Our fortnightly summary of advocacy and campaigning initiatives, new research, government developments and useful resources from across the asylum, refugee and migration sector. Contact us if you’d like to get this update directly into your inbox.
Advocacy and campaigning initiatives
Communities not camps
The Government is reported to be considering sourcing more barges in which to place people seeking safety, after all 39 people on board the Bibby Stockholm were moved off the barge following the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water system. Questions continue to be asked about why people were placed on board before checks for Legionella were completed, and when Ministers became aware. This follows people being placed on the barge despite ongoing protests and serious concerns about its safety. At least 20 people, including survivors of torture, earlier had their transfers to the barge cancelled following legal action, while a GP warned that the absence of health checks was a ‘public health catastrophe in the making’.
Some of the people who were put on the barge have shared their experiences, with one man saying the barge is “Like a prison, it has entrance and exit gates, and at some specific hours, we have to take a bus, and after driving a long distance, we go to a place where we can walk. We feel very bad”. A Syrian man who challenged being moved to the barge has said that the cramped conditions would remind him of the 2m square room he had to hide in to shelter from Islamic State soldiers, while a worker who previously stayed on the vessel has said that it is ‘not designed for living on’.
Meanwhile, the Mayor of Portland has begun crowdfunding for a legal challenge against the Home Office, carried out in a personal capacity, on the grounds that planning permission was neither sought nor granted.
As the Bibby Stockholm continues to receive intense national and international scrutiny, leaders and communities across the UK continue to speak out against the use of floating prisons: the leader of Glasgow City Council has said the Council would not support a barge being moored in Glasgow; candidates to be the first North East Mayor have vowed to oppose any plans for a barge on Tyneside; and Teessiders have spoken to Open Democracy about how they successfully opposed plans for a barge at Teesport. The Shadow Immigration Minister however has indicated that a future Labour Government would continue to temporarily use barges to house people seeking asylum.
Take action! The Migrants’ Rights Network has convened two open letters to the Government and the Shadow Cabinet calling for them to abandon support for inhumane asylum accommodation, which you can sign here and share on social media here.
Write to your MP and let them know there is one safe place to house people seeking safety — as an integral part of local communities that are equipped to welcome them.
Sign the petition calling on the Government to drop the plans.
Add your name in support of torture survivors’ letter to Portland Port’s CEO.
Get in touch if you’d like unbranded #CommunitiesNotCamps posters and placards.
Fight the #AntiRefugeeLaws
Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire has become the latest of a growing number of Local Authorities to condemn the Government’s Illegal Migration Act and pledge to become a Council of Sanctuary. You can call on your Local Authority to take similar action using our resources, which include a template council motion you can share with councillors.
You can find further campaigning resources at fighttheantirefugeelaws.org.
Asylum support survey 2023
Asylum Matters new survey on people’s experiences of living on low rates of asylum support will run until 8 September. The survey will update the data from our previous Locked Into Poverty report, allowing us to compare and contrast people’s experiences but to also find out what impact the increased cost of living is having on people in the asylum system.
We are asking partners to share the survey with people you know, who access your services and/or are members of your groups, who are currently living on asylum support. The links are below. We ask you please do not share the survey on social media or on your website.
We have also created Posters with QR codes for the four languages which you use to promote the survey. You can find them here.
Asylum support rates review – top line guide
The Home Office has put out a call for views and comments on the level of asylum support. We have created a top line guide, which uses the Home Office template, for partners to use in their responses.
The document covers the key areas we believe should be highlighted with suggested talking points in each section to which you can add case studies and examples. We have added recommendations which can be adapted. The sections highlighted in yellow are suggested articles and reports people can use in their responses but will need to be deleted in the final submission. The deadline is 13 September.
Government and parliamentary updates
Eviction of Afghan refugees from bridging hotels
8,000 Afghan refugees living in Home Office bridging hotels have been given notice to leave their accommodation by the end of August amid warnings from the Local Government Association that there is a high risk of families becoming homeless.
Increased hostile environment fines
The Government has announced that fines will be tripled for employers and landlords who employ or rent to people with irregular status from the beginning of 2024.
Reports and research
Afghan Refugees: What Happened to the Warm Welcome?
A new report from the Refugee Council outlines the devastating consequences of the Government’s failure to fulfil its promises under ‘Operation Warm Welcome’ to provide housing and integration support to Afghans evacuated to the UK. The report makes several recommendations including fulfilling the Government’s resettlement commitments, providing permanent housing for all evacuated Afghans before hotels close and improving family reunion arrangements.
New Generation Rent Report: Housing in a Hostile Environment
Generation Rent has published a new report revealing shocking discrimination towards migrant communities while navigating the private rental market. The report includes a number of recommendations around temporary accommodation, and the asylum and immigration system. Further information and campaign actions are online here.
The Commission on the Integration of Refugees – survey of people with lived experience
The Commission on the Integration of Refugees is conducting a survey of people with lived experience to provide an evidence base to inform its recommendations. The survey is for refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK who have arrived within the last 10 years and are 16 or older. Please find the link to complete the survey here.
Resources, events, jobs and training
Migration Exchange online briefing on the Illegal Migration Act
On 20 September 10.30-11.30, MEX will be hosting an online briefing around the new ‘Illegal Migration Act’ and the sector’s response. This session will explore the implications of the new Act and ways in which organisers, campaigners, lawyers and political influencers are responding. Register here
NEON Lunch and Learn sessions
NEON is hosting two sessions which will be of interest to partners in the migration sector:
6 September 12:00 – 13:15 Lived experience: supporting people in the media
13 September 12:00 -13:15 Challenging media misinformation with Migrants Organise
JCWI is recruiting an Immigration and Public Law Solicitor/Senior Caseworker and a Legal and Administrative Assistant, deadline 18 August.
Suffolk Refugee Support is recruiting an Advice Worker and a Housing Advice Worker, deadline 23 August.
Action Foundation is recruiting a Social Inclusion Officer, deadline 28 August.
DPIA is recruiting an Integration and Participation Officer, deadline 28 August.
Hope for the Young is recruiting a Head of Programmes, deadline 3 September.
What we’ve been reading, watching and listening to
A new Inside Housing Comment piece by Bridget Young, Director of NACCOM, on the homelessness and destitution caused by the asylum system.
Hope Not Hate’s blog on the corrosive effect Government policy and rhetoric on asylum is having in communities.