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
Communities Not Camps
The Home Office has announced plans to use a barge moored at Portland, Dorset, to accommodate people seeking asylum. This follows Immigration Minister Robert Jenick’s announcement to Parliament that the UK Government plans to house thousands of people seeking asylum in former military camps and prisons in four locations: Bexhill in East Sussex, Wethersfield in Essex, Scampton in Lincolnshire and Catterick in North Yorkshire. It is intended that the camps will be run by contractors, with ‘Home Office oversight’.
Portland politicians, businesspeople and residents have said that plans to house people seeking asylum on a barge are inhumane, while Home Office contractors have warned that taking part in the policy would include ‘reputational risk’, with Migrant Help urging the Government to reconsider its plans. Meanwhile, details of a January 2022 typhoid outbreak in the Netherlands on an old cruise ship being used to accommodate people seeking asylum have been released.
In response to these announcements, 171 organisations have written to the Prime Minister to urge him to ‘listen to common sense’ and scrap plans for asylum camps, or risk creating ‘an entirely preventable humanitarian catastrophe’ from ‘a manufactured crisis of the Government’s own making’. The letter was covered in the Guardian and Yorkshire Post. The Scottish Refugee Council have also reiterated the message, demonstrating that army bases and barges ‘are not the solution to a problem of the government’s own making’.
West Lindsey District Council has launched legal action against the Home Office to challenge the decision to use RAF Scampton as a site for asylum accommodation, while the Guardian has published photos showing the squalid and dilapidated conditions at the Bexhill site. Local councillors in North Yorkshire have also criticised the plans for the site in Catterick, saying that ‘Great Britain needs to welcome and integrate those seeking asylum not put them in mass single-sex holding pens’.
Stop the Camps! Webinar for campaigners
We will be hosting a webinar at 2-3pm Thursday 27 April to discuss these latest developments and bring together campaigners against the sites, with a particular focus on learning from what worked in the successful campaign against the proposed camp at Linton-on-Ouse last year. Please register to attend here and share the information with partners you believe would be interested.
Take action – write to your MP
Refugee Ban Bill
NACCOM and 52 charities and organisations that support and advocate for people experiencing, and at risk of, homelessness and destitution, have written to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, to express deep concerns about the impact of the Bill on homelessness and destitution in the UK. Leila Zadeh, the Executive Director of Rainbow Migration, has also highlighted how the Bill will harm LGBTQ+ people seeking safety.
Meanwhile, the UNHCR has warned that the Illegal Migration Bill could have a ‘domino effect’ on other countries and lead to the collapse of the international system of protection for refugees.
The Bill will return to the House of Commons on 25 April, when it will enter Report Stage before moving on to Third Reading.
Take action – call on your local authority to fight the #AntiRefugeeLaws
Local Authorities have a vital role to play in demonstrating local and regional opposition to these appalling measures. 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 template motion. Get in touch with us at info@asylummatters if you would like to discuss using these resources to approach your Local Authority. You can find other ways to take action against the Bill on our website.
Lift the Ban
Last month, we held a webinar on the Lift the Ban High Street Challenge where we heard from campaigners and local businesses about their ideas and plans to win support for Lift the Ban. You can watch a recording of the webinar back here.
The team at Student Action for Refugees (STAR) have shared a great video with student campaigners at their annual conference. It has also been brilliant to see STAR groups like Edinburgh STAR hitting the streets with the High Street Challenge. If you’d like to hear more and get involved, or to receive High Street Challenge campaign resources, please email [email protected].
Analyst News have also published an overview of the case for lifting the ban, and how experts believe that allowing people seeking asylum to work is a ‘no brainer’.
2. Government and parliamentary updates
Moving Afghan refugees out of hotels
The Government has outlined its plans to move Afghan refugees out of hotels, announcing that refugees who turn down an offer of accommodation will not be offered a second alternative, leading to fears that many will face homelessness. Zahra Shaheer, an Afghan refugee, women’s rights activist, and former TV presenter, shares a blog on the Refugee Council website highlighting the need to ensure Afghan refugees have choice and dignity in planning their future.
4. Reports and research
JRS Report on Napier Barracks
JRS UK has published a new research report entitled Napier barracks: the inhumane reality. The report draws on the accounts of 17 people seeking asylum, placed at Napier barracks in 2022. Key findings include that people are routinely taken to the camp with no prior knowledge; that life at the barracks is a daily struggle; that there are serious failures in screening and welfare processes; and that there is an acute lack of legal advice.
Migration Observatory analysis of deterrence policies
The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford has published an analysis of the UK Government’s ‘deterrence’ policies to prevent people coming to the UK seeking asylum, with an overview of the Government’s plans and their implications, as well as current evidence on the effectiveness of these policies in the UK and internationally.
5. Resources, events, jobs & training
Stand Up! Speak Out! Solidarity Knows No Borders Training Series
Stand Up! Speak Out! is a training series developed by members of Solidarity Knows No Borders. The training series comprises over 20 online seminars from March until June 2023 aimed at equipping public sector workers with the practical tools and knowledge to show up in solidarity with migrants and refugees. Full listing and booking forms are available here.
Refugee Week Resources
The 10 Simple Acts for Refugee Week 2023 have been announced, including three new acts: Listen & Share, Grow Your Compassion, and Use Your Platform. Refugee Week 2023 Packs are also available, including a Children & Young People’s Pack and an Event Organiser Pack.
- CARAS is recruiting a Head of Casework (Maternity cover). Closing date 14 April.
- Room to Heal is recruiting a 1 day a week Caseworker for a new mothers’ therapy group. Closing date 17 April.
- Freedom from Torture is recruiting 3 entry level organiser roles to deliver their Big Organising Programme. Closing date 17 April.
- Freedom from Torture is also recruiting a Senior Media Manager. Closing date 23 April.
- NACCOM is recruiting an Administrator. Closing date 25 April.
- The Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC) is recruiting a Legal Practice Administrator. Closing date 27 April.
- Hope not Hate is recruiting a Campaigns and Influencing Lead on a rolling deadline.
- IMIX is recruiting people with experience of the UK immigration system to join their new Steering Group. Closing date 30 April.
- IMIX is also recruiting for two new trustees: a trustee with experience of seeking asylum in the UK, and a trustee with media experience. Closing date for both roles 30 April.
- Refugee Support Devon is recruiting a Senior Drop-in Coordinator. Closing date: 19 April.
- What we’ve been reading