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
Fight the Anti Refugee Laws
With the UK Government intent on introducing further legislation to criminalise people seeking safety this year, we’d like to remind you of our Fight the Anti-refugee Laws resources, which you can use to help build opposition to the Government’s plans, and support for a fairer, more effective asylum system.
You can encourage local organisations to sign the pledge here and call on your local authority to pass a motion defending the right to seek safety using our dedicated resources. The resources include:
A guide to the resources, including tips for passing a motion and a comms checklist;
A template press release;
If you have any questions or feedback about these resources, or if you use them to approach your Local Authority, please let us know!
As people continue to speak out against the Government’s plans, Freedom from Torture shared footage on the weekend of Holocaust survivor Joan Salter challenging the Home Secretary on her use of dehumanising language towards refugees. The Home Office requested that the footage be taken down, but Freedom from Torture have refused, sharing the full video and standing firm on the need to speak out against the Government’s harmful approach.
Lift the Ban
The Lift the Ban coalition has marked the start of 2023 with a new video, setting out 23 reasons why the UK Government should give people seeking asylum the right to work. You can download the video from the Lift the Ban campaign Dropbox to share with your own message to support the campaign, or share the Asylum Matters or Refugee Action tweets.
Praxis campaign on cost of living
Praxis have launched a write-to-your-MP digital action, calling on MPs to ensure that everyone in need can access cost-of-living support measures, whatever their immigration status.
Home Office and Government developments
Asylum support rates increase
Asylum support payments have been increased following legal action against the UK Government. On 16 December the High Court ruled that the Home Secretary had acted unlawfully by failing in her duty to provide for the essential needs of people seeking asylum. The case, brought by Greater Manchester Law Centre, Doughty Street Chambers and their claimant CB, heard evidence that the Home Secretary ignored advice from her officials, first issued on 31 August 2022 and repeated in September and November 2022, that she must increase the rate of weekly financial support paid to people seeking asylum in order to avoid breaking the law.
The Court, therefore, ruled support rates must be increased. In response, it was announced on 21 December that an interim increase would be put in place as follows:
£40.85 to increase to £45 per week
£8.24 – for those in full board accommodation to increase to £9.10 per week
These payments commenced on 9 January with a backdated payment to 21 December.
The Court Case also challenged the Home Office’s 2021 decision to change the methodology used to assess support rates. The Judge found the decision to abandon the previous methodology used up until 2020 in favour of increasing support levels by the Customer Price Index only, as they did in 2021, was unlawful and irrational. A full explanation for the two rulings can be found in this Free Movement article, and the full ruling can be found here.
While we welcome this increase, we know this does not go far enough to mitigate the cost of living crisis as outlined in these stories in the Birmingham Mail about Grace, how she struggles to afford groceries and Christmas presents for her child.
The Prime Minister’s first speech of 2023 included a commitment to introduce new legislation to tackle Channel crossings, as one of his five priorities for the year. Rishi Sunak said: ‘We will pass new laws to stop small boats, making sure that if you come to this country illegally, you are detained and swiftly removed.’
Media reports suggest the Government is examining options to change the law to allow people who cross the Channel in small boats to be declared permanently ‘inadmissible’ to the asylum system. They claim this would negate the need for an agreement to be in place with another country to which the individual can be removed. This would in turn potentially significantly increase the number of people detained and deported. HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has responded by pointing out that the UK does not have sufficient detention capacity to achieve the PM’s goal.
ICIBI report on vulnerable people in immigration detention
The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) has published an inspection report on the treatment and safeguarding of ‘at risk’ adults held in UK immigration detention. The report includes many concerning findings about the treatment of vulnerable people in IRCs, and concludes that the processes for identifying and safeguarding these individuals are ‘ineffective’ and that improvement has been proceeding ‘at a glacial pace’. You can read the full report here and coverage here.
Following the scandalous events at Manston, the Home Office has amended the rules on the use of short-term holding facilities. As of 5 January 2023 it will now be lawful to hold people for 96 hours at sites such as Manston. The Guardian covered this development amid calls for an inquiry into the conditions at Manston and reports of further mistreatment of detainees.
It has been reported that the UK Government is set to abandon commitments it made to implement recommendations from the Windrush review, including the creation of a new post of Migrants’ Commissioner, strengthening the independence and powers of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI), and holding ‘reconciliation events’ with those affected by the scandal.
Resources, events, jobs & training
IPPR Migration Policy Unit
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) is establishing a Migration Policy Unit to work with organisations in the migrants’ rights sector to provide policy analysis on issues related to migration and integration in order to deliver a fairer immigration system. Applications are open for members of the Unit’s advisory group who will help steer and contribute to research and policy influencing activities. For more information you can contact Lucy Mort at [email protected].
Migrant and asylum seeking mothers and the cost of living crisis
Maternity Action is running a free, in-person seminar in Manchester on 24 January to discuss the experiences of migrants and people seeking asylum who are pregnant or are new mothers during the cost of living crisis, and how they can be supported.
Migrant Champions Network
JCWI will launch the Migrant Champions Network in an online event on Thursday 23 February. The network will support local councillors to become Migrant Champions, acting as a point of contact for migrant constituents, and fighting for the rights of all migrants within their local areas and beyond. TYou can follow the network on Twitter for updates about its work.
Refugee Week call out for creatives
The team behind Refugee Week is commissioning a creative or collective with a refugee or asylum-seeking background to create the main artwork for Refugee Week UK’s 25th Anniversary on the theme of Compassion. The opportunity is open to artists, illustrators, graphic designers, photographers, filmmakers and collectives and the closing date to apply is 10 February.
Future Leaders programme
The Future Leaders Programme, a leadership development course for refugees and people seeking asylum between 18-27 years old, is open for applications until 31 January. The programme is a three month online leadership programme and all tech support is provided for those who need it to ensure this is not a barrier to participation.
FLEX is recruiting a Training Officer. Closing date 29 January.
The 3Million is recruiting a Project Manager. Closing date 22 January.
Routes is recruiting a Business Development and Partnerships Lead. Closing date 1 February.
Migrant Voice is recruiting a Communications Coordinator. Closing date 2 February.
Safe Passage is recruiting a Head of UK Legal & Arrivals. Closing date 22 January.
JCORE is recruiting a JUMP Befriending Project Lead. Closing date 31 January.
African Rainbow Family is recruiting a Campaigns and Communications Officer. Closing date 3 February.
What we’ve been reading, watching and listening to
A feel-good story in the Birmingham Mail about how local communities can make a difference in the lives of people seeking asylum.
A useful article by Maurice Mitchell with practical steps to make campaigning organisations more resilient and joyful during times of crisis.
This powerful piece by Séan Binder, who is facing criminal charges for helping migrants in search and rescue operations in Greece.
A New Year message from Scottish Refugee Council’s Dr Sabir Zazai for the BBC’s RESOLUTIONS series where he reflects on his journey from Afghanistan to Glasgow.