Asylum Matters Advocacy Update – 24 November

1. Ongoing advocacy

Opposition to the #Anti-Refugee Bill
Scrutiny of the proposals in the Bill continues with a new report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights raising “significant concerns” that the Bill “fails to give adequate effect” to the rights of the child and to prevent statelessness for children born in the UK, in potential breach of the UK’s human-rights obligations.

Reports of ministers’ intentions to set up off-shoring agreements with Albania have been strongly refuted by the Albanian Prime Minister, while former Conservative Minister David Davis has called for offshoring plans to be scrapped entirely. In response, Asylum Matters joined sector partners in calling on MPs to reject the unworkable proposals in the Times.

Meanwhile, campaigning against this anti-refugee Bill has continued nationally and locally:

  •  Last week, Refugee Action, Freedom From Torture, Refugee Council and One Strong Voice (also supported by RAS Voice, Asylum Matters and Scottish Refugee Council) handed in 179,166 petition signatures opposing the #AntiRefugeeBill to Number 10. Following the hand-in, Refugee Action and Freedom From Torture organised a stunt outside Parliament where campaigners literally scrapped the #AntiRefugeeBill. Several MPs took part, including the Shadow Immigration Minister, and a campaign video was created to mark the moment.

  • Refugee Action has also launched a new campaign report, All Punishment No Protection, and accompanying videos that outline why the #AntiRefugeeBill will act as a wrecking ball to the refugee protection system and should be scrapped. The report is based on six focus group discussions with 28 people who have lived experience of the asylum system and highlights key clauses in the Bill that represent punishment, not protection, of those seeking sanctuary.

  • Refugee Action has also released very useful new constituency polling on the proposed two-tier system that shows around two thirds of the public disagree with the fundamental thinking behind the Bill and think that people who seek safety in the UK should be treated the same, regardless of how they arrived here. You can get in touch with the Asylum Matters team to access the full polling for each constituency in the UK.

  • Freedom From Torture staged an arrest of Paddington earlier this week to highlight how he would be criminalised under the #AntiRefugeeBill for coming into the country as a stowaway on a boat. You can watch the video here and follow #FreePaddington to follow his journey.

Taking action against the #AntiRefugeeBill

As we head towards Third Reading, there are still important ways to take action against the Bill:

  • Ask your Council to pass a motion: Local Councils can play a vital role in demonstrating local opposition to the Bill. You can use our new resource to ask your council to pass a motion opposing the Bill.

  • Write to your MP using our resources. We’ve updated our letter to MPs to include a section on Refugee Action’s polling mentioned above to highlight the number of people in your constituency who want people seeking safety to be treated equally, regardless of their mode of arrival.

Refugee Council analysis of Channel Crossings
New analysis by the Refugee Council reveals that the people who come across the Channel in small boats are likely to be allowed to remain in the UK as refugees, with only just over a third of those arriving likely to not be deemed in need of protection. The analysis is based on Freedom of Information data and Home Office statistics, and undermines the Government’s narrative that people crossing the channel are not in need of protection. Meanwhile, leaked documents have shown that Priti Patel has been warned by government lawyers that she is likely to lose a legal challenge if she implements plans to push back boats.

Launch of People and Planet Divest Borders campaign
People and Planet have launched their Divest Borders campaign, which aims to get UK universities to divest from the border and surveillance industry. You can find campaign resources and sample tweets here, as well as a petition, Border Divestment List and action guide.

2. Research and reports

New report: ‘Lessons Learned? How Government Contracts Failed People Seeking Asylum, Again’

Today, Asylum Matters, in partnership with 18 organisations, is launching a new report, ‘Lessons Learned? How Government Contracts Failed People Seeking Asylum, Again,” which looks at the catastrophic impact of another mishandled contract transition by the Home Office, this time for ASPEN cards, which left people seeking asylum without access to their only form of financial support, in some cases for over a month. We’d love your support in disseminating the report findings and calling on the Home Office to publish its lessons learned review. You can retweet Asylum Matters here or use one of the following tweets:

  •  Hard-hitting new report documents how thousands of people seeking asylum were forced into poverty due to Home Office mismanagement. When will the @UKHomeOffice learn its lesson? #RefugeesWelcome https://bit.ly/3CMUcjG

  • New report lays bare the dangers of further outsourcing the asylum system to private providers as enabled by the #AntiRefugeeBill. With poor @UKHomeOffice oversight & accountability, vulnerable people will lose out, while companies line their pockets. https://bit.ly/3CMUcjG

IPPR Report on reforming NHS charging policy

This Institute of Public Policy report proposes changing the current policy on healthcare charging so that everyone who is living in the UK, regardless of their immigration status, is eligible for free secondary healthcare. For the reform to work, people would need to be able to use a range of documents and statements to show that they live in the UK, including statements from trusted people in their community. This proposed policy reform was developed through interviews with people with experience of the charging policy, NHS staff and policy experts.

New Data from CASE on Children and Families on Asylum Support
New data from the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the LSE reveals that the length of time asylum seekers including children & families are spending on asylum support provided by the Home Office has increased significantly in recent years, including prior to the pandemic.

Community Sponsorship Research

The Home Office’s Policy Innovation Lab is leading research into Community Sponsorship. They are looking to speak to people who are interested in or are already supporting refugee resettlement to learn how they should shape the Community Sponsorship programme going forward. Anyone interested in participating in the research can email [email protected].

3. Home Office and Government developments

Home Affairs Select Committee Oral Evidence Sessions

Last week the HASC held two oral evidence sessions on “Channel crossings, migration and asylum-seeking routes through the EU,” and “Afghanistan: safe routes and resettlement”, with evidence from Ministers and Home Office officials. You can watch the sessions here.

ICIBI inspection of asylum casework report published

The report of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration’s inspection of asylum casework has now been published and is available on the ICIBI website here. It found that the length of time asylum claimants had waited for a decision increased annually since 2011 and that in 2020, adult asylum claimants were waiting an average of 449 days. The Home Office’s response is here.

Home Office Ethical Decision-Making model published

As part of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, it was recommended that the Home Office should develop a set of ethical standards and an ethical decision-making model. This model has now been published and is online here.

Migrant Help email changes

As of the 1st Dec the AScorrespondence inbox (used to communicate with Migrant Help regarding asylum support inquiries) will be changing and new designated inboxes and emails are to be used.  For more information see the Migrant Help website.

Home Office to Mandate the National Transfer Scheme

Following concerns raised by Kent county council and others in the south of England, the Home Office will now be mandating councils across the UK to care for unaccompanied children.

Home Office Oral Questions 

Home Office oral Questions took place yesterday, including questions on the use of hotels to accommodate asylum seekers, actions to tackle channel crossings, the implementation of the Afghans Citizens Resettlement Scheme, and more. You can view the debate here.

4. Resources, events, jobs and training  

New Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) project to help people in barracks and hotels

This project will assist people held in either barracks or in hotels and will help them understand their bail conditions, apply to vary their bail conditions (e.g. report less frequently, change of residence conditions because of medical needs, family circumstances etc.), or apply to change accommodation if they are unhappy where they are. The project will be led by BID’s Legal Manager Adam Spray ([email protected]). To make a referral please contact [email protected] with the subject line “FAO Adam: barracks/hotel/acc. centre referral”.

London Migration Film Festival 

This festival is coming to cinemas, universities and community venues from 25 November – 1 December 2021 with stories of people that for one reason or the other moved, or who carry movement in their blood, bones, souls and dreams. You can find the full programme for their live events here – the free, online programme will be available soon.

Jobs

  • Gloustershire Action for Refugees and Asylum seekers are currently recruiting an Advice & Support Worker and 2 ARAP (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy) Resettlement Support Officers.  More information here.

  • Refugee Action are recruiting a Research Officer to coordinate the research and data sharing of the Insight Hub, closing date 30th November.

  • ASAP are recruiting for a solicitor, closing date 5th December.

  • Refugee Council are recruiting for a regional volunteer coordinator in Yorkshire, closing date is 24th November.

5. What we’ve been reading and watching

  • Many outlets, and notably the Liverpool Echo,  have reported on the incredible outpouring of solidarity and strength in Liverpool, making it clear that the city stands together and united in the aftermath of the attack outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital. 
  • This piece in the Financial Times highlighting the realities of what the ban on people seeking safety working really means for the people affected.
  • The Observer’s view on Priti Patel’s “fake crisis” explains how the home secretary has fanned rhetorical flames on asylum seekers and refugees, although the numbers are at odds with her approach. 
  • Politico’s long read, ‘Worse than war’ – a dispatch from the Polish-Belarusian border.
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