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
The UK Government experienced significant defeats on the Nationality and Borders Bill when it returned to the House of Lords last week, where Peers backed 12 amendments to the Bill that went against the Government’s wishes, including rejecting Clause 11 on differential treatment of people seeking asylum depending on their route of travel; right to work; family reunion; and citizenship rights. The Independent covered the debate, with an analysis of what this means for the Bill and an explainer of the process as the Bill moves back and forth between the Commons and Lords. The Bill will now return to the Commons for further debate after Parliament’s Easter recess, expected on 20 April. You can read an updated House of Commons Library briefing on the Bill’s progress here.
Advocacy against the #AntiRefugeeBill has continued, including:
The Refugee Council has published the #NotACriminal video with prominent celebrities speaking out against the Bill
Campaigners in Middlesbrough held a rally to oppose the Bill and show solidarity with refugees, with local MPs and people with lived experience speaking
Refugee Law Initiative has published an analysis of the harmful implications of Clause 11 and why two-tier refugee status is a bad idea
Together with Refugees has provided an updated letter to MPs; and is encouraging its members to keep adding past and future events to the Show your Heart map to demonstrate the breadth of support across the UK for a kinder, more effective approach
The new Minister for Refugees, Lord Harrington, has acknowledged that the Government’s response to the Ukraine crisis so far has been ‘slow and bureaucratic’, and stated that he finds it difficult to disagree with those who have branded the schemes ‘a disgrace’. Speaking to the House of Commons Levelling Up, Housing & Communities Committee on 30 March, he shared that there are between 300-500 Home Office staff working evenings and weekends to process visas but that progress was still not seamless or fast enough.
As of last week, UK Government data on Ukraine shows that while almost 80,000 visa applications have been received, only 12,000 people have arrived in the UK. Of these, just 1200 were through the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship route. There continues to be strong criticism of the process in the media and in parliament, with the Shadow Home Secretary calling it ‘Kafkaesque’; while alarming reports are increasing around the many safeguarding concerns long voiced by NGOs about the programme.
There has also been growing media attention (for example in the Big Issue, and the Times) on the disparity between treatment of refugees from Ukraine and other countries, with the Mirror launching British Future and More in Common’s ‘Homes for Afghans’ campaign with support from former cabinet ministers Baroness Nicky Morgan and Damian Green MP. You can read more about the campaign here, including their joint letter to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up asking him to establish a cross-Government task force on Homes for Afghans.
Free Movement has published an explainer of the different routes to settlement for Ukrainian refugees.
2. Home Office and Government developments
A report by Wendy Williams, who was appointed by the UK Government to advise the Home Office in the wake of the Windrush scandal, has found that the Home Office has failed in its pledge to transform its culture and become more compassionate, a pledge it made in response to the deeply critical Windrush Report of 2020. While acknowledging some positive steps, the report finds the Home Office at a ‘tipping point’ and recommends that without improvements, it will not be able to avoid another crisis.
ICIBI inspection plan
The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders has announced its 2022-2023 inspection plan, which includes a re-inspection of the Home Office response to small boat arrivals, and follows an announcement in March of three new inspections including: a short re-inspection of Napier Barracks; an inspection of the use of hotels for housing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children; and an inspection of GPS monitoring of Foreign National Offenders.
Continued use of barracks
The House of Lords last week debated a ‘regret motion’ in relation to the planning permission awarded by the Government in August through a Statutory Instrument enabling Napier to continue to be used, despite a damning High Court judgement and continued concerns about conditions. Read the debate here
3. Reports and research
APPG on Immigration Detention
The APPG on Immigration Detention has published its report from its visit to Napier Barracks in February, where MPs concluded that changes introduced in recent months by the Home Office have not addressed the fundamental problems of the site. The report highlights that serious concerns continue, including in relation to safeguarding of vulnerable people, including victims of torture and trafficking; physical conditions; inadequate access for residents to healthcare and legal support and the prison-like/military features of the site. APPG members say they remain ‘deeply concerned’ for the welfare of residents, and reiterate calls for the site to be closed with ‘immediate and permanent effect’, and for housing people seeking asylum in the UK in decent, safe accommodation in the community.
Huck magazine published an article looking at the impact of the cost of living crisis on people seeking asylum, including comment from our West Midlands Campaigns Manager Emma Birks and findings from our 2020 Locked Into Poverty report.
A report by Scotland’s office of the Children and Young People’s Commissioner into a mother and baby unit in Glasgow run by Mears Group found the conditions risk violating the children’s human rights, including the right to survival, safety and development; an adequate standard of living; the best possible health; family life, and the right to play. The report’s author called on the Scottish public bodies including the local authority to ensure their decision to permit use of the accommodation is consistent with their obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
4. Resources, events, training and jobs
IMIX media training for people with lived experience
IMIX is holding an Introduction to the Media training workshop at 2-3:30pm on Tuesday 19 April for people with lived experience of being a refugee, migrant or asylum seeker. The session will include protecting yourself when speaking to journalists, setting boundaries, and storytelling. Register here.
NACCOM resources for hosts
NACCOM has been working with its members who provide hosting accommodation to update their ‘good practice’ guidance for households who are considering hosting (whether that is refugees from Ukraine or any other nation) and organisations who may be supporting them. The guidance comes in two parts: ‘Part 1 – Key considerations for prospective hosts’ and a ‘Part 2 – Key Considerations for running a successful hosting project’, which will follow shortly.
Community Foundation in Wales survey
The Community Foundation in Wales is running a survey for people with lived experience of displacement and organisations working in the refugee and asylum sector to help shape its new ‘Nation of Sanctuary Croeso Fund’, which will provide support to people displaced by conflict and seeking sanctuary in Wales.
Médecins Sans Frontières UK is looking for a Press Officer. Closing date 20 April.
Bristol Refugee Rights is recruiting a Head of Services. Closing date 24 April
Refugee Education UK is recruiting a Research Officer. Closing date 27 April at 9pm.
- Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (GARAS) is recruiting a Resettlement Support Officer (closing date 3 May) and Support and Advice Worker for the Ukrainian Scheme (closing date 18 April)
- Doctors of the World is looking for a Communications and Engagement Manager. Closing date 1 May.
5. What we’ve been reading
Journalist Sally Haydn’s new book ‘My Fourth Time, We Drowned: Seeking Refuge on the World’s Deadliest Migration Route’. Centering the voices of the people who reached out to her in 2018 from Libyan detention centres, the book exposes the cruelty and injustice experienced by migrants trapped in Libya as well as the international complicity that enables it.