity to learn from some of the successful founders at The Supper Club about overcoming adversity, building confidence, turning dreams into reality and gaining momentum. Sign up for the event is now open and available here.

Maternity Action Telephone advice for the voluntary sector and health professionals
The Migrants Women’s Rights Service advice line will open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday between 10am -12pm and 2pm to 4pm.  The number is 0207 251 6189. It is a second tier advice line which means it is only for advisers and health professionals (including midwives). The service offers advice on the following issues:

  • The housing and support options for all groups of migrant women who are pregnant or new mothers;

  • Advice on NHS charging for maternity care;

  • Advice on access to primary healthcare, NRPF conditions, provisions such as the maternity exemption certs, HC2 certs, free school meals and free nursery places.

Jobs and opportunities

  • IMIX is recruiting for  Digital Communications Manager (Maternity Cover), closing date 26th May. More info here.

  • Migrants Organise are recruiting for a Digital Organiser, closing date 26th May. Info is here.

  • Migrant Voice is recruiting a Fundraiser/Business Development Manager, closing date 31st May. More details here.

  • Hope Not Hate are recruiting for an Email Campaigns Lead and a Social Media Lead. The closing date for applications to both roles is 2nd June.

  • Bristol Refugee Rights is looking for an Advice Worker and a Learning and Group Coordinator, closing date 6th June. More details here.

  • The European Network on Statelessness is recruiting a Policy & Advocacy Officer, closing date 7th June. Details here.

  • Praxis is looking for a Campaigns Coordinator (closing date 7th June) and a Digital Communications Manager (closing date 9th June). More details about both roles are here.

  • PAFRAS are recruiting for a Volunteer and Drop-In Coordinator, closing date 11th June. Details here.

  • Action Foundation is recruiting a Head of Client Services, closing date 21st June. Full details are here.

The Other Side of Hope
the other side of hope
is a new, UK-based, print and online literary magazine, edited by immigrants and refugees. Their purpose is to serve and celebrate the refugee and immigrant communities worldwide. The magazine is currently calling for submissions, including fiction & poetry (no theme; open to refugees and immigrants) and non-fiction, book reviews & author interviews (open to everyone; theme: migration).

The magazine pays £100 per published author for the print issue, and £50 for the online issue. You can find submission details on their website.

5.    What we’ve been reading and listening to

Many of you will have already read Daniel Trilling’s Guardian long read ‘Cruel, paranoid, failing: inside the Home Office’. Full of interviews with officials, former ministers and individuals affected by the department and its decisions; and details which are at once highly familiar and deeply shocking, the article is a must-read for refugees and people in the asylum system, and those organisations working with them.

In more positive news, Ghadaq shared her story in the Metro of finally being granted the right to work after 10 months in the asylum system (she secured early access to the employment market following a legal case on the matter in relation to her particular circumstances). This follows a previous article the Lift The Ban coalition secured in the same paper last November where Ghadaq spoke of her frustration at being locked out of the Covid-19 effort.

The brilliant CARAG ‘Still we rise’ podcast can be found on Apple podcasts, Spotify and on the CARAG website. The latest episode has an interview with Alphonsine Kabagabo, who survived the Rwandan Genocide and is now Director of Women for Refugee Women in London.

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