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.
Under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) resettlement scheme, at least 8000 people have been evacuated from Kabul airport since 13 August. Following public pressure, on the 17th August the UK Government also announced the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), which will resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees over five years, with 5,000 people to arrive in the first year.
On Wednesday 18th August, Parliament was recalled to discuss the UK’s response to the crisis in Afghanistan, during which many MPs called for reforms to ensure Afghan refugees are welcomed, including scrapping the Nationality and Borders Bill.
Despite warning that Afghan refugees should not try to reach the UK by irregular means, the Government has only set out initial plans for ‘Operation Warm Welcome’ within the last few days. These include appointing Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins as the new Minister for Afghan Resettlement; and setting out plans for a package of support.
Concerns continue about the accommodation refugees are housed in on arrival, with Doctors of the World raising concerns about access to healthcare. Campaigners including Lord Dubs have called for a more ambitious target for the scheme, while Refugee Action continues to call on the Government to #CommitToResettlement.
Local leaders across the UK, including the mayors of Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, and the Liverpool and Sheffield city regions have said they welcome refugees, calling for all local authorities across the country to play their part; and for improvements to the Home Office’s approach to dispersal and accommodation. Meanwhile, local communities have responded with an outpouring of support for Afghans seeking sanctuary.
Campaigners are also urging the Government to act urgently to support Afghan people seeking sanctuary who are already in the UK by expediting decisions on outstanding claims for refugee protection and reviewing decisions for people whose claims have been previously refused.
Afghanistan Crisis and the Anti-Refugee Bill
As evacuation efforts have ended and MPs continue to try to assist thousands of people still trapped in the country, there has been increased focus on how the UK Government will respond to refugees who arrive in the UK outside of the ARAP and ACRS schemes. Despite the extremely limited availability of safe routes, the Home Secretary has appeared to indicate that Afghan refugees forced to make an irregular journey to the UK will be penalised by measures in the Anti-Refugee Bill.
The crisis has reinforced the cruelty of the proposals in the Anti-Refugee Bill. It is shameful that in a few months’ time, some Afghan refugees will reach the UK after a perilous journey because of the lack of safe routes to get here. Under this Bill, they will then be criminalised, warehoused in reception centres, and threatened with deportation.
We must stand together against this Anti-Refugee Bill and call for it to be thrown out. There are many ways you can take action, including:
- Writing to your MP using our template letter. You can download a Word version of the letter, or open it as a Google Doc.
- Writing to a local newspaper using our template letter to the editor to make sure other people in your area know about this Bill and the harm it will cause. You can download a Word version of the letter, or open it as a Google Doc.
- Call on local leaders to speak out against the bill using our local lobbying kit.
- Sign and share the Refugee Action petition against the bill.
The Asylum Reform Initiative – of which Asylum Matters is part – has created shared lines on the crisis, including key urgent asks for the Government for Afghan refugees already in the UK.
The Together With Refugees coalition has created a folder for briefings on the situation in Afghanistan, which is in the Nationality and Borders Bill briefings folder.
The Good Practice team at Refugee Action has produced this useful update bringing together available resources on all aspects of the situation in Afghanistan.
Garden Court Chambers has produced a number of factsheets intended to assist Afghan nationals and those supporting them with a brief summary of some of the main routes for Afghans to enter the UK.
Campaign to end NHS charging: statement from Royal College of Paediatrics
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has published a statement calling for the abolition of all NHS charging, becoming the first Royal College to call for more than a temporary suspension of these discriminatory and harmful Hostile Environment policies.
In the statement the RCPCH calls on the UK Government to:
Abolish the legislation that provides for NHS charging in all four nations of the UK;
Ensure that patient data remains confidential within the NHS, is not shared with the Home Office, and cannot be used for immigration enforcement purposes;
Stop any expansion of NHS charging and protect universal access to primary care and public health services.
RCPCH has also produced detailed guidance for child health professionals on supporting patients and families who are facing NHS charging and have launched a reporting tool to facilitate ongoing data collection on the impacts of NHS charging.
You can find further information on campaigning against NHS charging in the Patients not Passports toolkit.
Research and reports
Report on the failure of offshore processing in Australia
The University of New South Wales Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law has published a new report outlining the failure of offshore processing in Australia. The report finds that the offshore processing model:
- Does not deter irregular maritime migration, ‘stop the boats’ or ‘break the business model’ of people smuggling networks;
- Does not ‘save lives at sea’ or achieve any other humanitarian objective; and
- Suffers from other policy failures, including enormous financial costs for Australian taxpayers, violations of fundamental rules of international law, numerous legal challenges and systemic cruelty.
Uncharted Territory Review
The ACE Support Hub Cymru has published their report Uncharted Territory Review. The findings show the progress made since the first report published by the Wales Strategic Migration Partnership in 2013, though there is more to do to support migrant, refugee and asylum seeking women and girls experiencing violence in Wales.
Home Office and Government developments
Home Office guidance on support for British and non-British nationals in Afghanistan
The Home Office has published guidance on support for British nationals and non-British nationals in Afghanistan.
Quarterly immigration statistics
The number of asylum applications for the year end June 2021 was 31,115 – 4% fewer than the previous year.
The proportion of asylum appeals allowed in the year to June 2021 was 48%, up from 45% the previous year.
The backlog in cases awaiting an initial decision has hit a further record high. At the end of June 2021, 70,905 people were waiting for an outcome on their initial claim for asylum. Of these, 54,040 (76%) have been waiting for more than 6 months, up from 38,756 this time last year.
In the first six months of 2021, 4,561 people were issued with notices of intent, of whom 7 were deemed inadmissible. Noone has been transferred to another country under the inadmissibility rules.
The quarterly immigration statistics also revealed that the government detained, deported and refused asylum to Afghan asylum seekers even during the Taliban advances in April.
The UK Government has tabled secondary legislation to enable it to continue using unsuitable former military barracks to house people seeking asylum for a further five years.
Under Home Office plans, the barracks at Napier in Kent will remain in use until September 2026. The use of the site had originally been due to run until this month.
Plans to retain Napier to house people seeking asylum comes despite widespread opposition and concerns raised about this use of the site – including by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration; local and national charities; Public Health England; and The High Court.
Resources, events, jobs and training
Doctors of the World ‘Hands Up for Our Health’ Briefing on How to Engage with your Local MP
This online meeting will take place via Zoom 10:30am-12pm on 7 September, and will help participants learn more about how to become an effective local (and national) campaigner for Safe Surgeries and the need to expand open-access vaccination clinics.
You can register for the meeting here.
Maternity Action Webinar on NHS charging regulations
To launch their new case study report, ‘Breach of Trust: Incorrect implementation of the Overseas Charging Regulations by NHS Trusts in England’, Maternity Action are holding a webinar on Friday 17 September 2021 at 12.00– 13.30pm. The webinar will discuss widespread poor practices and errors of law made by NHS Trusts in implementing the NHS charging regulations for overseas visitors in England. You can register for the webinar here.
Webinar on child statelessness
The European Network on Statelessness is hosting a webinar to examine the impact of the UK Government’s current Nationality and Borders Bill on stateless children in the UK. The event takes place at 10-11am on Thursday 9 September, register here.
RAMP is recruiting for an Adviser to Baroness Stroud (closing date 2nd September) and an Adviser to Caroline Nokes MP (closing date 15th September); full details of both roles here.
City of Sanctuary is recruiting for a Communications Manager, closing date 8th September. Full details are here.
Rainbow Migration is recruiting for a Communications Manager, closing date 16th September. Full details are here.
The Helen Bamber Foundation is advertising paid Expert by Experience Board Observer roles for survivors of torture and trafficking to observe and advise the board of trustees. More info here, closing date 18th September.
PAFRAS is recruiting an Advice Volunteer Coordinator to recruit, train and support a team of Advice Volunteers to deliver non-complex advice to asylum seekers. Full details on the PAFRAS website, closing date 24th September.
What we’ve been reading
Ian Dunt writes in the Independent that many Afghan people will face the brutal reality of the UK’s asylum system rather than a ‘warm welcome’.