The Anti-Refugee Bill
Last week the Home Office published its Equality Impact Assessment of the Nationality and Borders Bill, which admits that there is evidence its plans will encourage more dangerous journeys by people seeking safety and won’t reduce Channel crossings, while also containing ‘significant scope for indirect discrimination’ and ‘potential for direct discrimination on the basis of race’. You can read the full Impact Assessment here and coverage of the findings in the Independent.
The Bill Committee heard oral evidence last week, from a number of colleagues including from the British Red Cross, Refugee Action, Refugee Council and Women for Refugee Women, and JCWI, to name only a few. Some of the questions focused on why people were unable to claim asylum in other European countries on their route to the UK, to which colleagues responded knowledgeably, including JCWI’s excellent answer. The Committee also heard from High Commissioner for Australia to the UK and representatives from UNHCR and anti slavery and trafficking groups.
Contacting Bill Committee Members in Constituency: The list of members of the Bill Committee is here. If one of them is your MP, it would be particularly useful to contact them and request a meeting in their constituency. It’s incredibly important that they have the chance to meet people with lived experience of the asylum system and those who support them to understand the real life impact of the Bill’s provisions. We have produced a template letter which you can use and adapt (available here and attached), and feel free to get in touch with the Asylum Matters team if you need additional support.
Scrap the #AntiRefugeeBill ‘Week of Action’ Webinar
It has never been more important to unite and defend the right to claim asylum in the UK. That’s why we are calling on all local organisations, grassroots groups and activists to come together for a Week of Action to oppose the anti-refugee bill during the week of 18-24 October, just as the Bill reaches its next crucial stage in Parliament. By mobilising resistance in towns and cities up and down the country, we can demonstrate that the harmful proposals in the bill do not represent the culture of welcome in our local communities.
Join us at 3pm on Monday 4th October to discuss how you can get involved in the Week of Action and share ideas and plans with other organisations across the country. We’ll also hear from the organisers of the London ‘Refugees Welcome’ rally and from Together With Refugees about the ‘Show Your Heart’ events (see below). Please register to attend here. If you have any plans or events organised for the week already, we’d love to hear from you! Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to discuss.
Refugees Welcome Rally 20th October
The rally in Parliament Square in the middle of the week of action is open to all and the organisers have created some great visual social media resources you can use to advertise it. You can find more details on the event’s facebook page.
Together with Refugees Show Your Heart event on 20 October
As part of the ‘Week of Action, Together with Refugees is encouraging groups to organise Show Your Heart mobilisation events to coincide with the rally on 20 October or, at some point during the Week of Action. The aim of these events is to send a loud and clear message to the government that the public want the UK to offer protection to people forced to flee their homes – and reject the cruel approach of the Bill. For ideas on how to do this see campaign pack here.
Napier and Penally
The Home Office is being challenged in the High Court over its plans to keep Napier barracks in use for another four years, in a case brought by a local volunteer supporting residents of the site.
The APPG on Immigration Detention’s inquiry on quasi-detention has published their interim report which gives a summary of the oral evidence they have gathered on Napier and Penally.
The Pembrokeshire local authority where Penally was based has had costs imposed upon it by the Home Office to pay costs of essential services. The Council has stated it will not pay the full £93,848 invoice.
The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has highlighted concerns regarding the statutory instrument that was laid to extend the use of Napier.
Right to Work and Lift the Ban
During the Home Affairs Select Committee hearing last week, a senior official at the Home Office, Tricia Hayes, stated that there were no plans to change the Government’s policy on the right to work. The Government announced a review on the right to work in 2018 and senior ministers, including former Home Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, and Prime Minister have repeatedly spoken of the review and committed to share the outcome of the review. The statement from the Home Office official therefore came as a surprise, and the Lift the Ban coalition put together a short video to call on the Government to provide an update on the review which you can view here. The Home Office later admitted that the Home Office official misspoke and the review was indeed underway. The Lift the Ban campaign continues to push for clarity on the review and its outcome.
Research and reports
British Future immigration attitudes tracker
British Future have published a new report on the findings of their immigration attitudes tracker project. The report shows a continuing trend of warmer attitudes to immigration across a range of measures. This includes more than half of people saying they have sympathy for people arriving in the UK via Channel crossings, more people wanting an asylum system that prioritises fairness over deterrence and a majority supporting the right to work for people seeking asylum.
Doctors of the World research
A new report by the University of Birmingham and Doctors of the World, Barriers to wellbeing: Migration and vulnerability during the pandemic, reveals the significant unmet healthcare needs and deep digital divide in migrant patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report calls on policy makers and service providers to ensure that all migrants can access the healthcare services they are entitled to, that providers of initial and contingency asylum accommodation provide information and support to access NHS services and Wifi or data is provided to people living in poverty.
Families Together research on family reunification
Families Together have published a new research report, Refugee Family Reunification in the UK: Challenges and Prospects. The report provides a comprehensive analysis of the complexities of the legal and policy framework for refugee family reunification in the UK and of the challenges faced by refugees seeking to be reunited with their families.
The report makes several recommendations, including the adoption of a broader understanding of the notion of family; the extension of the right to sponsor family reunion to refugee children; the introduction of an additional category of eligible family members; improving the approach to evidentiary matters in the decision-making process; and the reinstatement of legal aid for family reunion cases.
Maternity Action research on healthcare charging
Maternity Action have published a new research report, Breach of Trust, on the implementation of the NHS charging programme in maternity services in England. It demonstrates that NHS trusts are wrongly charging vulnerable migrant women for their maternity care, with distressing findings on the impact this has on the women affected. The report makes a series of recommendations to improve maternity care and ensure nobody is wrongly denied maternity care. You can read coverage of the findings here.
Doctors of the World survey on migrants’ use of community pharmacies
Doctors of the World are conducting research on the experiences of migrants and people normally excluded from mainstream healthcare across England, and are inviting people with lived experience and organisations who work with them to complete this 5-10 minute survey. The results will be used to produce a toolkit aimed at supporting community pharmacies vaccinating unregistered patients including migrants.
GMIAU resources on Nationality and Borders Bill / New Plan
Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping
The Kerslake Commission which was set up to examine the lessons from the emergency response which supported people sleeping rough during the Covid-19 pandemic has published its final report “A New Way of Working: Ending Rough Sleeping Together.”
Home Office and Government developments
Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration ICIBI Annual Report
The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) has published his Annual Report for 2020-2021. ICIBI’s annual programme of inspections has been built around five ‘Themes’, which reflect the main purpose or outcome of the Home Office’s various borders and immigration functions and their findings are summarised within the report.
West Midlands dispersal
Seven local authorities in the West Midlands have suspended their participation in asylum dispersal while launching legal action against the Home Office on the scheme. While stating that they are ‘incredibly proud’ of their history of welcoming people seeking safety, the authorities have stated that the current dispersal system is ‘unfair’ and ‘flawed and needs fixing’. They have stated that they will not take part in dispersal until the Government requires other local authorities to take part equally. This does not affect any pledges made by the West Midlands local authorities to resettle refugees from Afghanistan under the separate schemes.
Independent Advice and Support to UASC
The Home Office is seeking to procure the provision of independent end-to-end advice, support and signposting assistance throughout the asylum application process in England and Wales for Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Children and have published the Prior Information Notice (PIN) advertising the contract.
Resources, events, jobs and training
Larger Us: Changemaker Programme for Small Organisations
Larger Us is inviting representatives of small community-based organisations, NGOs, and others who are working towards improving their communities and moving away from ‘them-and-us’ thinking, to apply for a programme to help you on your journey. More details on the programme, who it’s for and how to apply can be found here.
IMIX Autumn master classes
IMIx will be running sessions on areas such as, using social media, pitching stories to the local press and preparing for an interview. Click here for more information.
RefuAid Equal Access Loan Programme
RefuAid are currently accepting applications for their Equal Access Loan Programme, which offers interest-free loans to support refugees in the UK with the costs of requalification. More information about the scheme can be found here.
University of Wales Trinity St David sanctuary scholarship
Applications for the University of Wales Trinity St David’s sanctuary scholarships for 2021 are now open.
Refugee Action are recruiting a Programme Coordinator to work with the Greater Manchester Refugee Step Change Consortium. Closing date 25th October
JRS UK are recruiting for a Senior Press & Media Officer (applications ASAP on a rolling basis).
Free Movement are recruiting for a Deputy Editor (Training). Closing date 30 September.
What we’ve been reading and listening to
UNHCR’s new podcast series, Forced to Flee, marking the 70th anniversary of the Refugee Convention through the stories of displaced people.
- Stories of Hope and Home’s video from their Festival of Encounter. This festival brought experts by experience and educators from schools across the country to meet, eat, play and work together, with our West Midlands Campaigns Manager running a campaign workshop.