Refugee Council Campaigns: End of year round-up

refugee-councilThis year has seen some important progress in our work to improve refugees’ lives and challenge injustice. You can read more about this year in our recent Impact Report.

But too many refugees and asylum seekers continue to face a daily struggle for survival and justice in the UK, with recent changes in asylum support and to the asylum process.

We’re preparing for 2010 and look forward to working with you to campaign for positive change.

Challenging cuts to asylum support

Many thanks to everyone who emailed or wrote to Home Secretary Alan Johnson, to urge him to reconsider the decision to cut asylum support rates. Disappointingly, the government chose to go ahead with the cuts and the reduced levels of support were introduced on 5th October. You can read the Refugee Council’s response to the introduction of the cuts as well as related media coverage.

Plans for further changes to asylum support were published by the UK Border Agency this month and are out for consultation until 4th February 2010. We are particularly worried about the proposal to make families rely on payment cards rather than cash – meaning life will get harder for those at the end of the asylum process. Read more about the changes and our response.

We held a briefing on the consultation in parliament in November and Clare Short MP managed to secure an Adjournment Debate on the issue. You can read the transcript.

We’re going to be asking for your help to alert MPs to the consultation on asylum support and we’ll be emailing you with details early next year, along with points to raise in consultation responses.

Shutting down access to asylum procedures

People who need to make a fresh claim for asylum or need to submit further evidence about an ongoing claim must now do so in person in Liverpool. They are expected to pay for their own travel and accommodation when there, despite the fact that many people in this situation are destitute. UKBA announced this change in early November, without any consultation. Prior to this, people could make fresh claims and submit evidence by post. At the same time, UKBA changed the rules so that claims for asylum could only be made in Croydon.

We were appalled by these changes and immediately wrote to the Head of UKBA to protest. We are continuing to campaign for the asylum process to be more accessible.

Working to end the detention of children

Over the past few months, there has been much high-profile criticism of the policy of detaining children in immigration detention centres. The Refugee Council is supporting Outcry!, the campaign to end the detention of children, run by the Children’s Society and Bail for Immigration Detainees.

You can find out details and sign up to the campaign.

Our campaign for permission to work for asylum seekers

We’re continuing to call for all asylum seekers to be given permission to work if they have waited for longer than six months for an initial decision on their claim, or if their claim has been refused but they are unable to return home through no fault of their own.

We were delighted that 105 MPs signed Early Day Motion 960, ‘Let Them Work’. We will be writing to these MPs to ask that they contact Phil Woolas MP, Minister for Borders & Immigration to point out to him that there is no evidence that allowing asylum seekers to work will create an incentive for people to come to the UK.

In December, one of our Patrons, Lord Morris of Handsworth hosted a reception in the House of Lords on the work campaign, with speakers from Refugee Council, the TUC, the Confederation of British Industry and Regional Refugee Forum North East. You can see more about this on ourPoliblog.

Coming up in 2010

  • Major new research: In January, we’ll be launching a major new report which looks at how asylum seekers make the decision to come to the UK and examines the implications of the findings for government policy.
  • Preparing for the general election: as part of our preparation for the election campaign, we’ll be sending out a mailing to candidates from the main parties, given them basic facts and statistics about asylum in the UK. We’ll also be encouraging candidates to use language in a responsible way in debates on asylum.

We’ll also be giving you a list of key questions for candidates, for use at hustings meetings.

Please do contact us if you have any questions or comments about our campaigning work. And remember to sign up to our news round up and check our website and follow us on Facebookfor emerging stories and news.

Your continuing support is vital to challenging policies which have devastating effects on asylum seekers’ lives. Thank you.

Refugee Council Campaigns Team

Dec 2009