Asylum Matters Advocacy Update – 17 August 2021

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

Situation in Afghanistan

With the unfolding crisis in Afghanistan where the Taliban have taken over the country, forcing people to flee for their safety, there has been a renewed focus on the UK’s asylum and refugee response. While Canada offered resettlement to 20,000 refugees, and other countries made similar commitments, the UK has not yet set a target for resettlement but is set to be working on a ‘world-leading’ scheme, the details of which have not yet been made public. The UK has said it will accept interpreters and contractors who supported Western forces who are forced to flee without a passport. Parliament is being recalled from its summer recess on Wednesday to debate the situation in Afghanistan.

The UNHCR has put out a statement urging all states to keep their borders open and step up their humanitarian response and warning of the impact of the conflict on women and girls in particular.  Free Movement has a useful overview of the country guidance on Afghanistan currently being used by decision-makers to assess asylum claims and calls for an urgent review of that policy.

If you would like to take action, please find a few suggestions:

  • Asylum Matters has produced a template letter to MPs to be sent ahead of the parliamentary debate on Wednesday, urging them to scrap the anti-refugee bill, commit resettlement places, and review their policy towards Afghan asylum-seekers. Please do review as you see fit and send out to your MP and/ or encourage your supporters to do so.

  • Refugee Action has produced a briefing ahead of the parliamentary debate (attached), which you can attach to the email to your MP.

  • Sign up to JCWI’s urgent letter to the Government (attached) calling for protection measures for Afghan nationals and for the anti-refugee bill to be scrapped. The deadline to sign up is 4.30pm today, Tues 17th Aug. Please email [email protected] with the name and title of the person signing for your organisation.

  • Refugee Action have a petition that calls for the Government to commit to resettling 10,000 refugees per year as part of their #CommitToResettlement campaign.

  • Imix have started a petition on change.org calling on the Government to commit to resettling 20,000 Afghan refugees. You can add your name and share here.

  • Join our campaigning efforts against the anti-refugee bill which will make it even harder for those fleeing oppression to get protection in the UK.

Anti-refugee bill resources
There are further resources available for campaigners to challenge and oppose the UK Government’s anti-refugee bill. The Together With Refugees coalition has published a campaigns pack to support and enable campaigners to take action to oppose the Government’s anti-refugee bill.

In the pack is guidance on how your organisation can take effective local action to support the campaign – using the orange heart symbol to show support for refugees in your local area and by lobbying your local MP on the Bill. There’s also a short briefing on key concerns around the Bill, and ideas for getting your message across in your local media work and online.

The pack incorporates Asylum Matters resources on the anti-refugee bill – including a guide to engaging your MP, a template letter to your MP and guidance on engaging local decision makers – which we’ve previously shared and which are available on our website.

Meanwhile, Migrants Organise has published a helpful video explainer on the Bill and its implications for people seeking sanctuary in Britain.

Channel crossings
Last week saw a further devastating and needless death in the Channel of someone trying to reach the UK by a small boat. The Telegraph has identified him as a 27 year old man from Eritrea.

The tragedy comes as numerous media outlets report on ‘record numbers’ of people making the crossing, with far fewer reporting that overall numbers of asylum claims are down or the lack of safe routes to the UK. Meanwhile, the Minister for Immigration Compliance wrote to the Financial Times to dispute its claims in its editorial on “Britain’s wrong headed approach on refugees” and insist the UK is currently providing safe routes to people seeking safety.

Reception centres
The UK Government appears to be already laying the ground on one key aspect of the anti-refugee bill, its plans to introduce reception centres for people seeking asylum.

Politics Home revealed that the Home Office has begun the process of seeking contractors to build a ’national portfolio’ of reception centres providing accommodation and other services for up to 8,000 people for periods of up to six months.

Asylum Matters is strongly opposed to this type of institutional accommodation for people seeking safety in the UK, and we told Politics Home of our strong concerns about these plans and our view that people should always be housed within local communities.

Napier barracks
The Home Office has confirmed following earlier press reports that a further Covid-19 outbreak has occurred at the Napier barracks in Kent.

The Home Office continues to use the former military barracks to house people seeking asylum despite strong concern and opposition from charities, MPs, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, Public Health England and the High Court.

  1. Research and reports

Hope not Hate briefing
Hope not Hate has published its latest update on far right activity on migration (see attached). The briefing shows that the far right continue to focus on channel crossings and are busy whipping up further anger and a sense of crisis within their movement.

Hope not Hate has identified figures and groups who have acquired boats, which they expect will be used to intercept arriving vessels and film them from the sea rather than attempt to block arrivals.

Belong Integration Research
New research from the ‘Beyond Us and Them’ research project released today, finds that people generally view local communications as more honest, credible and empathetic than UK government communications. They also perceive locally based communication to be more directly relevant to the needs of their own communities.

Key findings

  • 51.6% of people think UK government communication lacks honesty and credibility.

  • 47.9% thought UK government communication did not meet their community’s needs, compared to 35.9% for local government communication.

  • In Scotland and Wales there was a stark difference in perception of communications from the UK government and their own devolved governments.

 

  1. Home Office and Government developments

Home Affairs Visit to Kent Intake Unit

The exchange between the Home Affairs Committee Chair, Yvette Cooper, and Home Secretary, Priti Patel, following their visit to the Kent Intake Unit is available online and worth a read as the HAC attempts to drill down on a number of questions relating to covid measures, staffing and asylum intake.

Accommodation guidance
The UK Government has updated its Covid 19 guidance for providers of asylum accommodation, which can be found here.

 

  1. Resources, events, jobs and training

Hope not Hate webinar on safeguarding and security
Hope not Hate is hosting a webinar with Community Security Trust (CST) on safeguarding and security for the refugee and migration sector taking place on 26 August 2  between 2-3pm.

Hope not Hate will provide an update on the latest insight into the far right and the threat currently posed; and CST will provide an introduction to good organisational security with some concrete steps that can be taken to safeguard your organisations and those you work with. You can register for the session here.

  • Kalayaan is currently recruiting a caseworker (closing date 6 September) and an immigration lawyer – details on both vacancies here.

  • Rainbow Migration are recruiting for a Legal and Policy Director, closing date 2 September. Details here.

  • As noted above, Asylum Matters is recruiting for a Deputy Director, closing date 5 September, details here. Get in touch if you’d like to discuss!

  1. What we’ve been reading and listening to

This episode of the New Economics Foundation podcast taking a deep dive into how the current UK immigration system was developed.

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