BRISTOL became the second city across UK after Glasgow to take a stand against asylum destitution.
On Tuesday 15 January Bristol City Council passed a city of sanctuary motion condemning the UK Border Agency’s policy of forcing people seeking asylum into destitution.
At their first Full Council meeting in City Hall in 2013 the motion was passed with the support of all the Labour, Lib Dem and Green Councillors.
It was carried with full support from 80 percent councillors from across the political spectrum voting in support of a motion by Cllr Ron Stone, Deputy Leader Labour group and an amendment by Lib Dem’s Fi Hance requesting the new “City Mayor to write on behalf of the City Council to the Minister of State deploring the government policy that forces refused asylum seekers into destitution, while they continue to fight for a safe haven from persecution.”
The Council also called on the UK Government to change its policy to allow local authorities to assist asylum seekers in danger of destitution.
Councillor Ron Stone moved that:
“In exercising their Human Right of Free Speech in their own countries, many
asylum seekers have received death threats, suffered beatings and threats to their family members, forcing them to abandon their homes, their country and all their
possessions. If their cases are refused they lose financial support and accommodation. Current laws prohibit their right to work.
“If our proud declaration stating Bristol IS a City of Sanctuary is to be meaningful and worthy of it’s fine words we MUST act to improve this situation.” as follows
Bristol City Council welcomes the Glasgow City Council initiative in passing a motion, highlighting the concerns for refused asylum seekers, and lack of support and facilities UK wide. And also approved that Bristol City Council join the Still Human Still Here campaign, becoming the first city to join the campaign coalition group.
Council therefore demands that the UK Government change existing rules which severely restrict local authorities in the support they can provide to failed asylum seekers. Council calls on the Chief Executive to write to the UK Government, seeking a change in policy to allow local authorities to assist refugees in danger of destitution.”
Responding to the debate before councillors voted, City Mayor George Ferguson said: “We should not tolerate destitution in our city for any reason” and that He will speak with the leaders of the other core cities and encourage them to join him in writing a letter to the minister of state deploring the government policy that forces refused asylum seekers into destitution.”
Presenting a public statement in support of the motion in the City Hall Chamber, Rev Richard McKay, Chair of Bristol City of Sanctuary called ‘for action to make Bristol a real city of sanctuary.’
He said: ““Destitute asylum seekers by government decree they have no roof, no clothes, no food, no decent healthcare.“The government voted against detention without trial for terrorists, but not for asylum seekers.
“This motion cries out with suffering, that you can do something to help and deserves to be passed unanimously. Do the right thing for your brothers and sisters and for your city. Transform the life of the partly living into a life of hope, freedom and opportunity.”
Bristol A City Of Sanctuary????
Bristol formally declared itself a City Of Sanctuary in June 2011. By so doing, the city council committed itself to recognise the plight of asylum seekers forced to flee their home countries for expressing views or holding opinions that ruling regimes disagreed with or found to be confrontational.
In exercising their human right of free speech in their own countries, many have received death threats, suffered beatings and threats to their family members, forcing them to abandon their homes, their country and all their
possessions. Here in Britain, if their asylum cases are refused by the Home Office, they lose all financial support and accommodation. Current laws also prevent them from working.
This leaves them in a cycle of deprivation and poverty that is currently impossible to break. Many are forced into homelessness on the street.
Council welcomes the Glasgow City Council initiative in passing a motion, highlighting the concerns for refused asylum seekers and the lack of support and facilities UK wide.
Council asserts that if our proud declaration stating that Bristol is a City of Sanctuary is to be meaningful and worthy of its fine words, we must act to improve this situation with the following actions:
1. The Mayor writes on behalf of the city council to the Minister of State deploring the government policy that forces refused asylum seekers into destitution while they continue to fight for a safe haven from persecution.
2. The Mayor writes to the UK government seeking a change of policy to allow local authorities to assist refused asylum seekers in danger of destitution and provide equal emergency provision to refused asylum seekers as they would to any other homeless person.3. The Mayor calls on all Bristol MPs to support the content of this motion and to raise the matter in the House of Commons, and support a change in current laws regarding asylum applications by removing restrictions on local authorities in the support they can provide to destitute asylum seekers.4. The council agrees to produce a report highlighting all existing support available in Bristol including housing, training, education, and legal advice open to vulnerable asylum applicants.5. The city council should work closely with the voluntary sector through a designated officer to provide help, support and advice to applicants and enable a coordinated response to be easily available to those in need at this vulnerable time of their lives.
6. The council should join the national campaign Still Human, Still Here(a coalition of 29 organisations, including the Church of England and Catholic Archbishop Conferences, Amnesty International and the Red Cross, who are proposing practical solutions to ending the destitution of refused asylum seekers in the UK.)
7. The council agrees to seek further support for this motion and actions via the Local Government Association and encouraging other councils in the UK to follow Bristol’s lead.
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