The Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network (QARN) is a network of Quakers across the 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.
Our members are active as individuals and as members of other groups (Quaker and non-Quaker) across a wide spectrum of asylum-related activities, giving us a broad and solid base of knowledge and expertise. We continue to be morally outraged at some of the decisions that are made by the Government and its agents in our name.
Since our last AGM we have met four times, in June 2015 (Birmingham), October 2015 (Oxford), January 2016 (London) and April 2016 (Bristol)
The Steering Group currently consists of Sheila Mosley (to end of 2016**)) Barbara Forbes (to end of 2016*), and Catherine Henderson (to end of 2018*). Our Treasurer, John Cockcroft also ends his first term at the end of 2016.
QARN working with BYM, QPSW, QCEA and Woodbrooke
We are working towards holding a further Woodbrooke Conference 3-5 February 2017. A team of people from QARN, QPSW Central Committee, QCEA, and Woodbrooke are taking the planning forward.
We held a Special Interest Group at Yearly Meeting 2016 with the theme: ‘How do asylum and refugee issues fit into our Testimonies and speaking truth to power’. We asked people how they put the Testimonies into practice and heard that Quakers all over the UK are involved in a vast array of projects supporting people seeking asylum and refugees.
QPSW asked groups across Yearly Meeting how this issue may touch their concern, and we were invited to participate in the Quaker Criminal Justice Conference, and London Quakers Housing Conference; and we have been given time to talk at Quaker Meetings across the country: Oxford and Swindon, Mid Thames, Mid-Essex, Lancaster, East Cheshire – Marples, and Somerset – Street, with more to come. In August we will break into Scotland.
We participated in the 2015 QCEA Conference in Brussels: ‘Castle or Community’.
Situation in the Mediterranean
Sympathy for people seeking safety was released quite astonishingly when 3-year-old Alan Kurdi ‘s body was washed up on the beach in Turkey in September 2015. QARN became a point of reference for distressed and imaginative Quakers wanting to do something to help, and this continues both practically in UK and the refugee camps, and with financial support.
People wanting to offer accommodation to refugees have been signposted to Spare Room. We have had discussions about sponsorship of refugees and have real concerns about how this may work, but individuals are working with others in their area to pressure their Councils to accept children, and Syrian refugees who are being re-homed under the Vulnerable Persons scheme.
Changes in the system
We continue to have a concern about the changes that make our system even more punitive, including the fees to renew Discretionary Leave to Remain – DLR, the introduction of fees to lodge an appeal, the new rules under the Immigration Act 2016 that criminalise people without regular Leave to be in UK who drive, hold a job, have a bank account, or rent a property.
City of Sanctuary
QARN and Several of our members are active in their local City of Sanctuary groups. Craig Barnett who developed the vision for City of Sanctuary with others was a guest speaker at Yearly Meeting.
Two of our members – Barbara Forbes and John Cockcroft – are trustees of the Quaker Concern for the Abolition of Torture and we are looking at ways in which we can work together.
We also have links with Still Human Still Here [destitution – Chris Gwyntopher], Churches Refugee Network [Marion McNichol], the National Refugees Welcome Board [Catherine Henderson], and the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland [Catherine Henderson].
We are represented on the Detention Forum by Sheila Mosley (Judicial Oversight sub-committee) and Bridget Walker (Quarterly Meetings). Central England Area Meeting Asylum Group has also joined Detention Forum and one of its members has also joined the Judicial Oversight sub-committee.
Immigration Act 2016
Quakers with the guidance of Jessica Metheringham’s suggestions lobbied for changes in the Immigration Bill. The Detention Forum also worked extensively to promote a limit to time in detention. The amendment was not accepted, however there is now a four-month limit [84Cb] to the time someone can be held in Immigration Detention before being brought before a judicial authority; also pregnant women are not to be detained for longer than 72 hours.
Website / Facebook / E-mail network
The Website and the Facebook page are updated as appropriate, and the e-mail network via the Riseup eGroup continues with 112 members. Membership is available to all Quakers who wish to join.
Our funds have been generously growing, thanks to donations from many Quaker meetings. This money is spent on our core funding, and for the Conference. Potential donors are advised that we do not hand money over to other groups.
QARN Steering Group