Response: Home Affairs Committee on an effective immigration policy

qarn logo smWritten 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

Religion Spirituality and the Refugee Experience

Sue Ennis“Religion Spirituality and the Refugee Experience…” published 2016 by Palgrave McMillan UK (an academic at Oxford Refugee Study Centre linked me to Palgrave).

The book is at http://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9781137563774#aboutBook

The book was launched by the Australian Human Rights Commissioner Prof Gillian Triggs in Nov 2016. This book is an out-growth of my PhD which is a long held Quaker Concern (see free access to PhD below)

Description of PhD

The research question: What role does spirituality and religion play in refugees’ flights from their home country and during their resettlement in host countries? Continue reading

Using role play

qarn logo smBefore they became refugees, their lives too were normal.

Imagine it is your home, town, country that is being destroyed and you have had to flee. You do not know what has become of your family, friends and colleagues. You hear of the destruction of your culture and history. You are ‘one of the lucky ones’. You have been resettled and are safe, in a country where everything is different: the language, food, customs, climate, landscape. Discuss those aspects of your life you have lost. Continue reading

Role Play guidelines

quaker_home_themeBefore they became refugees, their lives too were normal.
Imagine it is your home, town, country that is being destroyed and you have had to flee. You do not know what has become of your family, friends and colleagues. You hear of the destruction of your culture and history. You are ‘one of the lucky ones’. You have been resettled and are safe, in a country where everything is different: the language, food, customs, climate, landscape. Discuss those aspects of your life you have lost. Continue reading

If we try to imagine – even just a little – what people have experienced

qarn logo smYou or I would probably get on a plane if we had to flee our country. But airlines are held liable if they carry people without papers. Airline staff can’t decide whether or not someone is a refugee. Visas are hard to come by and cost money. Some people have to destroy their own papers in order to stay safe.

By insisting on papers to cross borders we criminalise refugees. Perhaps this is partly how we justify the use of detention – indefinite detention in Britain – and a punitive asylum system leading to poverty such as the nineteenth-century author Charles Dickens would have recognised. Continue reading

This is my face

Faces Sallie AsheThis is my face.

From here I look on the world-

Its beauty and its horror.

With this mouth I taste the bitter and the sweet.

 

My lips kiss my beloved

And hold the stick of smoke which comforts me.

My ears hear sweet music, my children’s voices.

They hear the cries and voices of hatred.

And the voice of compassion.

 

My face is the Me you see.

Tracks of journeys,

Lines of laughter and of pain.

 

Don’t judge the lines,

The heavy hanging hair.

Take time to look

To listen

To hear my story.

To understand.

 

See me

Art-work and poetry reflecting the stories of the displaced people who arrive at Doncaster’s Conversation Club by Sallie Ashe and Denise Cann, members of Balby (Doncaster) Local Meeting

 

Walls

Art-work and poetry reflecting the stories of the displaced people who arrive at Doncaster’s Conversation Club by Sallie Ashe and Denise Cann, members of Balby (Doncaster) Local Meeting

WALLS

Walls Sallie AsheWalls

Surround

Embrace

Shelter

Accept.

Life-containing

Warm wombs. Cocoons.

What cements these walls?

Bricks of family and love. Security, trust.

Room to grow and breathe.

Walls

Imprison

Divide

Contain

Isolate

Life-denying.

Cold tombs. Marooned.

What cements these walls?

Bricks of suspicion and fear.

Attitudes. Convincements of hatred.

What are we building?

A Kafka-esque Encounter with Immigration

UK govAs an asylum law practitioner with Lifeline Options Community Interest Company (Birmingham), I am sure I am not alone in finding that communication with the various sections of UK Visas and Immigration is increasingly strange and Kafka-esque.

On about 22nd April I had to book “Further Submissions”, i.e. an appointment for an asylum seeker to hand in fresh evidence for consideration as a fresh application, in accordance with the rules laid down in October 2009. Handing in this evidence is often done at a statutory reporting occasion if the asylum seeker normally reports at an immigration centre, but in this case the client was based in Gloucester and he normally reports at a police station. The police are not allowed to forward evidence to an immigration centre, so I looked up the phone number of the relevant immigration reporting centre on his “IS96” reporting sheet. The number was a Bristol number and was part of “Wales and South West” region Continue reading

QARN: Statement about destitution

  Why many asylum seekers are destitute:  Minimal support  – and none

For those seeking asylum the money allowance historically has been set at 70 per cent of normal income support. Most people now receive less, and at the best an asylum seeker receiving financial support will be living on £5 per day.[i]

Asylum seekers whose claim has been refused lose their financial support and accommodation after 3 weeks unless they appeal. They are expected to leave the UK immediately. If they agree to return or they appeal they may qualify for even lower ‘hard case’ Section 4 support’,[ii] provided only in around 3% of cases. Because they are terrified of return, or for other reasons frightened of bringing themselves to the attention of a system they already know to be harsh, many do not apply. The remainder are not allowed to work and receive nothing. Women who are homeless because of domestic violence also end up destitute as do victims of trafficking. Tens of thousands of people are in this situation. The parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights[iii] said in 2007:

We have been persuaded … that the Government has indeed been practising a deliberate policy of destitution… We have seen instances in all cases where the Government’s treatment of asylum seekers and refused asylum seekers falls below the requirements of the common law of humanity and of international human rights law.

Four years later with a different government things are just the same.

Why are refused asylum seekers still here? 

  • They are afraid to go back: Most destitute asylum seekers are from countries considered extremely turbulent[iv] like Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Zimbabwe and Iran.
  • The numbers allowed to remain have fallen: The number of people given permission to stay has fallen significantly in recent years[v]. 
  • They believe they have a case: Even if a person is correctly refused asylum, it does not automatically follow that their claim is unjustified[vi]. If the government accepts you were persecuted, you may be refused asylum unless you can prove it will happen again.
  • The system makes mistakes: Experts have long expressed concerns about whether some asylum seekers receive a full and fair hearing of their claim[vii].
  • Because they cannot go back: The Government cannot return people to countries at war, with uncooperative governments or unreliable means of travel.

Once the Government stops supporting an asylum seeker it may lose track of their whereabouts, which makes their removal near to impossible. The policy of making people destitute is therefore ultimately self-defeating.

December 2011

Footnotes and additional information

[i] As from 18 April 2011 Asylum Support (Amendment) Regulations 2011 SI No 907)  http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2011/907/made/data.pdf

[ii] Asylum seekers on Section 4 support receive £1.23 less per week than they would have received on Section 95 support, delivered through a plastic payment card rather than in cash, making it impossible for them to use vital services like making phone calls or taking buses. Those living with friends and family have to leave that accommodation and go into housing provided by the Government at the taxpayers’ expense in order to receive the support by means of the plastic card.

[iii] The Joint Committee on Human Rights ‘The Treatment of Asylum Seekers, Tenth Report of Session 2006-7, paragraph 120

[iv] Considered dangerous by the UN, Amnesty etc because of conflict, generalised violence and human rights violations.

[v] In the past most people from these countries would almost certainly have been given Exceptional Leave to Remain (ELR) for four years, and been allowed to work to support themselves.  But in 2003 ELR was replaced by more restrictive categories of leave to remain. 2,555 adults were granted such leave in 2009 compared with 20,135 individuals who got ELR in 2002[v].

[vi] Many people apply for asylum in good faith, unaware that their case does not meet the strict criteria of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Nonetheless, they may have fled violently unstable countries and experienced violence, torture, or rape. Cut backs in legal aid have already reduced the proportion of successful claims, and further cuts now coming into effect will make the situation even worse.

 [vii] Decision making in relation to some nationalities is especially poor. For example, in 2010, 50% of Somali nationals, 36% of Eritreans and 36% of Zimbabweans who appealed had their refusals overturned. This raises serious doubts about the quality of initial decision making. For every person who successfully overturns a poor decision, many more may be failing due to a lack of quality legal advice.

[Comment: Many Quakers around the UK are involved in projects aimed at relieving some of the misery of those caught up in destitution as a result of seeking sanctuary, and others campaign for changes in the system]