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.
Nationality and Borders Act
It was a sad, sorry day on 28th April when the Nationality and Borders Act was given Royal Assent following frantic last-minute ‘ping pong’ between the House of Commons and the Lords. The Act was eventually passed unamended; and the Government has indicated that measures will be enacted over the coming months and into next year.
Throughout the passage of the Bill, people with experience of the asylum system campaigned against these harmful measures and spoke out about the grave consequences these laws will have for people seeking safety. In our new blog, some of those people explain what the #AntiRefugeeLaws would have meant for them if the laws had been in force when they came to the UK – and why we must fight these laws.
Fight the #AntiRefugeeLaws Pledge
In response to the passage of the Borders Act, Asylum Matters and Refugee Action have worked with a number of partners to launch a pledge to #FightTheAntiRefugeeLaws. The initiative aims to unite partners in our sector and beyond, to stand resolutely against the new laws and demonstrate to the UK Government that the fight for a fairer asylum system continues.
Over 350 organisations have now signed the pledge committing to challenge these cruel laws. In addition to many national and local organisations working in the refugee and migrant sector, signatories include many organisations from the housing and homelessness, LGBTQI+, women’s, anti-poverty, trade union and humanitarian/INGO sectors, and numerous faith groups.
You can also continue to share #AntiRefugeeLaws pledge resources, including:
draft social media posts to use or adapt;
a short video to download featuring people with lived experience of the asylum system on what the new laws mean to them;
images and quote cards supporting the pledge.
Freedom from Torture has also released a defiant and moving short film demonstrating that the Nationality and Borders Act does not represent the vast majority of the UK public.
Lift the Ban
Although the right to work amendment was not ultimately tabled by Peers when it went back to the House of Lords for the fourth time in the closing stages of ping-pong, it’s clear the Lift the Ban campaign is in a stronger position than ever.
Thanks to the hard work of the Lift the Ban Coalition, the campaign saw three wins in the Lords, all with cross-party support. In the House of Commons there was strong and vocal public support for the right to work from Conservative MPs; for example, for one amendment, 11 Conservative MPs voted in favour and 53 abstained. The campaign has been featured in the Financial Times, The Times, Mail on Sunday (with President of coalition member the CBI speaking in support), CapX, The Spectator’s Coffee House Shots podcast, and The Times Red Box.
We’re closer than ever to lifting the ban, and we’ll be in touch soon with the coalition on next steps! If you’re not already a coalition member, you can join by emailing [email protected].
Linton-on-Ouse accommodation centre
Local residents continue to campaign against the Government’s proposals to use the RAF facility at Linton-on-Ouse as an accommodation centre for up to 1,500 people. The newly-formed Linton-on-Ouse Action Group has spoken to the Mirror about their opposition to the plans, saying ‘This isn’t just about us, it’s about people seeking asylum, their welfare and how they will be treated’. The group has also created a petition against the plans.
Save the date: Stop Accommodation Centres! Online rally 26 May
Join us for an online rally at 12-1pm Thursday 26 May to say ‘no’ to the planned site in Linton, and all accommodation centres, and stand together to ensure that the Government gets the message that there is one safe place to house people seeking safety – in communities that are equipped to welcome them. Register here. Please let us know if you would like support with your data costs to attend this event by emailing [email protected] and we can arrange to cover your costs.
Legal challenge against the plan to send people to Rwanda
Detention Action, Care4Calais and the Public and Commercial Services Union have brought a legal challenge against the UK Government’s plan to send people to Rwanda. The case challenges the Home Secretary’s failure to disclose the criteria dictating which people seeking asylum will be transferred by force to Rwanda.
The claimants further contend that the removal of individuals from the UK to Rwanda under the proposed scheme would be unlawful as the policy penalises asylum seekers on the grounds of their irregular entry, in direct contravention of the Refugee Convention. The Law Society’s president has spoken out to defend the legal profession from attacks by the Government while the legality of the Rwanda plan is tested.
No. 10 has blamed legal challenges for the resumption of Channel crossings following a short break due to bad weather. Meanwhile, there are indications that the first flights for Rwanda will take months to start, not weeks as the timetable ‘slips’, a delay which the Home Secretary is reported to attribute to ‘specialist law firms’.
National Demonstration to Shut Down Hassockfield
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, 14th May at Palace Green, Durham. You can find full details here.
The Home Office faces legal action against the Ukraine visa scheme with people being caught in a backlog and some people not being notified their applications have been successful, even leaving some people to return to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, some people who have arrived on the Family Scheme are reported to be ending up living in overcrowded accommodation, leading to some having to present themselves to the local authority as homeless.
2. Home Office and Government developments
Rwanda – further details published
The Home Office has today published further details on its plans to offshore people seeking asylum it deems inadmissible, with new country guidance, an equality impact assessment and updated inadmissibility rules.
Journalists and campaigners have been quick to point out that these documents make clear that LGBTQI+ refugees will be deported to Rwanda despite the UK Government’s own updated country guidance conceding there are significant concerns about the safety of the LGBTQI+ people in the country.
3. Research and reports
Doctors of the World report on healthcare in asylum accommodation
Doctors of the World and the University of Birmingham have published a new report that demonstrates how asylum accommodation leaves people seeking safety without medical care. The report, drawn from evidence and medical data of DOTW’s work providing medical care to people in initial and contingency accommodation such as Napier Barracks, provides powerful evidence on the unsuitability of a model of accommodation that has been hailed as a prototype for asylum accommodation centres. The report was covered in the Guardian and you can share it on twitter here.
Human Rights Watch research on experiences of young people in hotels
Human Rights Watch is conducting research on what life is like for young people living in asylum hotels in the UK. They wish to speak to young people or teenagers anonymously about what their accommodation is like, if they have any issues, and how things could be improved. They would also like to hear about the other kinds of support young people may have been given, including food and money.
Please contact Alex Firth at [email protected] if you or any of the people you work with might be interested in taking part. The research interviews will mainly be taking place between 9-20 May, with the option to arrange remote interviews and interviews on future dates too.
4. Resources, events, jobs & training
Gathering insights on leadership development in the migration and refugee sector
Migration Exchange (MEX) has commissioned a process to understand how leadership skills are developed both formally and informally across the migration and refugee sector. They are particularly interested in hearing from people who are building leadership skills as part of their approach to change and shifting power, or who might have developed the way they work through informal or grassroots experiences rather than through attending a course. You can share your views by responding to the survey, sending a whatsapp voice note to 07966026006, or register your interest in meeting others to discuss here.
Race Equality and Migrants Summit
Runnymede Trust has opened registration for ‘We Move’, the race equality and migrants’ rights summit which will be held in-person at the University of Leeds, over the weekend of 3-4 September. If you would like to contribute content to the summit, or help shape the programme, then please complete this form.
ASAP is reviewing the support it offers to other organisations via its advice line, ASAN googlegroup and online resources. Partners are asked to take 10 minutes to complete this survey. The survey will be open until the end of May.
NACCOM Hosting Good Practice Guidance
NACCOM has now launched Part 2 of its Hosting Good Practice Guidance: ‘Key considerations for hosts and hosting organisations’. This is aimed at people and organisations involved in hosting and provides information and guidance to ensure hosting placements for refugees and people in the asylum system are safe, positive and effective. Produced in consultation with NACCOM’s hosting members, both parts 1 and 2 of the guidance can be found here.
Launch of the Week of Action to end the hostile environment
Ten years ago, on 25 May 2012, the then Home Secretary Theresa May announced that she wanted to “create a really hostile environment” for migrants in Britain. Solidarity Knows No Borders Network has announced a Week of Action to end the Hostile Environment between 13-19 June. They have an online rally on 25 May where there will be a number of speakers and more information about how to get involved in the Week of Action.
ASAP is recruiting a Head of Legal, closing date 5 June.
5. What we’ve been reading
This long-read feature in Foreign Policy on Israel’s program of removing people to Rwanda
Free Movement’s blog post on the legality of Rwanda plan