Asylum Matters Advocacy Update – 7th July

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

Nationality and Borders Bill/ New Plan for Immigration

The new Nationality and Borders Bill – which is effectively the anti-refugee bill – was tabled by the UK Government today. The Bill will look to formalise aspects of the Government’s New Plan for Immigration, and the legislation includes measures to:

  • Allow for the “differential treatment of refugees” depending on their mode of arrival, including limiting length of leave, family reunion rights, access to benefits and conditions for settlement.

  • Allow asylum claims to be declared as ‘inadmissible’ where applicants have a connection to a safe third country.

  • Make it a criminal offence to arrive in the UK without permission.

  • Give new powers for the Border Force to stop and divert vessels suspected of carrying illegal migrants.

Priti Patel unveiled the new plans in the Daily Mail noting the Bill is about “fairness” for those fleeing persecution and the British taxpayer. Nigel Farage argues in the Daily Telegraph that her plans don’t go far enough.  Free Movement has a useful overview with first impressions of the Bill noting that it will only worsen existing problems in the asylum system and will lead to much uncertainty and therefore litigation. The Refugee Council’s CEO also writes in the Guardian that the backlog in cases will not be addressed by the Government’s plans and in the Independent point to the limits to safe and legal routes. Additional coverage in the Evening Standard, Telegraph, and the Guardian.

In terms of implementing reforms in the Bill, it was reported last week that Priti Patel was in discussions with Danish Government regarding sharing an offshore processing centre in Rwanda. However a source in the UK Government then went on to state that sharing a centre in Rwanda had not been discussed. The sector was quick to respond stating it would be cruel and barbaric. There have been a number of reports outlining the dreadful impact of this suggested policy and the obstacles the UK Government will face, making comparisons with the Australian model. Additionally, EU Governments are likely to rule out bilateral asylum deals casting doubt over the UK Government’s ability to deport people to Europe.

Campaigning Next Steps around the Bill: The Bill will likely have its Second Reading next week – which is the first opportunity for MPs to respond to and debate the Bill in the Commons. We can also expect much more media coverage around that time.

Asylum Matters is working with our partners and Together with Refugees to identify key areas of the Bill that we will want to address in our collective campaigning as it makes its way through Parliament. Over the next months, we will be encouraging our local partners to get in touch with their local MPs to discuss the contents of the Bill and will share a number of resources to support this outreach, which will be included in our next update.

Please do get in touch if you have any immediate questions or suggestions for how we can support local campaigning initiatives around the Bill before then.

ASPEN card transition

Many issues relating to this botched transition continue, affecting thousands of people seeking asylum and the organisations supporting them. In answer to a Parliamentary Question the Home Office stated that by 22nd June 93% of cards had been activated. As outlined in the Independent this means according to the most recent data on the amount of ASPEN cards in operation, at that point 2,889 households/individuals were without an activated card, and unable to access the asylum support they were entitled to.

The impact of the transition was also outlined in this article in Vice and in this piece in the Independent. 

We are working with Refugee Action to continue to collate and gather information. Their current Infohub survey contains questions on the ASPEN transition (you can find out more about the survey and how it works here). Therefore if you wish to provide any further information relating to the impact of the failed transition then please complete the survey.

If you would like to get in touch with us about the work we’re doing to highlight the impact of the failed transition, please contact us at [email protected].

The Home Office have also published a new FAQ document on the ASPEN transition, please find it attached.

Asylum Support rates review

The Home Office this week also announced they are commencing their annual review of asylum support rates for both Section 95 and Section 4 and have asked for specific questions to be answered. The deadline for these responses is 26th July. Asylum Matters will be sharing guidance on how to answer these questions and will aim to get this out to partners wishing to respond to the consultation ASAP. If you wish to respond before that please find in the document attached more details on the Home Office review and where to send responses.

Asylum Accommodation

There remains uncertainty around the future use of Napier barracks to house people seeking asylum, although differential provision of accommodation to asylum seekers is included within the Bill. Free Movement notes that it appears that camps like “the Napier barracks will be used as a form of punishment for asylum seekers who travel via safe third countries or do not comply with conditions.”

Recent media reports indicated transfers to the site would be suspended due to the ongoing high risk of continued Covid-19 infections in the accommodation, the use of which has been condemned by the High Court, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration and Public Health England, as well as by campaigners across the country.

However, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Immigration Detention, which is carrying out an inquiry into the use of barracks to accommodate people seeking asylum, has heard evidence that the use of the site at Napier may continue into the autumn and beyond. Meanwhile, five people are reported to have been charged with racially-aggravated offences towards people housed at Napier.

  1. Research and reports

Living in Limbo

The Refugee Council has published a report looking at the huge increase in people waiting over a year for an initial decision on their asylum claim.‘Living in limbo: a decade of delays in the UK asylum system’ reveals a near tenfold increase, from 3,588 people in 2010 waiting over year to 33,016 in 2020. The report gained media coverage in The Times and BBC.

  1. Home Office and Government developments

Home Office legal challenge – Section 4 provision on Covid grounds

The Home Office has challenged the decision of the Principal Tribunal Judge in a case called AM where she decided that all destitute refused asylum-seekers were entitled to support until stage 4 roadmap out of lockdown. The case of AM has been determined and unfortunately the Home Office was successful in their challenge. You can read the decision here.

In summary, this outcome means that the previous “blanket” position – that refused destitute asylum-seekers are entitled to s4 support because of Covid – no longer stands (the Principal Tribunal Judge’s decision has been quashed). At the moment cessations are still paused. But people applying for s4 support will now need to demonstrate “traditional reasons” for qualifying for support although there remains one live legal issue which we are currently testing at the Tribunal. We will update you if that situation changes.

If you are an adviser and have questions regarding a case contact the ASAP advice line.

  1. Resources, events, jobs and training

British Red Cross Digital Empowerment resources

These videos have been created to empower refugee women to help them connect, share and learn about the UK.

A fair future for us all webinar

This webinar on 6th July looks at the Refugee Convention as we celebrate its 70th Anniversary and what the New Plan for Immigration will mean, if implemented, for refugees in the UK. More information and where to register is here.

NACCOM vacancy

NACCOM are recruiting a Community Researcher Facilitator, and would particularly welcome hearing from applicants who have lived experience of destitution in the immigration system. Closing date 13 July, more information can be found here.

Clore Social Leadership Programme

Clore Social Leadership are currently recruiting for the Leading Beyond Borders: Experienced Leaders 2021 programme. The free course is particularly aimed at emerging and experienced leaders with lived experience and will be run online between 06 October 2021 and June 2022. Registrations close at 11:59 on Monday 19 July 2021. Further information about the programme, including content, key dates, and FAQs can be found by visiting the website here.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Clore Social team at [email protected]

  1. What we’ve been reading and listening to

Interesting read outlining ‘The Everyday Cruelties of the UK asylum system’ by Dr Susanne Jaspars who has worked in Sudan for over thirty years, as a practitioner and researcher.

To mark the anniversary of this very sad incident a number of campaigners gathered in St Georges Square in Glasgow. They are calling for an inquiry into the incident they say that happened “as a direct result of the dysfunctional UK asylum support and accommodation system”. Al Jazeera traces Badreddin Bosh’s journey to Glasgow in this article and the events that led to the Park Inn tragedy.

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