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
On Tuesday 22nd March, the Nationality and Borders Bill returned to the Commons from the Lords. Many of the most harmful elements of the Bill were reinstated, including Clause 11 which allows for differentiated treatment of refugees.
Despite the disappointing result, Refugee Action compiled a thread of reasons for hope following the votes, and a particular highlight from the debate was Tahir Ali MP reading out messages of support for refugees sent to him by pupils at St Dunstan’s Primary, a school of sanctuary in Birmingham.
The Bill will now return to the Lords for consideration of Commons amendments on 4th April 2022. As the Commons will be in recess from 31st March to 19th April, the Bill will then return to the Commons.
Communities continue to speak out against the #AntiRefugeeBill:
In Birmingham, at the Full Council meeting, an official question from the public was asked by a refugee who has made Birmingham his home as to what the local authority was doing to oppose the Bill. Councillor Cotton gave a robust response outlining the Council’s opposition to the Bill. See the question and response here and coverage in the Birmingham Mail here;
The North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll appeared in a video with members of the West End Refugee Service Campaigns Group calling for the Government to rethink its approach;
On 21st March, communities across the UK took part in the Together with Refugees Landmark Day of Action. Highlights included an expert by experience-led protest in Manchester, an event in Liverpool, flotilla in Bristol, protesters creating a huge heart in Halifax, and landmarks being lit up across the North East. The day was supported by Olivia Colman and Brian Cox, while Freedom from Torture also projected a film of Juliet Stephenson on Tower Bridge.
Lift The Ban
The House of Commons debated and voted on the Lords’ amendment to give people seeking asylum the right to work after waiting six months for a decision on their claim.
Following a commitment by the Minister, Tom Pursglove, during the debate to meet with Conservative politicians to discuss this issue, most Tory rebels chose to abstain on the vote. The next steps will be:
A meeting between some of the supportive Conservative parliamentarians and the Immigration Minister to discuss the issue;
If the Government fails to give the clear commitments to lift the ban, then we anticipate that the same amendment would be reintroduced when the Bill returns to the House of Lords within the coming week. This is the next stage of the parliamentary process referred to as “ping pong”;
Following this, the Bill will return to the House of Commons for another vote on right to work.
If no agreement is reached, there may yet be a more considerable rebellion on the issue from the Government benches when the Bill goes to its final stage in the House of Commons.
This highlights video from the debate makes clear how much support there is for reform, and the Lift the Ban coalition will be watching for quick progress on this issue.
In the wider coalition the campaigning continues, the Launchpad Collective have launched a campaign, Unlock Talent, which aims to garner support from the business community by inviting employers to sign an open letter to Rishi Sunak and Priti Patel calling on them to unlock talent by giving people seeking asylum the right to work. You can follow the campaign’s instagram here.
The Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities has published an FAQ page on its website about the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Asylum Welcome has created an information pack and City of Sanctuary, Reset and NACCOM are running an online practical advice session about the scheme with a brief overview of the key considerations for potential hosts.
However, there has been a lot of criticism of the scheme, as there have been many delays, a lack of coordination and reports of some Ukrainians entering the asylum system and ending up in hotels. 16 refugee and anti-trafficking organisations have also written to the Government to express their serious concerns about safeguarding in the scheme.
National Protest against Hassockfield IRC 14th May
Abolish Detention: Hassockfield, No to Hassockfield, Durham People’s Assembly and Women for Refugee Women are holding a national demonstration against the Hassockfield Detention Centre at 12pm, Palace Green, Durham on 14th May. You can find full details here.
2. Home Office Developments
High Court ruling on mobile phone seizures
A judgement handed down on 25th March has found the Home Office’s policies of seizing mobile phones from asylum seekers arriving by small boat to be unlawful and in breach of human rights. You can find more information about the case here and the full judgement here. There will be a further hearing regarding what remedies will be ordered.
Education grants to children from NRPF families in England
The UK Government has announced that it will permanently extend Free School Meals and the pupil premium to children from NRPF families in England.
3. Reports and research
LSE social cost benefit analysis on NRPF policy
The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), commissioned by the Greater London Authority (GLA), have published the results of an independent cost-benefit analysis of removing the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ restriction for some migrant groups in the UK.
The research concluded that the benefits of scrapping the NRPF policy far outweigh its costs, leading to net societal gains of up to £872 million. It also found that ending the NRPF condition would help address issues of destitution and poor housing that local authorities and third sector services are currently seeing and enable investment in other areas.
Medact Survey on contingency accommodation
Medact’s Migrant Solidarity Group are conducting a survey for frontline services on the experiences of refugees and people seeking asylum in contingency accommodation. If you have any experience working or volunteering in such settings, you can complete the survey here. There are ten questions which should take five minutes to complete.
4. Resources, events and jobs
Law Centre NI guide to permission to work
The Migration Justice Project at the Law Centre NI have a guide to help people seeking asylum understand how and whether they can apply for permission to work while their claim is pending. The guide is available in English, Tigrinya, Somali, Farsi, and Arabic on their website.
Doctors of the World resource on navigating the NHS
In collaboration with the Mayor of London, NHS England and Bevan Healthcare, Doctors of the World have produced a multilingual resource aimed at helping people navigating the NHS. The resource explains which health service to go to depending on the healthcare need, the right to healthcare for migrants and health services that are free for everyone
Doctors of the World Right to Hospital Care Animation
Doctors of the World have shared a new animation on the right of everyone, regardless of immigration status, to receive immediate and urgently necessary medical care.
IMiX are recruiting for an Operations Assistant. Closing date 3rd April.
Counterpoints Arts are looking for a freelance TV/ Film producer, ideally someone with lived experience of forced migration. Closing date 12th April.
5. What we’ve been reading
A booklet of poetry called ‘In Our Shoes’ published by the Maryhill Integration Network which showcases new writing by women seeking asylum, refugee and local women living and writing in Glasgow.
The iNews explainer on the rights and entitlements afforded to Ukrainian refugees, drawing attention to the contrast between these rights, which include permission to work, and those afforded to refugees in the UK’s asylum system.