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
A ministerial announcement is expected on heavily-trailed Governmental measures to warehouse people seeking asylum in harmful ex-military bases, disused ferries or cruise ships. The Home Office is reportedly set to take control of ex-military bases at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, and MDP Wethersfield in Essex.
Concerted local campaigns against these sites are underway in both communities, with Braintree District Council preparing an interim injunction against Home Office measures at Wethersfield; and legal action reportedly under consideration at Scampton. MPs for both sites (including Foreign Secretary James Cleverly), have voiced objections, including because of the lack of infrastructure and isolated rural location of the sites.
The use of shipping containers on military sites, ferries or ships to warehouse people is unacceptable and has no place in a fair, just or dignified asylum system. Join us to campaign for #CommunitiesNotCamps:
Write to your MP using our easy online tool or download and adapt the letter from our website
Follow @swapairfield and @scamptonactiongroup for updates on local campaigns by residents against the sites
Use our unbranded social media resources (twitter banners, logos, illustrations, facebook cover images) calling for #CommunitiesNotCamps. The resources can be accessed in this folder for download / use with your own tweets and social posts – please make use of them!
Accommodation centres webinar
We’re currently finalising arrangements for a webinar, bringing together the many local and national campaigners who successfully challenged and overturned Home Office plans last year to open a camp for people seeking asylum at Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire. The webinar will allow us to discuss and share insights and experiences on defeating Government plans for accommodation centres.
We’ll share full details as soon as they’re confirmed; and in the meantime, if you’d like to register your interest in attending, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can send you registration details as soon as they’re finalised.
Refugee Ban Bill
The UK Government’s Illegal Migration Bill – or ‘Refugee Ban Bill’ – has now passed the latest stage after two days of debate on the floor of the House of Commons. Ministers claim the legislation will crack down on dangerous journeys and ‘illegal’ entry to the UK, while we and other campaigners believe this deeply damaging Bill will in fact end the right of people seeking safety to claim asylum in this country.
At Committee stage, former Prime Minister Theresa May has warned that the Government’s plans would make it harder to support victims of modern slavery – a claim also strongly highlighted by NGOs. Some Conservative backbenchers HAVE called on the Government to ensure the Bill includes the provision of safe and legal routes for refugees to the UK; others are urging ministers to take a harder line, including on removals and continued UK membership of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Following Committee stage, the Home Office has published a new policy paper with Q&As on the Bill. The legislation is expected to move to Report stage in the Commons after Easter.
Earlier in the month, the Bill’s Second reading saw Conservative parliamentarians expressing disquiet about the prospect of child detention. Hundreds gathered outside Parliament to protest, with further protests following in locations including London, Glasgow and Cardiff. The First Minister of Wales accused the Government of ‘dog whistle politics’, whilst the Archbishop of York condemned the plans as “cruelty without purpose” and “immoral and inept”.
The Home Secretary, accompanied by a restricted press pool, has visited Rwanda where some challenged her conduct during the visit. While there she signed an updated and expanded Memordanum of Understanding so that anyone who enters the UK irregularly without entry clearance via a safe third country will be in scope to for removal to Rwanda. Home Office sources were reported as saying removals to Rwanda would start by summer, a claim denied by the Prime Minister.
Analysis of the Bill
Some of the many great resources produced around the Bill and its impact include:
Free Movement has created a full analysis of the Bill which can be read here.
Free Movement video of a discussion on the bill with Colin Yeo and Sonia Lenegan
The Institute for Government’s podcast Will the government’s ‘stop the boats’ plan work?
Refugee Council has created a briefing on the possible impact of the Bill, warning of great cost and the risk of destitution and detention for so many asylum seekers.
The British Institute of Human Rights has created a new resource on the What does the Anti-Refugee Bill mean for people’s human rights? This is a plain language breakdown of human rights concerns with the Bill, including the process, principles and a right-by-right analysis linked to specific clauses of the Bill
Together With Refugees MP briefing and joint messaging document, which will be updated as the Bill progresses.
KIND UK has produced a briefing on the clauses of the Bill that relate to citizenship rights.
Actions you can take and share to oppose this Bill include:
AIUK – Email your MP, shareable on Twitter
Detention Action – Email your MP, shareable on Twitter
Refugee Action – Email Your MP action – Shareable here on Twitter
Refugee Council – campaign for a fair and humane asylum system – Shareable on Twitter
Safe Passage – Email Your MP – Shareable on Twitter
Call on your local authority to fight the #AntiRefugeeLaws
As we face yet another Anti-Refugee Bill, Local Authorities have a vital role to play in demonstrating local and regional opposition to these appalling measures. Last week, Coventry City Council signed the national Pledge to fight the anti-refugee laws; while Bradford City Council and Newcastle City Council have also recently passed motions to defend the right to seek safety in the UK.
You can call on your Local Authority to stand with its communities and pledge to fight the anti-refugee laws using our newly updated resources, which include:
A guide to the resources, including tips for passing a motion and a communications checklist;
A template motion through which Local Authorities can commit to sign the Fight the #AntiRefugeeLaws pledge, call for the Government to scrap the Illegal Migration Bill and repeal the anti-refugee laws, and refuse to cooperate with any UK Government plans to build or repurpose facilities to detain or warehouse people seeking safety in their Local Authority area;
A template press release to help you spread the word if your motion passes;
Social media assets and template posts which we can customise for your specific area.
Get in touch with us at mailto: info@asylummatters if you would like to discuss using these resources to approach your Local Authority.
Government and parliamentary updates
Joint Committee on Human Rights: Call for Evidence on Illegal Migration Bill
The Joint Committee on Human Rights is conducting legislative scrutiny on the Illegal Migration Bill. Evidence of no more than 2000 words is invited by 6 April – details here.
Parliamentary report into family migration
The House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Select Committee has published a report All Families Matter: an inquiry into family migration, pointing out that current migration rules are at odds with the right to family life, with overly restrictive rules that undermine society.
Reports and research
Refugee Action report – Hostile Accommodation
This report compiles data from Refugee Action services in three locations – Greater Manchester, London, and the West Midlands from mid-2021 to January 2023 and provides a snapshot of life in the UK asylum accommodation system. The report also draws on 100 in-depth surveys conducted with people living in hotels in London, Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, and Bradford.It finds that 57% reported significant health issues, and 71% reported a deterioration in their mental health as a result of conditions in their accommodation. Of those in hotels, 90% said it was was unsuitable for children and 61% reported safeguarding concerns regarding their children. The report concludes that the current system is in effect one of nation-wide racialised segregation and de-facto detention of people seeking asylum; and is generating enormous profits for the Government’s private contractors. The report concludes that ministers’ plans to move people seeking asylum into camps will further entrench this system.
4. Resources, events, jobs & training
Refugee Action Guide on Streamlined Asylum Process Questionnaire
These resources include an FAQ on what the Streamlined Asylum Process is; a briefing for caseworkers or support workers who are not OISC level 2 equivalent or above; and some template letters available in several languages. The caseworker briefing is a live document and may evolve over time, so partners are encouraged to feed back their experiences on how the Home Office responds to questionnaires and extension requests, etc.; and any suggestions for improvement.
Missing Migrant Children – lessons from the Kindertransport webinar
René Cassin is hosting this webinar this evening (Wednesday 29 March) between 6.30-7.30pm. With 200 asylum seeking children having gone missing from Home Office hotels, and the Government now introducing legislation to deport and detain people fleeing persecution, this webinar will examine what the Kindertransport can teach us in the present day. Register your place here.
SMK campaigner survey results
The Sheila McKechnie Foundation (SMK) has shared the results of its annual survey of campaigners.
- JCWI is looking for a Permanent Executive Director, closing date 31 March
- FLEX is recruiting for a Communications Officer – closing date 2 April; and a Worker Engagement Officer – closing date 10 April
- Action Foundation is recruiting a Head of Finance and Resources, closing date 4 April.
- Migration Exchange is recruiting for a new advisory group that will support the delivery of its new strategic framework. Deadline for applications is 4 April. Find out here how to apply.
- Just Fair is looking to recruit a Human Rights Officer. Closing date 17 April at 9am.
- Migration Yorkshire is recruiting for an Information and Communications Manager. Deadline is 19 April.
5. What we’ve been reading, watching and listening to
Syrian writer and poet Amir Darwish writes about the Bill in historical context.