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Briefing from Asylum Matters: Refugee Homelessness Debate, Voluntary Returns, Standards of proof in decision making and much much more

Your periodic reminder to sign up for Asylum Matters Briefings… which we have shamelessly copied and pasted below   

  1. Parliamentary Debate on Refugee Homelessness next Tues 17 July

Next Tuesday 17th July at 2.30pm, there will be a Westminster Hall Debate on refugee homelessness, tabled by Kate Green MP. It is an important opportunity to discuss the many factors that contribute to the destitution and homelessness of refugees and question the Immigration Minister on what action the Government is taking to prevent this. NACCOM, Crisis, Refugee Council and Asylum Matters have produced the attached briefing outlining why refugees become homeless and recommendations to prevent this, including an extension of the move-on period from 28 to 56 days, in line with changes introduced recently under the Homelessness Reduction Act.

Please do get in touch with your MP asking they attend and speak at the debate. You can share the attached briefing and any case studies from your MP’s constituency that might really illustrate the issue and that they can reference during the debate. This can include examples of people facing barriers to accessing housing and benefits like difficulty navigating Universal Credit, challenges in opening bank accounts, or obtaining integration loans. You can also share positive examples of where local actions and support services have been helping refugees avoid destitution in the move on period. You can also tweet about the debate to your followers. Please get in touch with myself and Lucy from NACCOM [email protected], if you have any questions about getting in touch with your MP.

  1. Statement on Voluntary Returns Programme & Local Advice Surgeries

Asylum Matters and Right to Remain have produced the attached briefing looking at the Home Office’s Voluntary Returns Programme for consideration by organisations and faith groups who are asked to host advice surgeries on behalf of the Home Office. The Home Office has in some instances approached groups that run community spaces and places of worship, asking them to host Home Office Returns Surgeries. While we recognise the importance of ensuring that information about the Voluntary Returns process is accessible to all, we have some concerns about how this programme is being delivered and whether hosting surgeries in community spaces can deter vulnerable people from accessing vital services on offer in those spaces. Please feel free to disseminate this briefing among your local contacts and do get in touch if you have any questions or concerns.

  1. Open Letter to Home Secretary on Standards of Proof in Asylum Decision-Making

The Windrush scandal revealed the impossible burden placed on individuals to prove their entitlement to be in the UK. Freedom From Torture has brought together refugee charities, campaigning and community groups and faith leaders behind a joint open letter to the Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, highlighting that this hostile environment surrounding decision-making is endemic across the Home Office, and urging a more humane approach when dealing with asylum applications, and reasonable application of the standard of proof. The letter highlights cases where victims of torture seeking refuge in the UK are being driven to suicide by the Home Office’s immigration system, which “accuses them of telling lies, even as they try to tell the truth.” It calls on the Home Secretary to ensure the Windrush lessons learned review looks as well at the misapplication of the standard of proof as a systemic HO problem; and to agree to an independent public audit of the application of the standard of proof in asylum decision-making. The full letter and signatories can be found here and the Guardian coverage here.

  1. Research on Wrongful GP Refusals & Safe Surgeries Network

New research published by Doctors of the World UK has found that 1 in 5 attempts to register vulnerable patients are being wrongfully refused by GP surgeries in England, despite being fully entitled to access NHS primary care. Pregnant women, children, homeless people, survivors of torture and trafficking and people who have fled war, most of them Londoners, are among those who have been wrongly turned away. Lack of ID or proof of address was the most common reason for refusal (affecting 60% of attempts) and 10% of attempts were refused based on the patient’s immigration status. Everyone living in the UK is entitled to free primary care and such refusals often contravene NHS guidelines.

DOTW has also launched their Safe Surgeries initiatives to support GP practices to provide safe and accessible services to everyone in their community. Practices who become Safe Surgeries can gain access to training, tailored resources, and a supportive national network of practices committed to tackling the barriers preventing vulnerable people from accessing their services. Asylum Matters has previously sent around a briefing on healthcare charging aimed at refugee and asylum support organisations in England – if you missed it, you can find it here.

  1. Ongoing Delays and Poor Decision-Making in Asylum Support Process

One year on from Refugee Action’s report ‘Slipping through the Cracks,’ which documented delays and poor decision-making in the Home Office’s asylum support processes, they have released updated figures on their clients’ experiences of accessing asylum support. They examined 162 support applications that their caseworkers worked on between May 2017 and May 2018 (81 applications each for section 95 support and section 4 support). These updated figures show that destitute people in the asylum system continue to struggle to obtain the support, waiting on average more than three times longer than they should have for section 95 support, and over a month for section 4 support; with the waiting time for the latter shot up to 51 days for applications made in April 2018, following the Home Office’s introduction of the new ATLAS IT system. Furthermore, there is still no clarity on how the Home Office is monitoring its own performance in providing such support; and the department remains unaccountable for its decisions in this vital area. The story has been covered by the Times and the Guardian and partners are invited to promote the findings using #StandUpForAsylum.  

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