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
Communities Not Camps
Campaigners for decent housing in communities for people seeking safety have won a significant victory after the Government withdrew planned regulations to exempt houses of multiple occupation used as asylum accommodation from the protections of the HMO licensing regime. The U-turn came after a legal challenge brought by eight people seeking asylum – congratulations to all involved!
Meanwhile, the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has written to the Home Secretary following a visit by MPs to the Bibby Stockholm barge, citing a lack of communication from the Home Office to residents, cramped and crowded living conditions, isolation and limited access to mental health support. Inquest, which is working with the family of Leonard Farruku who lost his life on the barge, has written to the Committee requesting an independent investigation and robust scrutiny.
Braintree District Council has spoken out against Government plans to extend the use of the camp at ex RAF Wethersfield for another three years, bypassing normal planning processes. This comes following evidence of severe mental health harms to residents and after it emerged 178 people had been moved from the camp since it opened. At RAF Scampton, where no one seeking safety has yet been placed, there has been disorder amongst rival factions of protestors at the site.
Take action with our new #CommunitiesNotCamps resources:
- Send our new parliamentary briefing to your MP
- Write to your MP with our new template letter and ask them to speak out, with only a few clicks if you use our easy letter-writing tool
- Share these graphics on social media with the hashtag #CommunitiesNotCamps; or print these resources.
Migration Making Scotland Great campaign
Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf will help to launch a new campaign highlighting the positive aspects of migration. Migration Making Scotland Great is a partnership between Migrant Voice, Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC) and IMIX designed to celebrate migration across the UK.
2. Government and parliamentary updates
As the Safety of Rwanda Bill is debated in the House of Lords, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has warned that the legislation jeopardises the UK’s international reputation, saying it is “fundamentally incompatible” with the UK’s human rights safeguards. The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture has called on the UK Government to process asylum claims in the UK instead of pursuing the Rwanda policy.
Last week the Prime Minister, in an interview with Piers Morgan, made a £1000 bet that flights to Rwanda would begin before the General Election, which attracted major criticism and prompted the SNP to ask the ethics watchdog to investigate whether the PM broke the ministerial code.
Meanwhile, the UK and French Governments have pledged closer cooperation on measures to stop small boat crossings; and further debate around asylum, particularly on conversions to Christianity, has been triggered by the attack with a corrosive substance on a woman and two children in London allegedly carried out by Abdul Ezedi, who had been granted refugee status. The Bishop of Chelmsford, herself a former refugee, and the Archbishop of Canterbury are among those defending the role of the Church in welcoming people seeking safety, amid attacks from the right-wing media and the former Home Secretary.
Government consultation on reforms to social housing allocations
The Government has launched a consultation on proposals to amend social housing rules, including on a proposed ‘UK connection test’ where a person would have to demonstrate their connection to the UK by being lawfully resident for ten years before being allocated social housing. This would drastically affect the rights of refugees to move on from asylum accommodation. The consultation can be viewed here and is open until 27 March.
Health surcharge increase
The UK Health Surcharge for visa applicants after 6 February has increased by 66% to £1035 per year. Charities are warning thousands of people could end up in debt and facing “severe poverty” as the charge must be paid upfront with the visa fees.
Guidance on discharging people at risk of or experiencing homelessness
The Department of Health and Social Care and the Department of Levelling Up Housing and Communities have produced guidance for staff involved in planning to discharge patients at risk of or experiencing homelessness, or who have no recourse to public funds.
Westminster Hall Debate on Homes for Ukraine
MPs have debated the need to provide certainty for Ukrainian refugees by extending the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Coverage here.
3. Reports and research
Briefing on the Rwanda Bill and the UK’s legal obligations towards victims of modern slavery
The Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre has produced this legal analysis of the implications of the bill.
Briefing on the new income requirement for partner visas
On 4 December 2023, the Home Secretary announced a series of changes to immigration rules designed to reduce net migration. This Migration Observatory briefing analyses the policy and its main implications
Briefing on the UK policies to deter people from claiming asylum
This Migration Observatory briefing note brings together statistics and research evidence to inform discussion about these policy measures.
Research on issues caused by right to work checks
A&M Consultancy is currently working on research on behalf of the Challenge the Checks coalition (comprising Open Rights Group, Migrants’ Rights Network, and Migrants at Work) about the issues people are facing while proving their right to work in the UK digitally. There are two surveys to capture experiences and challenges individuals are facing while proving their right to work in the UK via digital methods. The surveys will take up to 15-20 minutes of people’s time and are open until 29 February.
- Designed for people with lived experience (migrants, refugees, and people seeking asylum)
- Designed for experts who have experience working on these issues.
4. Resources, events, jobs and training
City of Sanctuary Local Media Challenge
City of Sanctuary is running a Local Media Challenge throughout March, which aims to platform the call for a new, fair asylum system; normalise a compassionate approach; and grab the attention of MPs and parliamentary candidates.
City of Sanctuary groups, partner organisations, Sanctuary awarded institutions and individuals will be encouraged to place messages of solidarity and compassion in local letters pages, op-eds, articles, radio phone-ins, blogs and more. Work through the toolkit for guidance, templates and examples.
General Election: campaigning information sessions
Here are the details of upcoming training sessions on campaigning around the forthcoming UK General Election:
- Civic Power Fund: Campaigning and the General Election session
The Civic Power Fund is holding online training sessions to share and decode recent guidance commissioned by The Legal Education Foundation about the legal practicalities of campaigning around the upcoming General Election, and answer any questions attendees might have. You can register for the sessions here ( 12-1pm, 1 March) and here (3-4pm, 5 March). We’ll be attending so if you’d like us to share notes from the session, please do get in touch.
- 28 February | 12-1pm | Bates Wells
What can charities and campaigners say or do in the run-up to the election? What are the election law rules that you need to comply with? How can you use your voice effectively during this period? We’ll be covering charity law, election law and guidance around political activity as well as sharing case studies and practical tips for campaigning. Audience members are welcome to ask questions during the session. Click here to register your free place.
- 19 March | 10-11am | National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)
Learn how to guide your charity through the upcoming election period. If you’re new to charity campaigning or confused about the rules, this free webinar is for you. Click here to register your free place.
Human rights training
The British Institute of Human Rights is running free awareness-raising workshops for community and voluntary groups across the UK – more information and details on how to apply are here. The deadline is 5pm 25 February.
Funding initiative for IAAS Senior Caseworker exam
A new funding initiative has been set up in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice which will fund the Immigration and Asylum Accreditation Scheme application and examination fees for those seeking to be accredited as Senior Caseworkers who are employed at firms holding legal aid contracts. More info here.
- SLRA is recruiting for a number of roles, based at its office in Streatham, South London. The full job descriptions and application details can be found on the SLRA website.
- Care For Calais is recruiting a Content & Creative Manager. Deadline 18 February.
- Paul Hamlyn Foundation is recruiting a Grant Assistant. Deadline 19 February.
- Safe Passage is recruiting a Policy and Public Affairs Officer. Deadline 25 February.
- Migrants Organise is recruiting a Community Programme Caseworker. Deadline 26 February.
- Young Roots is recruiting a Head of Finance and Internal Operations. Deadline 28 February.
- Assist Sheffield is recruiting an Office Administrator. Deadline 4 March.
- Action Foundation is seeking a trustee. Deadline 4 March.
- ATLEU is recruiting for three positions with different applications schedules, all information can be found here.