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.
Advocacy and campaigning initiatives
Communities not Camps – Stop Accommodation Centres!
24 charities and campaigning groups have written jointly to the Home Secretary and the Defence Secretary asking them to abandon plans for further accommodation centres in the wake of the Home Office’s failed experiment at the former RAF site at Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire. See here for the full letter and here for coverage in the Yorkshire Post.
The Home Office has stated its intention to continue to pursue the policy, and identify ‘appropriate alternative sites’. We will continue to campaign with others against these plans, and call on the UK Government to house people seeking asylum in communities, not camps. Join us by writing to your MP, or by getting in touch with us if you’d like to be involved in the campaign.
In the run up to a High Court hearing on 5 September, claimants against the Government as well as the BBC, the Times and the Guardian have obtained disclosure of some passages in documents provided to the Government about Rwanda’s human rights record, after it was revealed that UK Ministers were warned by their own advisor of political killings and torture in Rwanda. An email from a Foreign and Commonwealth office official reportedly said “There are state control, security, surveillance structures from the national level down… political opposition is not tolerated and arbitrary detention, torture and even killings are accepted methods of enforcing control.. ” Despite this, Priti Patel has stated that the Rwanda policy is ‘set in stone’; while it has been revealed that survivors of the Rwandan genocide have been made destitute in the name of the plan.
The Home Office is still moving forward with the policy, as it was reported new “notices of intent” have been sent to people from countries including Iraq, Iran and Sudan, who are being accommodated in hotels after crossing the English Channel in small boats. This is despite the Law Society, while giving evidence to the House of Lords, stating that the deal was “not legally binding, has not been scrutinised by parliament and does not protect the rights of asylum-seekers”.
Sign up to the Together with Refugees campaign to hear more about its Day of Action on 23 September, where local groups will join others across the country in an action to Fill the Skies with Hope, making and sending orange heart-shaped paper planes, with messages to the new Prime Minister. See the Action Sheet for more information.
To mark the one year anniversary of the Taliban takeover of Kabul on 20th August, The Good Chance Theatre Company, co-producers of Little Amal, staged ‘Fly With Me’ events across the UK, flying kites in solidarity with the Afghan people. Among the actions available to support people from Afghanistan was to sign the pledge to fight the #AntiRefugeeLaws.
The Government is still struggling to accommodate people who arrived as a result of last year’s events. ITV reported on how one year on many people are struggling still with having to live in unsuitable hotel accommodation.
Fight the #AntiRefugeeLaws
Watch this space for new resources we’ll be sharing this week to support you in calling on your Local Authority to stand with their communities and pledge to fight the #AntiRefugeeLaws!
In the meantime, the Fight the #AntiRefugeeLaws pledge is open to signature for organisations and individuals, and you can also write to your MP to ask them to add their voice to the pledge (you can find the full list of signatories here). Please continue to share the social media content, and if you’d like to order resources please get in touch or use the print-ready materials.
Keep Campsfield Closed
The Keep Campsfield Closed coalition has laid out steps local campaigners can take following the announcement that the Immigration Removal Centre was to reopen; and Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) has launched a write to your MP action against the expansion of immigration detention.
Home Office and Government Developments
This topic continues to attract extensive media coverage. In the last couple of weeks there have been reports that the number of Albanians arriving in small boats has increased, it is claimed due to criminal gangs. However historically over 50% of Albanians’ claims for asylum have been accepted. In response to this the Home Office has set out new plans to fast-track and deport Albanians arriving in the UK and has struck a deal with the Albanian Government to support the removals. They may send senior law enforcement officers to observe arrivals, pass on intelligence and carry out criminal record checks.
The operational response to Channel crossings currently lies with the Royal Navy. However according to the Telegraph it will step back from its role in patrolling the English Channel on 31st January, handing back control to Border Force “unless there are ministerial actions”. The Observer reported that at the same time two private companies, usually involved in offshore wind, are also being paid by the Home Office to provide boats and crew to pick up people crossing in small boats.
Funding for councils to accommodate unaccompanied minors
In order to speed up transfers from hotels, the Home Office has announced that councils will receive an additional £2,000 per child per month for the first three months if they move an unaccompanied minor from a hotel to a placement within five working days. Following this councils will continue to receive up to £143 a day to support any UASC and £270 per week for all former UASC care leavers in their area.
Last week the latest immigration statistics were released by the Home Office. Here are some top lines:
In the 12 months to June 2022 some 85,917 people had been waiting more than six months for a decision on their claim, an increase of 59 per cent on the previous year.
Today’s figures mean that 73 per cent of all decisions on an initial asylum claim take longer than six months.
The number of asylum claims being made in the UK is at its highest level for two decades (63,089 applications in the year to June 2022), with a record backlog of people waiting for a decision, which stands at 118,000.
5,290 family reunion visas were issued to family members of refugees in the UK in the year ending June 2022. This was 19% lower then the previous year and 29% lower than 2019
Afghans were among the top nationalities using small boats to reach the UK in Q2 2022, while Ukrainians—one of the only groups of refugees who can travel to the UK on a visa to seek safety—were absent from the small boat statistics.
The Lift The Ban coalition has pointed out that as more people are forced to wait more than six months for a decision on their claim, the cost of banning people seeking asylum from working grows ever higher. It is now estimated that the ban costs the taxpayer more than £300 million a year; and as reported within the Daily Mail coverage, the coalition has called on the two candidates to become the UK’s next Prime Minister to commit to lifting the ban.
The Refugee Council has published more information on the statistics and a response.
Reports and research
Asylos Country of Origin Information Report – Rwanda
In response to a high demand for information relating to Rwanda’s asylum system, Asylos has produced a Country of Origin Information Report to go with its commentary on the Home Office’s recently published Country Policy and Information Note
Migration Observatory briefing on labour shortages
The Migration Observatory has produced a report on how the end of free movement has affected the low wage labour force in the UK.
BID research on access to justice for people detained in prison
BID has launched new research documenting the multiple and intersecting barriers to justice faced by people detained under immigration powers in prison. The research is based on questionnaires filled out by individuals detained in prisons under immigration powers. It found 70% of participants do not have a legal representative for their immigration case.
Resources, events, jobs and training
NRPF network – Cost of Living Support
The NRPF network has published a resource on support available with cost of living to people with NRPF over the winter months.
City of Sanctuary is hiring a Regional Coordinator for Yorkshire, Humberside and the North East of England. Deadline 5 September, details here
Bradford City of Sanctuary is looking to recruit an Administration and Communications Officer. 15hrs/wk. Deadline 19 September, details are here.
What we’ve been reading, watching and listening to
A group of mothers from Refugee Women Connect lay out their experiences of the maternity system in powerful verse in this short film from Liverpool’s Best for Baby Too improvement collaborative.
This piece from Bristol Refugee Rights on the pernicious effects of the Nationality and Borders Act
Another very interesting Still We Rise podcast from CARAG, this one speaking with Nicola Kelly, a former Home Office official and now journalist who focuses on UK immigration and asylum policy and human rights.
Nicola is also one of the key contributors to this compelling slow newscast from Tortoise media, on what’s going on inside the Home Office in the era of the hostile environment.