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.
1. Advocacy and campaigning initiatives
Last week, the UK Government signed a treaty with Rwanda following the Supreme Court’s ruling that the existing Rwanda policy was unlawful. The Government followed this treaty with the Safety of Rwanda Bill, which this week passed Second Reading in the House of Commons. Free Movement has produced this detailed explainer on the provisions of the Bill, and the Institute for Government has produced an explainer on the parliamentary process for the treaty and the Bill.
It is clear that this Bill is yet another in a long line of anti-refugee legislation that aims to destroy the right to seek asylum and strip human rights away from people seeking safety in the UK. ILPA, Justice and Freedom from Torture have prepared a joint briefing on the Bill, endorsed by over 90 cross-sector organisations.
Take action: write to your MP and share the harms of this Bill
Communities Not Camps
Home Secretary James Cleverly has promised an investigation following the devastating news on Tuesday that a resident of the Bibby Stockholm barge had died. News outlets have reported that the death was believed to be suicide.
There has been an outpouring of grief and solidarity in response, with many organisations and groups expressing that they had long been warning of the dangers of placing people on the facility.
Meanwhile, West Lindsey and Braintree District Councils and a resident of Wethersfield have all been granted permission to appeal a High Court judgement that the Government’s use of the camps at Wethersfield and Scampton was lawful in respect of planning laws. Refugee advocates continue to call across the board for safe housing in communities, not camps.
Asylum Matters new report – Surviving in Poverty
Our new report published last week reveals the devastating impact of living on asylum support and the effect of the rising cost of living. ‘Surviving in Poverty: A report documenting life on asylum support’ contains the results of a survey of over 300 people seeking asylum which shows how they face a continuous struggle to meet their most fundamental needs. This includes being unable to afford food, clothes, toiletries and public transport. Compared to a similar survey we carried out in 2020, people are facing even tougher decisions on whether they can afford the basic essentials.
The key findings from our report include:
91% of people seeking asylum don’t always have enough money to buy food
75% can’t always afford the medicines they need
97% experience difficulties affording the clothes they need
95% can’t always afford to travel where they need to by public transport
83% say asylum support payments aren’t enough to cover the rise in the cost of living.
We recommend that:
The Home Office must further increase rates of asylum support to allow individuals and families to meet their essential living needs.
The Home Office must ensure that the methodology for setting asylum support rates is fit for purpose and should reflect the real-life experiences of people seeking asylum.
People seeking asylum should have the right to work after six months of waiting for a decision on their asylum claim, unconstrained by the Shortage Occupation List.
Free bus travel should be made available for people seeking asylum on a UK-wide basis, as is currently the case in Scotland.
We have also created a Partner Comms Toolkit. This pack includes:
social media infographics and suggested posts;
a template press release for local media;
a template letter that can be sent to local MPs.
Partners are welcome to use these and personalise them to their own organisation or circumstances. We would like to thank everyone who contributed to this piece of work, especially the 300+ people who completed the survey and the 51 local and national organisations who supported it.
Fair Begins Here
Together with Refugees has launched a new campaign, Fair Begins Here. Over the next two years, it will call for the next UK Government to commit to a fair new plan for refugees. For the launch, individuals such as Gary Lineker, Big Zuu, the former head of the British army and other prominent figures signed an open letter to political leaders, and was covered in multiple media outlets. Coalition members can share content through their own channels via the social media pack.
2. Government and parliamentary updates
Asylum support rates
The Home Office has announced changes to the rates of asylum support following its annual review. From 8 January the standard weekly level of allowance for individuals in self-catered accommodation will increase from £47.39 to £49.18. For individuals in catered accommodation (which includes those housed in hotels, barges and camps), the weekly rate will be cut from £9.58 to £8.86.
Maternity payments available to pregnant women on Section 4 will be increased from £250 to £300 to align with the Section 95 rate. The period in which maternity payments can be applied for will be increased to 11 weeks before the expected due date and 6 months after birth. There has been an increase in the weekly payments for pregnant women and children aged between 1-4 from £3 to £5.25; as well as an increase in the weekly payments for babies under one year old from £5 to £9.50.
We are deeply disappointed and concerned to see such a small increase of just 25p a day in the main rate of support; and that support for people in institutional accommodation has been cut – particularly in light of the damning evidence published in Asylum Matters’ new report which revealed the hardship and deprivation already being experienced by people seeking asylum (see above for further details)
Overhaul of migration routes
The Home Secretary James Cleverly has announced a series of measures, to take effect in April 2024 aimed at cutting net migration to the UK. The BBC has provided an overview of the changes. The annual salary threshold for overseas skilled workers will increase from £26,200 to £38,700. This will now also be the minimum annual income requirement for British citizens seeking to bring a partner or family member to the UK, up from the current £18,600. Overseas care workers will be prevented from bringing their dependants into the country; the healthcare surcharge will rise; graduate visas are to be reviewed; and changes will be made to salaries paid to overseas workers in jobs on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). The SOL itself will be replaced with a new Immigration Salary List.
Imix has provided suggested messaging on the changes here. Care workers have spoken out about how splitting them from their families will make them feel undervalued; and Reunite Families UK has produced a template letter for MPs about the effect of the restrictions on families.
Evictions pause for Christmas
The Home Office has confirmed that there will be no evictions from asylum accommodation from 23 December to 2 January inclusive. It is reported that this follows a formal request for a pause made by some local authorities. Meanwhile, the Local Government Association has called for urgent funding for councils, full 28 day notice periods and improved information sharing, as well as an urgent uprate in the Local Housing Allowance rate.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has accused the Government of ‘arrogance’ and ‘dishonest politics’ in its approach to evictions, whilst calling for a debate on the right to work for people seeking asylum; and London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called for a winter pause in evictions.
New Immigration Ministers
Robert Jenrick resigned as Immigration Minister as the Rwanda legislation was introduced into Parliament, and has been replaced by mid-Dorset and North Poole MP Michael Tomlinson as the Minister for Illegal Migration; and Corby MP Tom Pursglove as the Minister for Legal Migration.
3. Reports and research
Survey on ‘grants plus’ support
Paul Hamlyn Foundation and AB Charitable Trust are running an anonymous 15 minute survey aimed at understanding the kinds of ‘grants plus’ support that migration and refugee organisations would find most useful in supporting their work. Access here, deadline 15 December.
Migration Observatory analysis of new salary thresholds
The Migration Observatory has published a commentary on how new salary thresholds will affect UK migration.
Healthcare professionals on work in contingency accommodation
A new research paper published in the BMJ aims to investigate the experiences of NHS staff working with people with limited English proficiency in asylum contingency accommodation during the Covid-19 pandemic. It provides evidence that a lack of provision of interpreters risks compromising people’s safety.
4. Resources, events, jobs and training
HOPE not Hate – webinar and community engagement resource
HOPE not Hate has produced this new resource on community engagement, to look at how to engage different audiences with messaging that will counteract or build resilience to far-right rhetoric. The team will host a webinar on 24 January to launch the resource and hear from panellists who have experience with trying to connect with the community over far-right activity. Register here.
Just Fair is recruiting a Human Right Educator deadline 9am 2 January.
Refugee Youth Service is recruiting a Social Worker & Casework Lead (Greater London – Hillingdon & Hounslow) Deadline 2 January.
PAFRAS in Leeds is recruiting an Asylum Guides Coordinator, deadline is midday 3 January.
Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) is recruiting for a Senior Manager: Advocacy and Support; a Senior Manager: Learning for Life and a Senior Operations Administrator. Deadline for all three roles is 3 January, details are here.
RAMFEL is recruiting for an Advocacy Officer, deadline 4 January.
Rainbow Haven in Manchester is recruiting for a Joint Chief Executive Officer (Operations), closing 8 January.
5. What we’re reading, watching and listening to
The Un/documented podcast on ‘Campaigns that Win’ featuring campaigner, traveller and baker Mary on her extensive and inspiring work on the #LifttheBan campaign for the right to work.
The Pickwell Foundation, which supported people seeking asylum when they were brought to a local hotel, has produced ‘The Lost Guide’, a film about everyone’s experiences.