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Asylum Matters Advocacy and Campaigns 3/10/23

  1. Advocacy and campaigning initiatives

Home Secretary’s speech 

The news over the past week has been dominated by the Home Secretary’s appalling speech to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC, in which she took aim at the UN 1951 Refugee Convention, claimed that being LGBTQ+ or a woman should not be enough to qualify for refugee status, and echoed far-right claims around multiculturalism.

The Home Secretary’s comments have been widely condemned, including by the UNHCR and a number of Tory MPs, while hundreds of people gathered joined Pride in London and African Rainbow Family to protest in Parliament Square. The Migrant’s Rights Network has published an open statement and is inviting groups and individuals to sign here

Communities Not Camps 

At ex-RAF Wethersfield in Essex, where people seeking safety have been placed since July, reports are emerging of lack of emergency medical care; protests at living conditions, including insect infestations and low quality food; and enforced isolation following disclosures of depression or mental health problems. The Home Office has said it ‘does not recognise’ these allegations. A pending judicial review over planning is due to take place on 31 October. 

Protests continue at the planned asylum facilities at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, where the Home Office has been issued with a ‘stop’ notice on works at the site by the local authority; and the ex-prison at Northeye, Bexhill-on-Sea in East Sussex, which the local MP now says is earmarked as a detention facility. Meanwhile, in Flintshire, North Wales, local campaigners have been successful in defeating a planning proposal to place people in temporary units in the car park of a hotel.

The UK Government remains determined to send people back to the Bibby Stockholm barge, where safety checks for legionella are now reportedly ‘satisfactory’, prompting those who were placed there to call it ‘no different from prison’. A permission hearing for legal action challenging planning for the facility is set for 10 October. Over 50,000 people have now signed a petition by Beyond Borders Totnes and District protesting the barge. 

Across many parts of the UK the Home Office’s new policy of hotel maximisation has begun, which entails increased forced room sharing in selected hotels. AFRIL (Action for Refugees in Lewisham) has shared a new booklet called ‘Maximise Your Rights’ to support people to understand their rights around forced room-sharing. The booklet includes a template letter that people can use to challenge a decision to accommodate them in a shared room 

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Take action! 

Changes to move-on

On 1 August, the Home Office announced a change in procedure for the discontinuation of asylum support for people who have received a decision on their asylum claim, which has resulted in many people receiving only 7 days’ notice and a sharp increase in refugee homelessness (see ASAP’s briefing [updated link 4/10/23] on the topic).

The Refugee Council, along with 147 organisations including Asylum Matters, sent a public letter to the Home Office and DLUHC, calling on the Government to reverse the changes. The letter was covered in the Independent; while IMIX has shared a suggested messaging document and a press release template for anyone wishing to highlight this issue in their local media.

Hike in visa fees: national day of action

Migrant Voice is organising a national day of action on 31 October in response to the planned increase in visa and health surcharge costs. You can find dates for online planning meetings and training sessions and register for updates here. United Impact, an action group supported by Project 17, has also shared a statement outlining the harm the increase in fees will cause to thousands of families. The House of Commons Library has published an updated briefing on immigration fees here. 

Cartoons Not Cruelty

Cartoons Not Cruelty is campaigning for children’s cartoons to be restored in asylum centres in the UK after the Immigration Minister ordered their removal. The campaign has launched an action for members of the public to send a cartoon postcard via to a child arriving in the UK. 

#MissingDadsJokes campaign

The Refugee Council and City of Sanctuary have released a video asking members of the public to share their best dad joke to raise awareness of refugee children separated from their parents by unfair family reunion laws. You can find the video on Facebook and Twitter, and get involved in the campaign here.

  1. Government and parliamentary updates

Updated assessing destitution policy

The Home Office has published an updated version of its Assessing Destitution policy. Key changes include clarification that backdated payments should be disregarded when considering destitution; and that a person does not need to have a screening interview to get asylum support, including s98 support. 

Brook House inquiry report published 

The Brook House Inquiry has published its report into the mistreatment of individuals who were detained at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre. The inquiry has found credible evidence of breaches of human rights law relating to torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, and makes 33 recommendations, including the introduction of a 28-day time limit on detention. 

‘Call for evidence’ on poverty by the APPGs on Migration and Poverty

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Migration and the APPG on Poverty have launched their written call for evidence as part of a joint inquiry into The Effects of UK Immigration, Asylum and Refugee Policy on Poverty. Their lived experience questionnaire is here and their professional experience questionnaire is here. Deadline for submissions is 25 October.

  1. Reports and research

New Just Fair and Human Rights Watch report – “I Felt So Stuck”

Human Rights Watch and Just Fair’s new report looks at the inhumane conditions faced by children and families living in temporary hotels. The report calls on the UK Government to reform the asylum system and fund suitable long-term housing and social support. 

New report on collapse of immigration and asylum legal aid sector

The Public Law Project (PLP) and Haringey Migrant Support Centre (HMSC) have published a new report, ‘An ocean of unmet need’, detailing the crisis in the availability of immigration and asylum legal aid across England and Wales. An explainer about navigating the immigration legal aid framework accompanies the report.

Survey of Afghan refugees living in hotels

More in Common and USPUK have published a report based on a survey of Afghans living in hotels to better understand their wants and needs, particularly regarding the transition to permanent accommodation and securing employment.

Small boat crossings report
The Refugee Council has published a new report, following the Home Secretary’s recent comments and the passing of the Illegal Migration Act. It shows that 74% of people who have made small boat crossings so far this year would be recognised as refugees if their claims were processed. 

  1. Resources, events, jobs and training 

Illegal Migration Act resources

Right to Remain has shared a useful new blog, The Illegal Migration Act: where are we now?; while Refugee Action’s Insight Hub has a dedicated page on the Illegal Migration Act, compiling upcoming events, reports, blogs and briefings.

Migration Justice Project guides to preventing the withdrawal of asylum claims

The Migration Justice Project has shared new guides for people seeking asylum and support agencies on how to prevent claims from being withdrawn. The resources are translated into Arabic, Farsi, Tigrinya, and Somali, and are available here.

Climate justice and migrant justice: countering dangerous narratives

Migrants Organise has released a new guide on how to steer the conversation about climate-linked migration towards a path of solidarity, shared humanity, and justice.

Resource for councillors on supporting people in asylum accommodation

The Migrant Champions Network recently published a guide for local councillors supporting residents in temporary asylum accommodation, exploring how councillors can use local authority powers to support residents in unsuitable asylum accommodation. 

New emergency fund

The Ben & Jerry’s UK Foundation has launched a new emergency fund to support small organisations to respond to the challenges posed by the Illegal Migration Act. It will offer grants of up to a maximum of £10,000 per organisation, to enable grassroots groups to turn opportunities into action. The deadline for applications is 23 October, and the Foundation hopes to distribute the money as soon as possible. For further information and to apply, see attached documents.

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Online conference: The Illegal Migration Act, Local Authorities and separated children 

The Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium is holding a free online conference on 6 October to discuss the impact of the Illegal Migration Act on separated children. You can find the agenda and register for tickets here.

Online event: Election 2024: Using your voice
Bates Wells and the Sheila McKechnie Foundation are hosting a free, online event on 11 October to recap on the regulatory framework for charity campaigning in the run-up to the General Election. You can register here

Webinar: Challenges Faced by Stateless Asylum Seekers
The European Network on Statelessness (ENS) is hosting a webinar on 11 October on new research on the challenges faced by stateless claimants going through UK asylum procedures. You can register here.


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