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
People seeking safety have been returned to the Bibby Stockholm barge, amid protests by Just Stop Oil and others, with residents expressing their distress. Home Office ministers have refused to disclose the amount spent on the barge. Meanwhile, Care4Calais has begun crowdfunding to challenge the placement of around 200 people in ex-RAF Wethersfield, including on the grounds that such facilities amount to segregation. A separate legal challenge is currently ongoing objecting to the lack of planning consultation around this site, where volunteers have described conditions as “bleak”.
In Bexhill in East Sussex, it has emerged that developers who bought the site of the former Northeye prison a year before its recent purchase by the Government have made £9m or 142% profit on the deal. The accounts of provider Clearsprings Ready Homes have recently revealed that it has more than doubled its profits.
Last week, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick announced in Parliament plans to end the use of 50 asylum contingency hotels by the end of January. The BBC and full fact factchecked Government claims on the backlog; whilst the chairman of the LGA warned that that this may not mean an end to hotel accommodation, but may result in costs being “shunted” from the Home Office to local authorities.
People seeking safety continue to speak out about the impact of short notice moves, and of living in hotel accommodation long term; and MPs, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee and local authorities in Glasgow, Greater Manchester, Birmingham and elsewhere have all warned about the impact of Government moves to clear its backlog.
Open letter – neglect of disabled people at Clearsprings accommodation
Campaigners are raising awareness of the treatment of dozens of disabled people seeking sanctuary who have been housed for months in a former care home in Essex. An open letter to Clearsprings, which manages the site, and the Home Office, is now open for signatures from individuals and organisations.
Calls to close Manston
Campaigners have called for the closure of Manston detention centre, after the Independent Monitoring Boards released a report detailing “insanitary and unacceptable conditions” at short term holding facilities during 2022, including representatives witnessing people forced to sleep on cold floors, overcrowding and outbreaks of illness. Meanwhile, sixty people were reportedly involved in a protest at Yarl’s Wood detention centre.
Events in Gaza and Israel
The terrible events in Israel and in Gaza have prompted comment from devolved Government, refugee supporting organisations and campaigners on UK Government plans. Scotland’s Social Justice Secretary has written to the Home Secretary to formally request the use of the UK Resettlement Scheme to allow a route to safety for the most vulnerable. A number of organisations coordinated by the Refugee Council have called for emergency pathways for those seeking refuge from the conflict; and there have been calls for a renewed global permanent infrastructure of refugee resettlement.
Open letter to Jill Mortimer MP
Campaigners in Hartlepool have written to Jill Mortimer MP following harmful comments made by the MP in the House of Commons and in local media.
2. Government and parliamentary updates
Public Accounts Committee on Asylum Transformation
The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has published a report expressing a number of doubts and concerns about the Home Office’s work to clear a backlog of cases, the unacceptable costs of an inefficient system, a lack of safeguards for vulnerable people, and greater risk of flawed decisions on people’s asylum claims.
First flight bringing Afghan refugees from Pakistan lands in the UK
The first of 12 chartered flights bringing Afghan refugees from Pakistan to the UK has landed, after the Government changed its policy to allow people eligible for resettlement to come to the UK before accommodation had been confirmed. The move follows multiple legal challenges and an ultimatum issued by Pakistan that Afghans without documentation must leave by 1 November.
Home Office proposes cap on refugee resettlement from 2025
The Home Office has announced that local authorities will be consulted on an annual cap for refugees to be resettled in the UK, to be operational from January 2025. Campaigners have called for the notion of a cap to be abandoned, whilst the LGA has raised concerns about the ability of councils to propose a cap.
Increase in immigration health surcharge
The UK Government has laid a draft statutory instrument to increase the level of the immigration health surcharge to £776 per year for children, students, their dependents and youth mobility workers; and £1035 per year for everyone else. The change will come into effect on 16 January 2024 or later. Analysis by Free Movement here
The ASF1 (the application form for section 95 and section 4 support) has been updated and can be found at the usual link. The major changes are in Section 14 and 15.
Revised ‘failure to travel’ policy for Bibby StockholmThe Home Office has revised this policy, the new version can be found here.
Reports and research
British Red Cross – State of the Nation: the UK asylum system
This new data visualisation tool from British Red Cross brings together the latest data on the asylum and modern slavery systems. It covers who is claiming asylum in the UK, how they are arriving, how they are being supported while they wait for a decision and who is being granted protection; and presents data on survivors of modern slavery in the UK.
Praxis NRPF/Cost of Living survey
Praxis is running the third round in its six-monthly survey on how the cost of living crisis is impacting people affected by no recourse to public funds restrictions. There’s further information in the participant information sheet; and a briefing on the previous round is here. The survey closes on 15 November.
Legal challenge over lack of legal aid – call for evidence
The Public Law Project is asking for evidence to support its legal challenge against the Lord Chancellor, arguing he is in breach of his duty to make legal aid available for immigration and asylum issues.
4. Resources, events, jobs and training
Just Fair resource: asylum accommodation
Just Fair has produced a resource pack designed to support activists to better understand how experiences of people in asylum accommodation are violations of human rights and to take action.
Guide to enactment of Illegal Migration Act
Law Centre Northern Ireland and the Migration Justice Project have produced a useful guide to which elements of the Illegal Migration Act are currently in force.
Stand up!Speak Out! A toolkit to resist the Hostile Environment 2024
Stand Up! Speak Out! Is looking for expressions of interest by 1 December from organisations/groups who would like to participate in delivering training in 2024 aimed at giving public sector workers up-to-date knowledge of the rapidly changing immigration policy context and the implications for their work. Organisations who have already participated are also welcome to send their ideas.
Women in Refugee Law 2023/24 public seminar series
Details on this seminar series taking place in November and December can be found here.
BeWell is a project aiming to improve the wellbeing of people working in the migration sector. They have designed a toolkit to support groups in discussing wellbeing and designing policies and practices.
The Helen Bamber Foundation is looking for a Legal Protection Coordinator, deadline 15 November.
Bristol Refugee Rights is recruiting a Chief Executive Officer. Deadline is 19 November.
Safe Passage is recruiting a Head of UK Legal Team. Deadline is 19 November.
HIAS+JCORE is recruiting for a Office & Finance Manager. Deadline is Monday 20 November, 9am. Also for trustees with experience in safeguarding, immigration and asylum law, and fundraising, an experienced Treasurer and Chair of their trustee board, see info here.
5. What we’re reading, watching and listening to