QARN at Yearly Meeting 2022

Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network: Unmasking and unmaking the hostile environment – let us see what love can do – 25 May 2022, 11:00 AM to  12:30 PM, on zoom

Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network talking with Friends about the current hostile environment and our plans going forward; current development (as best we can) and where members of our network are particularly engaged.

The hostile environment and its impact on everyone involved in or engaged in working against it are very challenging to consider. Not great for those with a strong empathy.

Comments, questions, ideas from the YM Faith In Action meeting on 25 May are below :

  • Use the phrase ‘transforming’ the system instead of ‘changing’
  • The City of Sanctuary network is empowering
  • Do not despair.  It is a hard road but we must keep going because that is what we are compelled to do
  • Engage with other groups as Quakers, which brings some cudos, and we can keep the concern alive
  • Tae heart from other organisations,  e’g’ the theme of ‘waging’ non-violence
  • The UK is the only one of 47 member countries of the Council of Europe that uses indefinite detention
  • Offering a short break for those experiencing the system
  • Write to MPs and keep up the conversation
  • Members of Oxford Against Immigration Detention, the successor to the Close Campsfield Campaign,, went to the national demonstration  of No to Hassockfield on 14th May
  • These are the groups QARN has a formal link to:

          There are links to these on the website down the right hand side

Catherine Margham was prevented from speaking about her personal involvement with Safe Passage by internet problems, but here is what she wanted us to hear:

I became involved with Safe Passage because the local refugee organisation I volunteer with, Harrogate District of Sanctuary, decided due to Covid to campaign against the Nationality and Borders Bill (now Act).

I have been involved with the Safe Passage Grass Roots meetings which has been meeting with various local refugee groups in order to help them campaign against the Nationality and Borders Bill. As part of our campaign we wrote letters to MPs and to the House of Lords providing amendments, to enable family reunion and to provide safe legal routes so that people would not need to endanger their lives by taking risky and dangerous routes. Safe Passage also composed an open Faith letter to present to the Prime Minister urging him to reconsider the Nationality and Borders Bill which over 1,000 Faith Leaders signed.

Like QARN and many other refugee organisations Safe Passage is strongly opposed to the new Nationality and Borders Act, declaring recently that ‘We won’t stop demanding that the government welcomes those seeking sanctuary in the UK.’

Safe Passage believes strongly in diversity and their Grass Roots groups are very democratic in the way they work. The Grass Roots groups  have been campaigning with their Young Leaders, young people from refugee and asylum backgrounds and empowers them to speak up to journalists and MPs. The young leaders have made films about their experiences and have also been campaigning for safe and legal routes to sanctuary. They have written a report entitled ‘Safe Routes from the Perspective of Young Refugees’, which they submitted to the government in May 2021. The Young Leaders are able to play a key role in decision making and share their ideas and knowledge. This was particularly important when, as part of the Campaign work, Safe Passage had workshops on how to address the media and gave us important insights into the challenges refugees face.

Safe Passage has also been supporting unaccompanied child refugees who are looking to reunite with their families and has so far helped 1,800 child refugees seek safety. It seeks to address the very serious problems refugees face and to increase support for refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK. Catherine Margham (Harrogate Meeting)

These are some of the notes from the Zoom ‘chat’:

  • I was involved with a Methodist church, sponsoring a Syrian family. It was a lot of work for them but the support to the family continues through friendship some years later now.
  • Here in Bangor North Wales tomorrow we open a Welcome Hub in the Meeting House to be a friendly drop-in sign-posting place, twice a week. We are novices, working with a tremendous established group, Croeso Menai, that has been supporting a Syrian family for well over a year, are expect their second Syrian family.
  • Do we have any influence with UNHCR?
  • A possible  suggestion: What about awareness raising for lay people including those who aren’t Friends, to help counter the lies and fears?
  • Positive news of refugees in local newspapers to change attitudes towards them.
  • Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen the line between what’s unrealistic and what’s possible shift very rapidly. To name just a few examples, we’ve seen:
    • refugees being genuinely welcomed, unconditionally
    • the assets of billionaires frozen and seized, as well as unprecedented international cooperation to take control over the interests of Russian billionaires
    • a “rogue” state disconnected from the global financial system
    • states proactively divesting from fossil fuels
    • an unprecedented sports, culture and economic boycott
    • a giant shift in our energy system, with major countries genuinely considering the possibility of phasing out Russian oil and gas.
    • What’s more, these shifts have come after two years of a global pandemic, during which we’ve seen states in the Global North do even more of what we were previously told was impossible. Things like:
    • shifting billions to support public services
    • relocalizing some strategic production sectors
    • recognizing the importance of “frontline” workers, such as the role of health care professionals in our societies
    • massive redistributive policies to support those who lost their jobs or income during the lockdown
  • I agree with Arin – awareness raising at a grass roots level I. Local towns and communities. Me and a friend have been leafleting in town our local town centres. Making our own leaflets and dispelling the untruths.
  • Keeping people out of UK keep poor people poor, while the rich carry on. Letting others in contributes to making us all richer.
  • Information about the Rwanda concern here:
  • Could there be a ‘countering the lies on immigration’ campaign (maybe not the right name)? With a quick reference guide for anyone to use to challenge anyone who presents out misinformation. Main aim would be public statements – politicians and media organisations but also could be individuals, social media etc. For national media/statements there might be a network of people who would be alerted when one or more untruths were given and who would then deluge the speaker and platform(s) with emails, tweets etc. correcting what was said. Some guidance on language that we should/could use would also be helpful. A sort of urgent action network.
  • In response to [the above suggestion] there is an excellent leaflet from Freedom from Torture entitled Changing the conversation, offering advice on  how to use language to change perceptions , we are going to be using it in the Woodbrooke course taking place on June 16th
  • Refugee action website has some good resources around these issues
  • Quaker Truth and Integrity Group (Truth and Integrity in public life)
  • Right to Remain is a fantastic small organisation that has developed some very helpful tools for anyone seeking to help refugees and asylum seekers through the legal minefield.
  • creative arts – painting, storytelling, films, drama, poetry, ,artwork…
  • Coming up: Tonight: ; 16 June – Woodbrooke session in Refugee Week:16 July – next QARN meeting
  • Safe Passage have got a young Leaders group of asylum and refugees who have produced films about their experiences ..Catherine Margham
  • Another idea I have heard would be to take someone who is a refugee to talk with your MP, though you would need to tread carefully in case they are retraumatised by talking about their experiences. Catherine Margham
  • This is an interesting idea of how to change minds, and the people’s tribunals is one way forward, I am thinking about the experience of Ireland who ran a whole series of  people’s tribunals about changes to the constitution  around abortion.  it needs to be well resourced with skilled facilitators
  • QARN Woodbrooke event on 16 June 2022: Changing the Conversation
  • I have tried to counter appalling attitudes towards refugees I am getting on my face book page, but I have only had one person so far asking for information after I asked them where were they getting their information from.
  • Bring together the movers and shakers in the strands of peace,  climate change,  and asylum to demonstrate the links [possible theme for a conference?]
  • Support those raising awareness (people like Quakers’ Grace da Costa) and challenging the current de-democratisation of our system;  and support those trying to ensure that the door to the Courts remains open to challenge the Government’s decisions, for example Care4Calais on the issue of Rwanda, along with others such as Freedom from Torture
  • Keep an eye on our website:

You can download this information as a file here:

Rabinda Chahal took some notes which she has shared with us, and you can download these here:

We also have an online event on 16 June 2022: Woodbrooke/QARN event: Changing the Conversation on Asylum in the UK

19:00 – 20:30

Changing the Conversation on Asylum