Quakers call on government to stop demonising asylum seekers

17 August 2023: The government must recognise that of God in everyone, Quakers said this week as the ‘hostile environment’ towards those who seek our help continued to bear its dreadful fruit.

At least six people drowned in the Channel on Saturday night when the small boat they were travelling in capsized and sank.

And 39 people were removed from asylum barge Bibby Stockholm on Monday when legionella was found in its water supply.

The asylum seekers had been boarded a week earlier even though contractor Landry & Kling allegedly knew the deadly bacteria was present.

“The combined effect of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 and the Illegal Migration Act of 2023 has been to dehumanise and demonise the vast majority of asylum seekers,” said the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network (QARN).

“The use of barges to ‘warehouse’ new arrivals is the latest expression of this de-humanisation,” they added.

Six years ago, Quakers in Britain’s Sanctuary Everywhere Manifesto warned that government policies to criminalise entry into a country “causes harm and deliberately increases human insecurity”.

Since then, the hostile environment has ratcheted up to the point where asylum seekers drown, face forced removal to Rwanda or are placed on barges unfit for human habitation.

As the Home Office recruits personnel to work at its immigration removal centres (IRCs), Quakers are involved in campaigns to prevent the planned (re)opening of two IRCs in England, Haslar and Campsfield.

QARN urged the government to reconsider its asylum policy.

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Would Little Amal go to Rwanda this year?

Quakers in Britain: Fred Ashmore discusses the harshening hostile environment for refugees and asylum seekers and shares what a response rooted in love and justice could look like.

Last year, many British Quakers took part in or witnessed a series of events throughout Britain in which a 3m tall puppet, Little Amal, journeyed from the Syrian border via Dover to Manchester, joining in events and rallies during her journey. Amal symbolised the search for a new life of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers. The events were inspiring and full of hope.

Little Amal’s journey ended in late 2021. Since then, the UK government has passed the Nationality and Borders Act – legislation which changes the potential outcomes for those who come here full of hope. This year, 2022, Amal would be identified as a criminal because she didn’t travel by one of the government’s approved routes. A real life Amal could well be rejected from applying for asylum in the UK and could even be deported to Rwanda under the government’s scheme.

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Rwanda: “A serpent in place of a piece of fish”


The UK’s forcible transportation to Rwanda of asylum seekers declared “inadmissible” because they have entered without a visa has rightly been deemed “ungodly” by Justin Welby. It is a basic infringement of the Golden rule of love of God and love of neighbour. Today, we often prefer other less theological language notably “concern”, “care”, “protection from harm” language which has become enshrined in the general notion of “human rights”. Nevertheless examples from Jesus’s parables such as  the neighbourliness of the Good Samaritan, the father’s unconditional love and care for his Prodigal Son survive in the public consciousness.

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The Migrant Help Contract – an Orwellian creation

10 October 2021: Please write to your MP: This report is from a member of the QARN steering group who works pro bono on asylum claims. 

In September 2019 the charity “Migrant Help” took over from G4S and SERCO the contract to provide help and assistance to asylum seekers housed around England in no-choice accommodation. They also took over from the Refugee Council the contract to provide “initial accommodation” at numerous centres around the country. They took on the additional responsibility of processing support claims, formerly an in-house function of the Home Office. This was indeed a massive task for what had hitherto been a local organisation providing assistance in Dover and Kent. Yet the new contract was supposed to remedy the often glaring failures of Migrant Help’s multi-national predecessors.

Within little over a month 120 charities from throughout England were lending their names to a joint letter to Victoria Adkins, the Minister then responsible for the workings of the contract. As the single contact point for all problems with housing, including furnishing and hygiene, Migrant Help was mostly unobtainable on the phone number provided in anything less than several hours. Service delivery was minimal in quantity and quality. The individuals on the other end of the line were well-meaning  but under-resourced and under-informed and probably horrendously overstretched.

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Suggested letter to MPs – New Plan for Immigration

Dear  Friends

If you have not already signed one of the many template letters opposing the Bill, which are being circulated by the Refugee Council, Detention Action and others,  you might like to crib from this letter which I have sent to my MP.

It identifies our Quaker position and refers to the New Plan for Immigration which took up so much of our time earlier this year.   It does not cover everything of concern.

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Hostile Environments: The Oil Industry, Ecological Crisis and Migration

10 February 2021 Rethinking Security: What has oil extraction got to do with migration to the UK? Birmingham volunteer worker (and member of QARN Steering Group) Rosemary Crawley tells the story of one woman driven to leave her home in the Niger Delta, and her experience as she came to seek security in Britain.  

Sanctuary and hope

Women with Hopea small Birmingham charity for women caught up in the UK immigration system, includes within its purposes the provision of a safe space in which women can relax, learn and reflect. A wealth of evidence testifies to the particular harms and disadvantages faced by women migrants, both in terms of their experiences in their various countries of origin and in the countries in which they subsequently seek sanctuary. Immigration detention and not being believed are just two of the additional traumas that so many women face once they arrive in the UK. Their need for a safe space to talk about these and other experiences and be heard is extremely important. It was in just such a space that Gloria’s story of life in the Niger Delta emerged.

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Summary of the camp_hotels situation

21 January 2021: Someone new to Qarn has written to ask: I am new to Qarn and find the wealth of info quite daunting .  Please can you tell me more about the new asylum seekers accomodation centre.  Where  can I find a summary of some of the initiatives etc and current state/numbers of asylum seekers in uk , many thanks.

The following long read may be helpful.  I know that others in the QARN group also have information. This is just one aspect of the concerns shared by QARN members – there is a lot to be concerned about and we can’t all do everything, but if we each do what we can maybe we can find a way to change the system.

To answer, it is maybe worth saying that there is a lot of traffic on QARN, but feel free to only pick up the emails that interest you.  I don’t keep up with everything myself, and I have been involved since 2007. 

I suggest that QARN is the same as other Quaker situations, where you should feel able to let some things pass if they don’t speak to you. There is a lot of history – some of us have been around for a long time, and others are fairly new to it, so feel free to ask questions, and please try not to feel daunted.

To begin to unpick the questions: first I’ll run through how the system works,  then explain why this is all suddenly of great concern. 

Continue reading “Summary of the camp_hotels situation”

Yearly Meeting Gathering – Tuesday 1 August: Session 4 – Bridget Walker:

Yesterday Steve talked of speaking truth to power , drew on the image that Jesus used of binding the strong man, and asked us how ready we are to take on the Strong One.

Today I would like to start by asking how do we recognise that Strong One.

In 1919 William Charles Braithwaite wrote: ‘ Evils which have struck their roots deep in the fabric of human society are often accepted, even by the best minds, as part of the providential ordering of life. They lurk unsuspected in the system of things…..’ QfP 23.05

Identifying the evils in our society Continue reading “Yearly Meeting Gathering – Tuesday 1 August: Session 4 – Bridget Walker:”

Response: Home Affairs Committee on an effective immigration policy

Written evidence submitted by the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network 19.1.2017:

The Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network links Quakers[1] from all over the UK.   This submission concerns Forced Migrants – refugee and asylum seekers.  The Select Committee will also receive submissions from individual Quakers and other groups of Quakers, many of whom are deeply engaged in work with and for forced migrants[2].

Quakers long standing track record of humanitarian support and concern for the homeless and displaced is best known for the KinderTransport which brought children to safety from Hitler’s Germany.  Those children have enriched the cultural and intellectual life of this country immensely[3]. The refugees and asylum seekers currently seeking a new life in the UK have already introduced enriching variety to our culture. Continue reading “Response: Home Affairs Committee on an effective immigration policy”