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Asylum Matters – Policy update Feb 2020

Edited highlights of Asylum Matters’ most recent newsletter

1. Migrant Help Update on the AIRE Contract

Migrant Help has issued a further update on the performance of its AIRE service – see attached. The letter notes that call answer times into the First Response Centre (FRC) have been at an average of under one minute since 9 January. It notes that “call volumes still far outstrip volumes prior to the introduction of the AIRE contract.” The AIRE contract, of course, significantly broadened the remit of the Migrant Help service, becoming a ‘single point of contact,’ including enquiries about accommodation maintenance issues – unlike in previous contracts where this was managed directly by accommodation providers.

The letter also notes that call times on transfer to the Eligibility, Advice and Guidance Line (EAGL) are still long, as these represent more complex casework and require advisers to spend more time with each client. It notes that around a third of weekday calls that come into the FRC are subsequently transferred to EAGL. Asylum Matters would like to hear your experiences of accessing the Migrant Help phoneline as we are preparing an advocacy report looking at the AIRE and AASC contracts. We welcome you to get in touch to share your perspectives with [email protected] and [email protected].

 2. British Red Cross: The Costs of Destitution

The British Red Cross has published a new report, “The costs of destitution: a cost–benefit analysis of extending the move-on period for new refugees.” It has long advocated that the 28-day move-on period for new refugees is often not enough time for people to find alternative means of supporting themselves, signing on for Universal Credit, and securing accommodation before losing their Home Office support. For this report, the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) was commissioned to explore the possible social and economic benefits that giving refugees a few more weeks to make the transition would bring.   

The LSE’s analysis concludes that extending the move-on period by just four weeks, to 56 days, could result in net annual benefits to the public purse of between £4 million and £7 million each year, in reduced costs of housing, health and employment support. This includes estimated savings of £2.1 million to local authorities through decreasing the use of temporary accommodation, up to £3.2 million through reducing rough sleeping, while the NHS and mental health services could also save up to £1 million each year by reducing the need for NHS interventions. The report calls on the Home Secretary to amend the current rules.

3. Women for Refugee Women: Destitution of Asylum-Seeking Women in the UK

Women for Refugee Women and their regional partners recently published a new report, “Will I ever be safe? Asylum-seeking women made destitute in the UK.” The report explores the experiences of 106 destitute asylum-seeking women who have struggled to survive in the UK. The report found that 32 of these 106 women said they were raped or sexually abused in their country of origin and again when destitute in the UK. Almost half were street homeless while destitute in the UK, and 25% said they were raped or experienced sexual violence while sleeping outside. The women interviewed included those who were made destitute after their asylum claim was refused and others who became destitute after getting leave to remain, due to the challenges of moving on to mainstream benefits.

The report recommends steps to end the destitution for all asylum-seeking women, including improving access to asylum support; granting people the right to work after six months of waiting on an initial decision; extending the move-on period; and ensuring end-to-end support for those in the UK. You can share the report using #SistersNotStrangers.

4. Migration Exchange Survey: Sector Capacity to Achieve Social Change

The funder network Migration Exchange is currently undertaking a research project which focusses on the sector’s capacity to achieve social change for migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. The researchers have set up a short online survey and are inviting anyone who is working on these issues to share their views on how to strengthen the sector and make it more effective going forward. The survey will take no more than 15 minutes and the deadline for submitting completed forms is Friday 13 March. The survey can be accessed through the following link: https://survey.zohopublic.eu/zs/bxhIzl.

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