‘The other side of hope’

6 January 2022: Byline Times: ‘Refugees and Migrants Do Not Come From a Different World’

Malka Al-Haddad introduces a new magazine aiming to challenge stereotypes about refugees and migrants by showcasing their writing and editing and building a ‘bridge’ of understanding

The Other Side of Hope: Journeys in Refugee and Immigrant Literature is a new literary journal edited by immigrants and refugees based in the UK. The magazine seeks to break down stereotypes about migrants and refugees by showcasing their writing and aims to support those careers that may have been cut short because of exile and migration. 

It was created because there is no other similar literary magazine in the country. This type of publication should have happened years ago but because it didn’t, we made it happen. Arts Council England funded us and we are supported by Journeys Festival International.

As immigrant editors, we believe that people need to understand each other, and this magazine exists to enable people to gain insights into us – our lives, our talents and our stories. It aims to be a bridge that will bring us closer through literature, and we want it to become a home for refugee and immigrant writers of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, and for those writers who know about us and want to support us. 

Our first print and online issues have now been published.

Continue reading “‘The other side of hope’”

On EU Borders

See also: https://qarn.org.uk/channel-crossings/


Update 30 December 2021: Guardian: Trapped at Europe’s door: inside Belarus’s makeshift asylum dormitory

About 1,000 people, mostly Kurds, are waiting at a converted customs centre in Bruzgi for the chance to cross into EU

The giant warehouse towers over the Belarus countryside, less than a mile from the Polish border. In this 10,000 sq metre space patrolled by dozens of armed soldiers, 1,000 asylum seekers are crammed among countless industrial shelving units, held up on their way to Europe in the midst of a frigid winter.

“We’re trapped in this building,” says Alima Skandar, 40. “We don’t want to go back to Iraq and we can’t cross the border. Please, help us.”

What was a customs centre in the village of Bruzgi has been turned into a dormitory for asylum seekers. The EU has accused Belarus’s leader, Alexander Lukashenko, of deliberately provoking a new refugee crisis by organising the movement of people from the Middle East to Minsk and promising them a safe passage to Europe. Lukashenko’s critics say the exploitation of these people is a callous reprisal for sanctions that Brussels has imposed on his regime.

Last autumn Skandar, her husband and their four children arrived in Belarus on a flight from Iraqi Kurdistan and then camped for weeks surrounded by barbed wire that Poland had erected along its border.

Early in November, Belarusian authorities escorted thousands of asylum seekers to the Polish frontier in an escalation of the crisis. Witnesses told the Guardian how Belarusian troops gathered groups of up to 50 people and cut the barbed wire with shears to allow them to cross. Hundreds managed to evade the Polish police by hiding in the forests. Others were caught and pushed back violently to Belarus by Poland’s border guards.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/dec/30/trapped-at-europes-door-inside-belaruss-makeshift-asylum-dormitory

Continue reading “On EU Borders”

“Shocking conditions” found in Kent holding facilities for asylum seekers: also RNLI

Updated 16 December 2021: HM Chief Inspector of Prisons: Report on an unannounced inspection of the detention of migrants at Dover and Folkestone Detention facilities: Tug Haven, Kent Intake Unit and Frontier House by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons 8 October and 1–3 November 2021

Introduction
This report covers inspections of the detention facilities at Tug Haven and Kent Intake Unit (KIU) in Dover, and Frontier House in Folkestone. The facilities mainly held people who had arrived from France on small boats after undertaking sea crossings from France. Several hundred people arrived at Tug Haven during the inspection and most went directly to immigration removal centres (IRCs) or hotel or hostel accommodation. The Home Office did not keep data on the length of time people spent at Tug Haven, but about 2,000 people, including over 700 unaccompanied children, had been held at KIU or Frontier House in the previous three months for an average of more than 26 hours. The longest detained person was held for over four days and the longest detained child had been held for over 90 hours.

Continue reading ““Shocking conditions” found in Kent holding facilities for asylum seekers: also RNLI”

Plan to reform the Human Rights Act

Link to proposal to ‘reform’ the Human Rights Act, and consultation (closes 8 March 2022), here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/plan-to-reform-human-rights-act

Another disgraceful and shameless move to break away from the rules that have been accepted as protective,  fair and just, in the existing Human Rights Act.

The Government commissioned the following report as an advisory starting point – see the Executive summary here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/independent-human-rights-act-review


15 December 2021: Quakers: Quakers appalled by Human Rights Act “overhaul”

We are appalled by government plans to weaken the Human Rights Act. We believe the proposals are unnecessary and will undermine all our rights.

Many of the plans in the new consultation (offsite link) go against Independent Human Rights Act Review (offsite link) report, which Quakers fed into via the British Institute of Human Rights. Legal experts say the proposals will make it harder for people to access justice when their rights have been violated.

We are particularly troubled by the government’s plans to link human rights to perceived good conduct. This means that people convicted of a crime, particularly those who are not UK citizens, could have their rights violated with impunity because they are seen to have committed wrongdoing.

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk of Quakers in Britain, said:

Continue reading “Plan to reform the Human Rights Act”

Resist + Persist: Tackling the Hostile Environment

From JCWI: Toolkit link below: Under the Hostile Environment, borders are everywhere. We might be questioned about our immigration status at a job interview, at the doctor’s office, in our faith community or even just in the street.

The Hostile Environment affects us all, migrant and non-migrant. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be dismantled – in fact, it means that all of us, no matter where we’re from or how we got here, can have the power to bring it down.

There are lots of things you can do to build your power and be part of the movement to dismantle the Hostile Environment – but it can be hard to know where to start.

That’s why we’ve put together this toolkit of information and resources, to put the power back in your hands. Maybe you want to build your knowledge about the Hostile Environment. Maybe you want to grow your community and get other people active, too. Or maybe you want to stand in solidarity with people affected by the Hostile Environment. 

 Knowledge is power. Community is power. Solidarity is power.

Download the toolkit now

APPG Inquiry: quasi detention in camps

Updated 9 December 2021: APPG: Inquiry into quasi-detention – full report

Cross-party call by parliamentarians to end dehumanising quasi-detention of people seeking asylum

1) In relation to current or former quasi-detention sites, the government must ensure:
a) Napier Barracks is closed as asylum accommodation with immediate and permanent effect, and that people seeking asylum accommodated at Napier are moved directly to decent, safe housing in the community that allows them to live with dignity
b) Penally Camp remains closed as asylum accommodation and is not used for that purpose at any point in the future
c) Tinsley House IRC remains closed as asylum accommodation and neither it nor any other IRC is used for that purpose at any point in the future
d) No other sites of a military nature or adjacent to IRCs, including those at Barton Stacey and Yarl’s Wood, are opened as asylum accommodation

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ICIBI: Second annual inspection of ‘Adults at risk in immigration detention’

This report from ICIBI links well to the report of 24 November 2021: BBC – Brook House detention centre whistleblower ‘abuse’ inquiry begins – see that and other information about the Brook House Inquiry below

21 October 2021: Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration – ICIBI Report Published: Second Annual Inspection of ‘Adults at risk in immigration detention’ July 2020 to March 2021

This inspection found that work to address shortcomings in the Home Office’s policy and procedures for identifying and safeguarding vulnerable detainees was moving at an unacceptably slow pace. Though seven of the eight recommendations made in ICIBI’s first annual inspection were accepted in full or in part, none of these had been closed by January 2021.

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Young People

23 November 2021: Guardian: Performative cruelty’: UK treatment of refugees worst ever, says charity

Kent Refugee Action Network says young people arriving on south coast are a benefit, not a problem

On a windswept, bitingly cold day in Folkestone a discreet green portable building is a beacon of welcome on a stretch of the south coast patrolled by Border Force boats and self-proclaimed migrant hunters on the far right.

Inside its cheerfully decorated walls are workers from Kent Refugee Action Network. The organisation has supported young asylum seekers who arrive on the south coast for more than two decades.

Despite the plummeting temperatures and supposedly enhanced border patrols along the French coast, people continue to head for Kent’s shores in unseaworthy small boats.

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Plans to open ‘prison-style’ immigration camp on site of former Medomsley Detention Centre

Updated 23 November 2021: Re: Hassockfield/Consett/Derwentside immigration detention centre to house women will open by the end of 2021!

iNews: As migrant channel crossings hit a new record, insiders says centres like Yarl’s Wood can never be humane

For 20 years, Yarl’s Wood has been holding asylum seekers without time limits. Now a controversial new centre is replacing it to hold women. Is it time to call an end to detention?

Agnes Tanoh still remembers the fear of being taken into Yarl’s Wood, nearly a decade on. “You walk through the gates,” says the 65-year-old Ivorian refugee, “and the tunnel you take to reach the first office destroys your mind. I thought, ‘I am going somewhere I may never leave.’”

It was March 2012 when Tanoh was arrested and taken to the notorious immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire. After the disturbing ordeal of fleeing her home country the previous year, with her life at risk, she was incarcerated indefinitely as she awaited news of her fate.

“You haven’t defended yourself at trial,” she explains. “Being taken to a detention centre is being given a sentence without a time limit. It can be one week, three months, one year – you don’t know. Detention breaks families and causes distress and trauma.”

Continue reading “Plans to open ‘prison-style’ immigration camp on site of former Medomsley Detention Centre”

The Observer view on Priti Patel’s fake migrant crisis

21 November 2021: Observer editorial: The home secretary fans rhetorical flames on asylum seekers and refugees, but the numbers disagree

[…] Patel gives the impression that there is an escalating crisis in terms of the numbers of people arriving in the UK and trying to illegitimately claim refuge. This is not true. There is absolutely a crisis for asylum seekers trying to reach British shores by making the treacherous Channel crossing in small boats and dinghies. The British government should be doing all it can to clamp down on the people traffickers making a fortune by charging desperate people to attempt the crossing. But the number of people coming to the UK to claim asylum fell by 4% last year and stands at less than half what it was in the early 2000s. Britain receives a fraction of the asylum applications of Germany and France and fewer per resident than the EU average. Low-income countries host nine out of 10 displaced people worldwide.

Continue reading “The Observer view on Priti Patel’s fake migrant crisis”