Asylum Matters advocacy update – 16 December 2022

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. Advocacy and campaigning initiatives

Channel tragedy

Like all of you, we were devastated to hear of the tragic and unnecessary loss of life in the Channel this week. This awful incident demonstrates once again the urgent need to provide safe routes for people seeking sanctuary. We know, as you do, that the Government’s punitive approach will not work, and will only drive more people to desperate measures.

Many partners have been sharing their messages about the tragedy on social media using the hashtag #SafeRoutesNow, and IMIX and Together with Refugees have also produced a useful messaging guide for partners.

Prime Minister statement on migration reforms

On Tuesday, 13 December, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made a statement announcing further asylum and migration reforms. The measures announced included:

  • New legislation in the new year to detain and deport people who arrive in the UK spontaneously

  • A new ‘Small Boats Operational Command’ to address Channel crossings

  • The use of disused holiday parks, student halls and military sites as asylum accommodation

  • An increase in immigration raids on workplaces

  • Doubling the number of asylum caseworkers

  • Raising the threshold for evidence of modern slavery

  • Declaring the majority of Albanian asylum claims as ‘unfounded’

You can read the full statement here and the debate in Parliament here. Free Movement published an analysis of the measures announced, and the office of the United National High Commissioner for Refugees called on the Government to uphold its international legal obligations, stating that the package of proposals ‘would close down access to asylum in the UK for all but a few’ and ‘undermine the global refugee system at large and would be a violation of International Refugee Law’.

In response to the statement, Migrants’ Rights Network and JCWI issued a joint statement on Albania, calling for an end to the scapegoating and divisive rhetoric around Albanians by politicians and the media. After Exploitation convened a joint open letter in response to the planned changes the Prime Minister announced to support for survivors of modern slavery, which Asylum Matters was pleased to sign. Their Twitter thread summarises the issues.

Fight the #Anti-RefugeeLaws

We are clear that the measures announced by the Prime Minister will be yet more anti-refugee laws. They will not work to prevent Channel crossings, and will punish, not protect, people seeking safety. It is important that we continue to campaign against these laws in the new year, and join voices across the country calling for a different approach, which have most recently included the PCS union representing HO and Borderforce staff and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

On 6 December, Birmingham City Council passed an amendment to sign the pledge against the #AntiRefugeeLaws, and also committed to call on the UK Government to repeal the Nationality and Borders Act (full amendment here). This action makes Birmingham City Council the first local authority to sign the Fight the #AntiRefugeeLaws Pledge, joining over 400 groups and dozens of MPs.

You can call on your local authority to pass a motion defending the right to seek safety in the UK using our dedicated resources, including a template motion and a template press release.

You can also watch a recording of our fight the #AntiRefugeeLaws webinar, in which we shared ideas and suggestions for working with Local Authorities and were joined by speakers including Cllr John Cotton of Birmingham City Council, who tabled the recent amendment.

International Migrants Day

This Sunday, 18 December, is International Migrants Day, and this year’s theme is ‘It takes a community’. The International Organisation for Migration and IMIX have worked together on a week of action on the theme, sharing stories from ambassadors and producing a social media toolkit with resources for partners share. IOM also has a brief with information about the day and how you can get involved.

  1. Home Office and Government developments

Afghan resettlement 

Home Office figures show that just four Afghan refugees have been brought to the UK through the Government’s Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) since it was established.

Derwentside Detention Centre Inspection Report

The HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has published a report on its inspection of Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre (formerly Hassockfield). The report highlights several concerns, including that ‘governance, action planning, record keeping and quality assurance were deficient across most areas of operational management’.

No 2 Hassockfield have shared a thread summarising key concerns raised by the Inspector, and Women for Refugee Women have shared a blog covering the report. Kate Osborne MP, who has recently visited the centre, has spoken to the BBC about the centre and the impact on the women incarcerated there.

  1. Reports and research

Migration Exchange report on Leadership development in the UK refugee and migration sector

A new report by Migration Exchange outlines organisational and funder experiences of leadership development, with insights on barriers and challenges, including for leaders with lived experience of the migration system. It gives suggestions to improve leadership development practice, and argues that while there is already growing commitment to leadership development, a strategic approach is needed to better sustain and resource this work. Contact [email protected] for more information.

NACCOM annual destitution survey

NACCOM have published a briefing on levels and experiences of destitution in the asylum and immigration system, based on the results of their annual members’ survey. The briefing reveals how the asylum and immigration system routinely leaves people without stable accommodation and unable to meet their basic needs, and provides recommendations on how this could be changed.

JCWI briefing on safety for migrant workers

JCWI, Latin American Women Rights Service (LAWRS), the Labour Exploitation Advisory Group (LEAG) and the Step Up Migrant Women coalition have released a new briefing, ‘Safety for Migrant Workers: the case for safe reporting mechanisms’, on how to ensure that all workers can access their workplace rights and safely report exploitation, regardless of immigration status, via new safe reporting mechanisms.

SMK annual campaigner survey 

The Sheila McKechnie Foundation has launched its annual campaigner survey, to track the experiences of people campaigning for social change in 2022. The survey is for paid staff, volunteers, funders and trustees and is open until 1 February.

  1. Job opportunities

  1. What we’ve been reading, watching and listening to

  • The latest News Agents podcast examines what would actually prevent dangerous crossings in the Channel, and the political reasons politicians will not support these measures.

  • People in the asylum system have shared their stories with the Birmingham Mail of what it’s like living on asylum support during the cost of living crisis.

  • RAS voice member Jason has published a brilliant piece in Prospect magazine outlining his experiences of being banned from working.

  • MIN Voices members gave incredibly powerful testimonies to BBC Scotland about the ban on working and the difficult choices they are forced to make while living on asylum support rates.

  • Netflix film The Swimmers, which is based on the true story of Syrian refugee and Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini and her sister Sara.

  • Wired magazine examines the dangerous digital creep of Britain’s ‘Hostile Environment’ into every facet of migrants’ lives.

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