These are notes from the Special Interest Meeting, and the Group Fair, sharing ideas for political and practical change
Brief introduction to QARN:
Started in 2006
Aims: To work to change the way that Refugees and Asylum Seekers (whether recognized under UN Convention on the Status of Refugees or not) are treated, to ensure that justice and compassion are the guiding principles.
Take up concerns, work with other organisations – faith-based and refugee based. Issues of particular concern include:
- immigration detention of children
- indefinite detention
- lack of transparency amongst organisations working on behalf of the Government: Migrant Help, Serco, Clearsprings, Mears Group, Mitie
Organisations we link to:
- Churches Refugee Network
- StatusNow4All campaign
- Fees campaign
- Immigration Detention – Detention Forum, and No To Hassockfield Campaign
- Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association – ILPA
- Rethinking Security
- Safe Passage
We have leaflets that can be downloaded from the website: https://qarn.org.uk/qarn-leaflets-download-them-here/
- removals and deportation
- the hostile environment
- excessive fees
- about QARN
Theme: Bringing people together, pushing people apart
Creating and dismantling the hostile environment
Slave trade …
built the UK economy …
still benefitting from inherited privilege through the centuries
on the backs of people from Africa and the Caribbean …
The large boat the Windrush brought ‘useful’ people here and we know how many of those people and their descendants have been and still are treated callously by officialdom in relation to their immigration status
The government wants to attract ‘useful’ people with trades we are short of – nurses, doctors, agricultural workers, lorry drivers etc and offers them short-term visas so that they go away when their usefulness ends.
Nigel Farage approves of ‘deserving’ or ‘real’ refugees, like the vulnerable people who fled from Syria and had been living in refugee camps in neighbouring countries.
People who came as refugees before believe their family had the right to seek refuge here, a genuine need. Some of them now ‘other’ the new arrivals as economic migrants.
If pushed, the government has taken a small proportion of those identified as very vulnerable – Congo, Syria, Afghanistan (including just some of those who helped the UK operations there)
But those who come by small boat, under lorries, on false papers …
Catherine: Read the book ‘The Island’, by Armin Greder – think as the story unfolds of what is pulling people to work together and understand each other, and what is setting them apart
Undermining the hostile environment with love, understanding and friendship, showing another way:
- Government frames the agenda – constantly changing laws and application of rules, relentlessly rolling out their agenda to stop the ‘small boats’
- Increasing alliances to challenge this approach
- Support those who speak out, including our Grace da Costa
- Welcome projects spring up to offer a cup of tea and friendship – officers of the system move people around seemingly arbitrarily (e.g. from one hotel to another) – personal contacts are broken, and people who are moved frequently learn to have no investment in forming relationships. Happening in more rural places now.
- Networking across the country – City of Sanctuary to offer continuity of welcome?
- language – people seeing asylum are labelled ‘illegal migrants’:
- we can be mindful of our language and have conversations about this
- See the book ‘My name is not refugee’ by Kate Milner
- the Government and media are ramping up the rhetoric (illegal, swarming, terrorist, paedophile, encouraging people by rescuing them) feeding on fear and prejudice
- don’t get swept up in this
- find places to share ideas of welcome where you feel at ease, support of Q Meetings, QARN network
- keeping people out of sight – immigration detention centres, barracks (Penally, Napier, Manston, Hassockfield), and to come – maybe barges, ferries, Rwanda.
- Support campaigns – comments on Facebook, give financial donations to local groups or City of Sanctuary, show an interest
- Meet people living the experience over food, art, sewing quilting, music so that they have a point of contact if they are detained and/or threatened with removal
- Life Seekers Aid https://www.lifeseekers.org/ https://thevoicesnetwork.home.blog/2021/11/19/one-world-an-exhibition-of-art-work-from-penally-camp/ both supports people who have been in the system, and helps to change people’s perceptions through art (see Sally Eaves)
- StatusNow4All http://statusnow4all.org
- the government’s lack of care can overwhelm us
- hold those trying to change the law/rules/direction in your heart, also volunteers within helping organisations such as Red Cross, City of Sanctuary, welcome organisations in the light
- talk to others who know what it’s like
Video ‘There is plenty room for those wanting to do the right thing’ was commissioned for the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network zoom event – ‘Changing the Conversation’ taking place on 16 June 2022, by Loraine Masiya Mponela
Short period of quiet [2 mins]
- Concerns about the proposal to send people to Rwanda, and the Home Secretary’s approach
- Are there protests/demonstrations against the Illegal Migration Bill – we put letters and statements on the website: https://qarn.org.uk/government-plans-for-borders-and-immigration-2023/
- Quakers in Scotland have been supporting the campaign by the Scotland Refugee Council
- Concern that people are not making accommodation available for people who need it, e.g. for those for whom sponsorship is available, Ukrainians, Syrians, Afghans
- Working to modify the language used by ‘unfriendly’ MPs
Articles relevant to theme of poverty amongst asylum-seekers and others
ASYLUM BACKLOG #THREAD At the end of 2018, there were 27,256 cases awaiting an initial asylum claim decision. End of 2020: 77,245 cases. End of 2021: 81,978 cases. By the end of 2022, there were 132,182 cases (160,919 if we include family members applying with them). WHY?