Asylum Matters update 03.08.2021: Advocacy, New Resources, Actions & More

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 resources for engaging your MP and national, regional and local leaders

We have published a new set of resources for engaging your MP and national, regional and local leaders (such as MSPs, MSs, Metro Mayors and Councillors) on the anti-refugee bill. You can find all the resources on our website, including:

  • A guide to engaging your MP
  • A template letter to your MP
  • How to engage local decision-makers on the anti-refugee bill

Please let us know if you use them and keep us updated about any responses you receive. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to discuss any approaches to your MPs or other decision-makers, either at [email protected] or by contacting your local Campaign Manager.

Together with Refugees also have a regularly updated shared resources folder with briefings and other template letters that you can use, and will be releasing further resources over the coming weeks and months to support your local campaigning efforts. When these resources are available, we will share them with you all.

City of Sanctuary have also developed a new website to support City of Sanctuary groups with information and resources for the campaign against the anti-refugee bill.

Other updates on the Nationality and Borders Bill and the New Plan for Immigration
  • Responses to the anti-refugee bill from local leaders: Following the second reading of the bill, local leaders continue to speak out against the Government’s harmful and divisive proposals. In Sheffield, Council leaders have publicly written to the Home Secretary, while in Bristol, the Mayor, local MPs, Councillors, unions and local groups have signed an open letter rejecting the bill. The Mayor of London has also issued a statement in solidarity with women refugees to coincide with the 70th Anniversary of the Refugee Convention, saying, “I remain firmly committed to upholding the principles of respect and protection for all those starting a new life in London”. Meanwhile, a group of faith leaders have also written a letter in the Times opposing the bill.
  • Government response to consultation on New Plan for Immigration: The Home Office has now published its response to the consultation on the New Plan for Immigration, which you can find here. Despite three-quarters of respondents opposing many of the policies set out in the New Plan, the Government has reiterated its intentions to move ahead with its proposals.
  • Human Rights Committee call for evidence: legislative scrutiny of the bill: The Human Rights Committee will undertake legislative scrutiny of the Nationality and Borders Bill, and has issued a call for evidence. You can find full terms of reference for the call here. The inquiry will be open for submissions until Friday 17th September 2021.
Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the UN Refugee Convention

Last week saw the 70th anniversary of the signing of the UN Refugee Convention. The UNHCR created this video in which Goodwill Ambassador and pilot Maya Ghazal shares how her family have been protected by the convention, while UNHCR UK have created the Refugee Dictionary, collating 1000+ responses to the sentence ‘A refugee is..’ from across the UK. You can add your own definition here.

Together with Refugees (TWR) worked with refugees who have sought sanctuary across the past seven decades to come together to recreate the iconic photograph of the original signing of the Convention, together with this short film in which participants in the photograph share what the Convention has meant to them. If you would like to share these resources, TWR has drafted messages with links for you to post on your social media accounts, and you can find the films and assets here.

Chris Philp, Minister for Immigration Compliance, wrote in the Telegraph on the occasion of the 70th anniversary about the Government’s plans to ‘fix our broken asylum system’ with the Nationality and Borders Bill. Asylum Matters co-signed a letter with our partners in response, noting that “Conservative Prime Ministers since Churchill have given those seeking our protection a fair hearing on British soil, regardless of how they have arrived. This Government must do the same and uphold the convention in its 70th year.”

Conditions at Kent Intake Unit

The Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC), Yvette Cooper, has written to the Home Secretary to express serious concern at the shocking conditions members of the HASC witnessed during a visit to the Kent Intake Unit last week. In the letter, Cooper describes overcrowded and Covid-unsafe conditions in the screening unit, which is being used to accommodate people despite not being a residential unit. This has included an unaccompanied child being housed in an office space for 10 days.

Cooper also highlighted that similar issues at the unit had been previously raised with the Home Office by the Chief Inspector of prisons in September 2020, but recommendations had not been acted on.

RNLI and Channel crossings

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has seen a huge outpouring of support after it defended its work rescuing people seeking safety in the channel, following reports of abuse faced by RNLI crews. Migrant Voice have been among the many organisations sharing their support of the RNLI, publishing an article in solidarity with the RNLI and its mission to save lives at sea.

Detention

Durham County Council has passed a motion opposing the establishment of a women’s detention centre in Hassockfield. Campaign group No to Hassockfield have welcomed the move. You can find out more about the campaign and how to get involved on their website.

2. Research and reports

ICIBI and HMIP report on Napier and Penally barracks

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) has published the final report from their joint inspection with HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) of Napier and Penally barracks. The report is damning, finding that:

  • The Home Office gave its accommodation provider less than two weeks to make each site operational and did not adequately consult with local stakeholders.
  • Public Health England and Public Health Wales advised the Home Office that accommodation of this type was not in line with COVID guidelines, but the sites were opened without their advice being implemented and a ‘large-scale outbreak’ of COVID was ‘virtually inevitable’.
  • ‘Residents had little to do to fill their time, a lack of privacy and a lack of control over their day-to-day lives.’ There were serious safeguarding concerns and high levels of distress and poor mental health among residents, including suicidal feelings.
  • Overall, there were ‘fundamental failures of leadership and planning by the Home Office’ in the opening and operation of both sites.

You can read the Home Office’s response to the report here. The report was covered in the Mirror along with the questions that were asked of the Home Secretary by the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Public Accounts Committee report on Windrush

A new report published by the Public Accounts Committee suggests that the Home Office is failing the Windrush generation for a second time. The Committee states that “The Home Office promised to learn lessons from the Windrush scandal, but having failed the Windrush generation once, it appears to be failing them again.” You can read the full report online here and press coverage here.

Breaking the frame: report on representations of migration in the news

London College of Communications’ refugee journalism project has published a report on how migration is talked about in broadcast media, Breaking the Frame: Challenging representations of migration in TV news, written by students and journalists with lived experience of displacement.

3. Home Office and Government developments

Home Office report on legal routes from the EU for protection claimants

The Home Office has published a report on legal routes from the EU for protection claimants including family reunion of unaccompanied children.  The report follows a review of legal routes available and a public consultation on legal routes for family reunion for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the EU.

Further Submissions Process

From Tuesday 2 August the Home Office is changing the further submissions process. During Covid-19, people have been able to make further submissions by email or post. From this week, once again people will only be able to submit evidence in person, either in Liverpool or Glasgow. See this website for more info. 

Work and Pensions committee inquiry: Children in poverty – no recourse to public funds

The Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into children in poverty has launched a call for evidence about the experiences of children who have no recourse to public funds. The inquiry is accepting submissions until Thursday 30th September 2021. You can find the full call for evidence here.

Home Office accused of setting up fake website to deter people seeking asylum

An investigation by The Independent has found that the Home Office set up a website with “misleading” claims aimed to deter people seeking asylum from travelling to the UK. The Department is accused of setting up a fake organisation called ‘On The Move’ – which claims to “provide migrants in transit with free, reliable and important information” – to front the website.

The investigation found that there was no reference to the Home Office on the website at all, much of the information being provided was misleading and inaccurate, and that the site encouraged people seeking asylum to email ‘On The Move’ with questions without knowing they would be contacting the British Government.

4. Resources, events, jobs and training

5. What we’ve been reading and listening to

  • May Bulman’s special report on people seeking asylum who have been left in limbo, waiting for a decision from the Home Office, for years.
  • Arianne Shahvisi’s moving piece in the London Review of Books, The Other Shore, on boat crossings and the Nationality & Borders Bill.
  • This episode of the YouTube series Who Cares? With Amelia Dimoldenberg, looking at the UK’s treatment of refugees and people seeking asylum.
  • The Guardian View sets out its opinion on ‘Fortress Europe’ – a continent losing its moral compass.
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