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.
Response to Government announcements on asylum system
Last week, the Home Secretary signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Rwanda for the processing of people seeking asylum in that country, rather than in the UK, in a deal for which Rwanda has received an initial £120 million.
The announcement of the deal indicated that some people seeking asylum who have entered the UK by irregular means as of the beginning of 2022 will be targeted for removal to Rwanda to have their asylum claims processed by the Rwandan Government and not by UK officials. People who are successful in their asylum claim will be expected to remain in Rwanda and have no route back to protection in the UK.
The policy has been widely condemned by MPs, faith leaders and charities, with former Prime Minister Theresa May telling the Home Secretary she did not support the policy ‘on the grounds of legality, practicality and efficacy’. The Archbishop of Canterbury strongly criticised the policy in his Easter sermon, and was joined by the Archbishop of York, who said in his Easter service ‘we can do better than this.’ Civil servants in the Home Office have also expressed concerns.
RAF facility in Linton-on-Ouse to be used as asylum accommodation
The Government also announced that the first accommodation centre will be opened on a former RAF base in Linton-on-Ouse, North Yorkshire. The Home Office has published a factsheet on the facility, which explains that the site will accommodate ‘single adult males’ who meet ‘the relevant suitability criteria’.
The local community has opposed the plan, with the Guardian covering the reaction. The MP, Kevin Hollinrake, has also spoken out, calling for the plan to be stopped in a letter to the Home Secretary on the basis that the use of the site is ‘not workable, sustainable or acceptable’.
We are clear that this site, and others like it, are totally unsuitable for housing people seeking asylum. Institutional accommodation causes harm, as demonstrated in our report In a place like prison. We are currently working with national and local partners to gather further information about the plans and stop this centre and others from coming into use. Please get in touch with us if you would like to be involved in this work.
Nationality and Borders Bill
The Nationality and Borders Bill is now in its final stages of ‘ping pong’ back and forth between the House of Lords and House of Commons before the end of this parliamentary session at the end of this week. The timeline for the Bill is tight and the outcome of the debates on the various amendments remains uncertain.
The Refugee Council has published new analysis showing that the Bill’s implementation could see more than 19,200 people seeking asylum convicted and imprisoned for arriving via irregular routes. They also estimate that:
172 people could have been sent to Rwanda last year had the deal been in place then, and that this year the number is not likely to be much higher than that
15,000 mainly vulnerable women and children could be prevented from reuniting with their families
The Government’s plans will cost £835m a year.
Last week, celebrities joined people with lived experience of seeking sanctuary and campaigners on a boat on the Thames outside the Houses of Parliament to call on MPs to oppose the Bill and support a kinder, fairer and more effective asylum system, in a show of support organised by the Together WIth Refugees coalition.
You can still write to your MP calling on them to oppose the Bill using Freedom from Torture’s online action.
Lift the Ban
Yesterday, Baroness Ruth Lister (Labour) put forward yet another right to work amendment to the Nationality and Borders Bill when it returned to the House of Lords yesterday afternoon. The Lords passed the amendment by just one vote (220-219). Although the majority was slim, it is very unusual for amendments to pass for a third time in the House of Lords.
Late last night MPs then voted on the three amendments to the Bill (including right to work) that had returned from the House of Lords. As expected, due to the Government’s large majority, all amendments were voted down (right to work lost 288–212). However, it is notable that four Tory MPs (Sir Robert Buckland, Simon Hoare, Tim Loughton and Sir Robert Neill) continued to rebel – the only Tory MPs to rebel on any of the amendments to the Bill last night.
The Lift the Ban coalition is continuing to lobby as the Bill goes through these final stages and this morning Conservative MP Robert Buckland writes in CapX making the case for lifting the ban. We encourage partners to share this article through your social media channels; and while the remaining stages on the amendment and the Bill remain unclear at the time of writing, partners should continue to encourage Conservative MPs to get behind the amendment and the campaign for the right to work more widely, drawing on these resources.
Legal win against ‘pushback’ plans
In a significant victory, the Home Office has abandoned its plans to conduct ‘pushbacks’ of small boats in the Channel after they faced a legal challenge brought by the the union PCS, Care4Calais, Channel Rescue and Freedom from Torture.
Home Office and Government developments
Widening of asylum dispersal
As part of its announcements last week, the Government has also indicated a new system of ‘assumed’ asylum dispersal, with all Local Authorities in England, Scotland and Wales to be expected to join the asylum dispersal system. The Home Office will commence consultation with local authorities after the local elections. They have also committed to funding with one off payments for current dispersal areas and additional funding for further bed spaces provided. In a letter to Local Authorities, the Minister announced that:
‘All local authority areas in England, Scotland and Wales will be expected to participate in a new system of full dispersal to allow us to move from hotels to less expensive and more suitable dispersed accommodation. We will start to expand the procurement process across England, Scotland and Wales from today, working closely with local authority areas to make them aware of proposed properties and allow any specific concerns to be raised for consideration.’
Asylum support methodology published
The Home Office has published the report on its 2021 review of asylum support rates, which confirms that the decision on the small uplift in support rates was calculated by increasing the 2021 rate by the September CPI (Consumer Price Index) of 3.1%.
Home Office review of Glasgow Park Inn stabbing
An internal review by the Home Office into the incident at the Park Inn in Glasgow in 2020 has found that Badreddin Abdalla Adam contacted the Home Office, accommodation provider Mears and Migrant Help 72 times before he stabbed six other people. It concludes that prolonged stays in hotels could have a detrimental impact on mental health and wellbeing of people seeking asylum and makes several recommendations, including developing a system to flag patterns of concern and improved training for staff. Refugees for Justice, who have been campaigning for an independent inquiry into the incident, have branded the review a ‘shameful cover-up’.
A whistleblower working on the Homes for Ukraine scheme has said that the system appears to be ‘designed for people to fail’, motivated by a desire to keep overall numbers down. A protest against the significant delays and problems with the scheme was held outside Parliament on Monday by would-be hosts, calling on the Government to take action to simplify the process and end delays in the system.
3. Resources, events, jobs & training
Homes for Ukraine Q&A webinar
City of Sanctuary are hosting a webinar for anyone who has questions about the Homes for Ukraine scheme this Thursday 28 April at 11am-12:30pm.
Action Foundation is readvertising the role of Head of Business Development and Communications, with a closing date of midnight on Sunday 1 May.
NACCOM is seeking a Network and Operations Assistant, closing date midday on Tuesday 3 May.
The Refugee Council is recruiting two Casework Coordinators. Closing date 8 May.
4. What we’ve been reading
This analysis by barrister Colin Yeo in Transforming Society looking at the UK Government’s fixation on creating ‘bespoke’ refugee schemes
This thread from migration journalist Nicola Kelly and the responses are full of great reading recommendations for books on migration, asylum and refugee issues in the UK