Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network is a network of Quakers across UK who share a concern about the injustices that are practiced in our name, and a determination to bring about change for those who have been forced to seek asylum and to reach out with support for those who share our concern. QARN members hold discussions and share information through the email group, and those who can meet together about four times a year in a different part of the country each time.We use our face-to-face meetings to discuss our concerns, and to find a Quaker response to the injustices we find. We consider ways to bring this alive to other Quakers, and to plan our engagement with others who are walking the same path so that we can effectively combine our strengths to bring about positive change.
· QARN decided in the early days to focus on those who were in detention. Concern about prisoners is in our Quaker tradition. We joined our voices to those who sought a commitment to stopping the cruel and emotionally harmful practice of detaining children for immigration purposes. There have been welcome changes in the system and fewer children are now held in detention centres, but it is still a live issue and remains a concern.
· We added a second major concern, that of bringing an end to the practice of holding people who have been refused asylum for indefinite detention for immigration purposes in prison-like conditions, where people are held despite having mental health problems. experiencing despair and self-harm.
QARN prepared a statement regarding indefinite detention. This was considered at Meeting for Sufferings where it was minuted:
We have expressed our outrage at this disgraceful practice. We ask Quaker Peace & Social Witness to produce a statement on our behalf, based on the QARN statement, and reflecting the strong feelings, we have expressed, calling for the immediate end of indefinite detention. Meanwhile, we ask area meetings and local meetings to write to Members of Parliament using the background information in the QARN statement.[ S/12/03/4: Indefinite Detention of Migrants and Asylum Seekers]
The QARN statement was slightly edited and was then released by BYM as a Quaker document in May 2012. It can be found here: http://www.quaker.org.uk/news/quaker-statement-immigration-detention . The statement has been widely distributed amongst sympathetic organisations and sent to people whose hearts we would like to open such as our MPs, and it has generally been well-received.
We took our concerns to BYM 2012: the QARN statement on indefinite detention was released at the time of BYM at FMH in London in 2012, where we held a Special Interest Group based around the report: Immigration Bail Hearings: A Travesty of Justice?
QARN printed its first informative collection of papers which were addressing relevant specific issues in depth and were presented as a booklet in time for BYM 2012
Membership of Detention Forum: QARN members had a discussion about effective use of our time, and decided that working with other groups on the issue of indefinite detention was an essential part of this. We identified Detention Forum as the key network in this field at the present time.
The Detention Forum is a loose network of over 30 NGOs who are working on immigration detention issues. We are working together to build a momentum to question the legitimacy of immigration detention which has become such a normal part of the British immigration system. We are not a membership organisation, but a collective of organisations who want to work together to challenge immigration detention.
Between January and October 2012, we worked together to agree on common key objectives and messages that will fundamentally challenge and change immigration detention in the UK. QARN has two active members who are able to contribute Quaker thinking, and wide experience and expertise to the Detention Forum working groups, one considering Indefinite Detention, and the other in the Judicial Oversight group.
Social media: We continue to manage a busy and user-friendly website which is kept up to date with reports alongside ideas about what you can do: http://qarn.org.uk
We also have a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/QuakersQARN
Future plans in the making:
Conference: We seek to deepen the network, and have begun to consider how to prepare a conference for 2015 that Quakers will find useful. We agreed that the following two points were a good working description of aims for such a conference:
· To provide an opportunity for mutual support for Friends doing very emotionally demanding work supporting people dependent on UKBA decisions and facing detention, destitution and/or deportation.
· To support and encourage political action for change such as bringing an end to indefinite detention and the use of destitution as an instrument of immigration control.
Peace Worker: we are currently looking into the possibility of proposing a plan for a Peace Worker to be based at Friends’ House taking forward the work of QARN to create a vibrant and well-connected organisation within Quakers and also with links outside.
Further statements: we plan to produce statements relating to other aspects of the asylum system that concern us.