QARN / Quaker Statements

If you need a paper copy of any of this information, please email info@qarn.co.uk listing the information you require:

QARN AGM 2017: 24 June 2017 in Leicester

QARN Annual Report 2017: The Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network (QARN) is a network of Quakers across the UK who share a concern about the injustices that are practised 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 in July 2016, the network has met three times: in October 2016 in Manchester, in January 2017 in Birmingham, and in March 2017 in London. The Steering Group has held further meetings in between these dates. Every meeting begins with a report from those attending on the many and varied activities taking place across the country. There were also several meetings of the planning group for the conference held at Woodbrooke in February 2017.

The Steering Group currently consists of Barbara Forbes (to end of 2019), Catherine Henderson (to end of 2018*) and Bridget Walker (to end of 2019). John Cockcroft (treasurer) and Sheila Mosley (web-site moderator) are ex officio.

QARN working with BYM, QPSW, QCEA and Woodbrooke

Woodbrooke Conference

BYM/QPSW   We have met with Tim Gee who has been appointed to a new QPSW post on Forced Migration, and will be pleased to welcome him to our network meetings on a regular basis. Our Steering Group member Bridget Walker is part of Tim’s initial discernment team which helped to set the guidelines of his work.

We are also working on our appliction to BYM as a recognised group.

QCEA  We have developed closer ties with QCEA and some of our Steering Group members attended part of a QCEA British Committee meeting in March.  QCEA also published a blog entry by one of our members about the importance of the Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Woodbrooke  Our conference in February 2017 was very well attended. The conference was prepared in cooperation with QPSW and QCEA and in partnership with Woodbrooke. Plans for a pan-European network are in hand. Two of our members have been invited to run a workshop on City of Sanctuary at the QCEA conference in December 2017.
QUNO staff held a workshop at the conference and have published a briefing on refugees.

QARN Outreach: The play “The Bundle” which we commissioned from Journeymen Theatre, has had a very good reception across the Yearly Meeting. Performances have been booked until the end of 2017. Where possible, we encourage local QARN members to attend the performances to ensure that any following discussion is based on accurate information.

Members of the network have visited various local and Area Meetings to inform about the work of QARN and to offer support to our members in those meetings.

QARN and City of Sanctuary: Several of our members are active in their local City of Sanctuary groups and have regularly reported on developments in this network.

Q-CAT: Two of our members are trustees of the Quaker Concern for the Abolition of Torture and we continue to look for points at which our concerns overlap

Representation on other bodies: We are represented on the Detention Forum by Sheila Mosley (Judicial Oversight sub-committee) and Fred Ashmore, who took over from Bridget Walker at the end of 2016. We agreed to make Detention the main focus of our presence at YMG in August 2017.

We are also represented on the National Refugee Welcome Board by Catherine Henderson. Chris Gwyntopher represented us on Still Human,Still Here (now known as Asylum Matters and hosted by City of Sanctuary).

“The Hostile Environment”: The “hostile environment”, which Theresa May (as then Home Secretary) announced in 2013, is beginning to bite. We agreed that we will work towards preparing a document on this for use at YMG.

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 117 members.  and has ensured that our is available to all who wish to join. We thank Sheila Mosley for her work and especially for the recent re-vamping of the website.

Finance: Our funds have been generously growing, thanks to donations from many Quaker meetings. This money was spent on our core funding, and for the Woodbrooke Conference. This came in under budget, thanks to substantial support from Woodbrooke Potential donors are advised that we do not hand money over to other groups.

QARN Financial Report June 2017

1) Report: In my interim report for January I mentioned that the level of contributions appeared to be down. Since then, however, a number of further contributions have been paid in, including the substantial contribution, mentioned in my previous report, from a meeting that seemed unclear about our (lack of) charitable status. There have been a number of donations from individuals. The fact that it is difficult for us to accept BACS payments has delayed other payments, which have now found found their way to us. The Woodbrooke conference came in well under budget. Web hosting charges of just under £180 were paid earlier this year for 2017/18/19. Our balance at Nationwide remains remarkably stable at just under six thousand pounds.

The most important change, historically, is that our income and expenditure have steadily increased over the last several years, the former more than the latter, so we now operate a far larger surplus than when I took office. The other development which concerns me is that our simple pass book account with the Nationwide Building Society, once perfectly adequate for our needs has become less so, especially when we are more and more expected to operate in the world of BACs and internet banking. The question of what level of income we need, and how we use it, is for the group to decide. The question of our banking arrangements is one which the new treasurer and I will need to address.

2) Balance sheet 1 Jan – 31Dec 2016

INCOME HELD                                                2015                                      2016 

Brought forward                                            1936.00                                   5012.04

Donations received                                        3858.44                                 2149.96

Net interest                                                          4.58                                     12.00

Total                                                               5799.02                                 7174.00

EXPENDITURE

the Friend adverts                                                 NIL                                    78.00

Printing costs                                                        NIL                                  190.48

London Detention Forum                                   38.95                                    10.50

Other QARN travel                                           748.03                                  916.73

Total expenditure                                               786.98                              1195.71

Closing balance at Nationwide 31 Dec           5012.04                                5978.29

Note: Balance at date of AGM     July 2016  =  £6011.82

June 2017 =  £5935.32

John Cockcroft, Treasurer

Minute from the ‘Forced Migration: how can Quakers respond’ Conference held at Woodbrooke 3-5 February 2017

Hosted by the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network, Quaker Council on European Affairs, Quaker United Nations Office, Quaker Peace and Social Witness and Woodbrooke.

We remind Quakers of Advices & Queries 33 and 32:

Are you alert to practices here and throughout the world which discriminate against people on the basis of who or what they are or because of their beliefs? Bear witness to the humanity of all people, including those who break society’s conventions or its laws. Try to discern new growing points in social and economic life. Seek to understand the causes of injustice, social unrest and fear. Are you working to bring about a just and compassionate society which allows everyone to develop their capacities and fosters the desire to serve?

Bring into God’s light those emotions, attitudes and prejudices in yourself which lie at the root of destructive conflict, acknowledging your need for forgiveness and grace. In what ways are you involved in the work of reconciliation between individuals, groups and nations?

We came as individuals across the water, by road and rail, from countries across Europe, and cities, towns and villages in UK to focus our energy around forced migration and how Quakers can respond. We are all at different places on our journey, for some this is new, others bring years of commitment to supporting people seeking sanctuary and refugees, or of trying to change the system, and we share strong Quakerly commitment to peace, justice and equality that has guided us through the weekend together, and to healing the brokenness of our own societies.

The people who have brought us together have come from far away places where there is war, oppression of people on the basis of race, religion, nationality, gender, sexuality, belonging to a particular social group, or their political opinion, and others have fled war, famine, and poverty that has been created by climate change and politics. They too have travelled by many often-dangerous means to reach sanctuary, over water, and by road and rail. They come from cities, towns and villages looking for a safe place to live and for their children. Some of them are children, they travel alone, vulnerable, cold, hungry, frightened, brave and full of dreams.

We come from communities where some welcome those seeking safety and others do not. Others who have brought us together are decision-makers, MPs who create laws, Judges who interpret the laws, Home Office staff who put the law into action, private agencies that carry out work on behalf of the Government for example in providing accommodation, detention facilities, transport around the system and sometimes out of the country, and then there is the media.

All these people, and every person displaced whether in our own country or moving to another is in our thoughts.

Forced migration in its various forms is clearly a concern for Quakers to take forward in our individual lives, through our communities and Meetings, our Quaker bodies and Yearly Meetings, and when we work alongside others. We cannot change the world alone, however we may bring seeds of change and nourish the soil.

Quakers have through time been involved in every aspect of the humanitarian responses to forced migration including advocacy, legal help, trauma care, medical care, language and housing through the common thread of friendship.

If coming in a unsteady boat across the Mediterranean is anyone’s safest route, we as humanity can do better. We need a different language for migration because the current situation and discourse is ‘othering’ people.

We feel a deep leading to act together on a political level in Britain and at the European level. In doing so we are acting upon our heritage, our way of being, and the leading of the spirit.

We respond to Tim Gee’s invitation to put together a short publication to inform the basis of a spirit-led position of Quakers in Britain, and so to be sent for consideration by our Yearly Meeting. We invite the following people from the weekend to contribute a short 400-word draft on the following themes:

  • Reflections after Calais – Renke Meuwese,
  • A tested concern – Julia Bush,
  • Causes of forced migration – Alex Randal and Andrew Lane,
  • The experience of destitution in the UK – Chris Gwyntopher and Bridget Obi,
  • The hostile environment – Barbara and David Forbes, and Gina Clayton,
  • Detention centres – Crystal Dickinson,
  • Brexit – Till Geiger,
  • and Working for a safer world, Laurel Townhead.

The unconditional love that flows from our gathered Conference this weekend flows into the inspired Minute from yesterday’s Meeting for Sufferings that was read earlier.

We work towards the breaking down of all barriers that divide us and define us, whether between countries, in the NHS, between those who have faith and those who do not, or in our own minds.

We pray that the ‘scales will fall from our own eyes’ and those of our politicians – as they did from Saul when he sought to create a hostile environment in his time, and that we may be the leaves on the tree of life which are for the healing of nations.

That which is morally wrong cannot be politically right” 1822 QFP 23.26

5 February 2017

QARN Annual Report 2016

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

Woodbrooke Conference

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.

Q-CAT

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].

Detention Forum

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.

Finance

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

July 2016

9 April 2016:

We are appalled that the Government now charges people who have been granted Discretionary Leave to Remain after applying for asylum an unaffordable fee when they apply for further Leave to Remain in order to stay in UK.
We would welcome an offer from a Local or Area Meeting to run with this issue, with the support of QARN.

January 2016: There are many calls on QARN and we have continually made decisions to limit our links to a few external organisations addressing issues where we also have a key concern:  

Detention Forum  http://detentionforum.org.uk /
Still Human, Still Here https://stillhumanstillhere.wordpress.com/resources/
CTBI refugee crisis meetings Churches Together in Britain and Ireland
Churches Refugee Network:  Vigil for Refugees  https://ctbi.org.uk/churches-refugee-network/

We also have particular links with the following Quaker groups:

Quaker Campaign for the Abolition of Torture Q-CAT  http://www.q-cat.org.uk/
Quaker Peace and Social Witness http://www.quaker.org.uk/our-work
Quaker United Nations Office QUNO http://www.quno.org
Quaker Council for European Affairs QCEA http://www.quno.org/

We have had a presence at the December 2015 QCEA Conference: ‘Castle or Community’;
also February 2016: London Quakers Housing Conference and Quakers in Criminal Justice Conferences

News Release: 05 September 2015

Quakers urgently call for safe paths for refugees

The unfolding crisis of refugees fleeing across Europe, has prompted Quakers in Britain to urge the UK Government and other European Governments to create secure paths to safety.

Quakers’ representative body meeting in London on Saturday (05 September) made this statement:
“That which is morally wrong cannot be politically right” (A Quaker statement in 1822).

“Quakers in Britain urge the UK Government to welcome those desperately seeking a place of safety, in Europe, from the dangers in their own countries. In this urgent situation it cannot be right to harden hearts against people who are struggling and dying on European soil and in the seas around us.

“In Britain we have a tradition of sheltering those in danger, as we did with the Kindertransport, rescuing thousands of children from Nazi-occupied Europe so many years ago, and more recently, when we welcomed refugees from countries including Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Bosnia and Kosova. It is time to open our hearts and communities again.

“This exceptional time of need calls for a proportionate response from all the governments of Europe working together. We call for mechanisms to be created that will enable people to travel safely and to secure legal protection – including in Britain.

“Refugees are fleeing from fear. Further violent interventions in countries such as Syria will not provide a solution. Difficult but compassionate decisions need to be made to secure peace for people in these regions.

“Quakers assert that all human life is precious – each person is a child of God and the loss of one diminishes us all. In this severe crisis, we hear the Spirit calling us to throw ourselves into the fray with all the love and courage we can muster.”

Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network (QARN) and Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA) have previously called for safe paths to legal protection and protested against the cessation of funding for the Search and Rescue Operation in the Mediterranean.

Ends

Download here: 2015 Sept 5 Q Quakers urgently call for safe paths for refugees

PDF: 2015-Sept-5-Q-Quakers-urgently-call-for-safe-paths-for-refugees (1)

Notes to editors
• Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends.
• Around 22,000 people attend 480 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.
• “That which is morally wrong cannot be politically right” is taken from Quaker Faith and Practice 23.26
• Read more on QARN here www.qarn.org.uk

• Read more on QCEA here https://www.qcea.org/ including the paper “Recommendations for the development of safe and legal paths to protection in the European Union”e
Media Information
Anne van Staveren
0207 663 1048
07958 009703
annev@quaker.org.uk
@mediaquaker
www.quaker.org.uk

QARN Annual Report 2015

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.

 Since our last AGM we have met  five times, in April 2014 (Birmingham), July 2014 (Oxford), October 2014 (Swansea) , January 2015 (London) and April 2015 (Birmingham)

The Steering Group currently consists of Sheila Mosley (to end of 2016)) and Barbara Forbes (to end of 2016).

Woodbrooke Conference: In February 2015 we arranged a conference at Woodbrooke with the title “Detention, Destitution, Deportation”. This was a pioneering arrangement with Woodbrooke and QPSW and thanks to QPSW support we had an excellent attendance from all over the Yearly Meeting, with a large amount of knowledge and dedication amongst those present.

We have agreed to investigate holding a further Woodbrooke Conference in 2017.

Statement on Destitution: A sub-group of QARN worked on producing a Statement on Destitution which was adopted by  QARN and has subsequently been endorsed by several Area Meetings. It has also been presented to Meeting for Sufferings and we are planning to hold discussions with QPSW about the future of the statement.

QARN and BYM: We had a Special Interest Group at  Yearly Meeting 2015 with a focus on the situation in the Mediterranean.

We are proposing to hold discussions with QPSW about QARN’s relationship with central work and the extent to which we can speak on behalf of Friends.

Situation in the Mediterranean: Brian Kendall and Catherine Henderson have brought this concern to QARN and it has become one of our main ongoing concerns.

Discretionary Leave to Remain: We  have been made aware of the sudden changes to applications for renewal of DLR, brought in overnight in April.

City of Sanctuary: Several of our members are active in their local City of Sanctuary groups and QARN has also joined as a group, endorsing City of Sanctuary’s Eight Principles .

Q-CAT: Two of our members are trustees of the  Quaker Concern for the Abolition of Torture and we are looking at ways in which we can work together.

Detention Forum: We are represented on the Detention Forum by Sheila Mosley (Judicial Oversight sub-committee) and Bridget  Walker  (Indefinite  Detention sub-committee).Central England Area Meeting Asylum Group has also joined Detention Forum and one of its members has also joined the Judicial  Oversight sub-committee.

Website / Facebook / E-mail network: Sheila Mosley keeps the Website and the Facebook page up-to-date and has ensured that our e-mail network is available to all who wish to join.

Finance: We are aware that the funds in our account are dwindling and we are considering strategies to address this.  We will need to raise about £1000 a year to cover our costs.

Parliamentary Activity: We submitted evidence to the All-Parliamentary Inquiry into Indefinite Detention.

QARN Financial Report Jan-Dec 2014: 

INCOME HELD                                2013                                                                  2014

Brought forward                               2158.30                                                           1465.83

Received                                               70.75                                                           1635.00

Net Interest                                             1.51                                                                 2.72

Total Income                                     2230.60                                                           3103.55

EXPENDITURE                                   2013                                                             2014

the Friend Adverts                               68.60                                                            66.66

Booking of Westminster MH Library    60.00                                                           NIL

Conference planning expenses                NIL                                                           155.05

Website hosting net costs*                       NIL                                                          179.64

London Detention Forum                    135.30                                                          250.90

Other QARN Travel                            583.87                                                          515.30

Total Expenditure                                774.73                                                        1167.55

closing balance at Nationwide          1465.83                                                        1936.00**

*website costs for 2012 and 2013 were paid in a single payment in 2012. Costs for 2014.15.16 were paid in a single payment in 2014.

**Balance at date of AGM (27.06.15) = 1777.43

Website report 2015

The website has been a useful tool for a number of reasons:

It is a readily accessible collection of information about who we are and what we do, our statements and Minutes from Sufferings. These may be useful to ourselves; other Quakers wondering why there is a concern; and other Quakers engaged in trying to change the system too – such as QPSW and for our Parliamentary engagement; and then for the wider world looking for inspiration from our Quaker perspective.

The website collects information that may be useful for those looking to understand the issues in more depth, and campaigning information

The ‘what you can do’ column has many ideas for people to take forward and was particularly useful over the time of the election as a resource for those wanting to put together appropriate questions for their Hustings/MP

The website holds a record of changes, and will hopefully show over time that changes can be made when we work together.

Information that is uploaded comes from a number of sources, and QARN members are encouraged to suggest articles for inclusion.

We pay ‘123-Reg’ for:

  • the domain name which has just cost £8.32 for 2 years, and will need renewing before 7/6/2017;
  • and we paid £179.64 for 3 years webhosting (getting the site up on the internet) on 1/6/2014, and this will need renewing before 11/6/2017.

Sheila Mosley 22.6.2015

Quakers speak on plight of migrants

Quakers in Britain have written an Open Letter to the Prime Minister, expressing their deepest concern for the plight of migrants desperately trying to cross the Mediterranean.

The full text of the letter to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, follows:
“Quakers in Britain have been shocked and angered by the needless deaths of thousands of desperate people in the Mediterranean in recent months. Every human life is a precious gift to be treasured – each person a child of God – and the loss of just one diminishes all of us.  It is immoral to use the threat of loss of life as a deterrent to migration.

“We urge you as our Prime Minister, in your work with other European leaders, to ensure that Britain, one of the richest countries in the world, plays its part in preventing these unnecessary drownings and addressing the economic inequality and violence which leads to these desperate attempts to reach a new home.” The letter is signed by Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain.

Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network (QARN) and Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA) have previously called for safe paths to legal protection and protested against the cessation of funding for the Search and Rescue Operation in the Mediterranean.

This tragic loss of life will be very much on the hearts and minds of Quakers as they meet for Yearly Meeting at Friends House in London next week (1 to 4 May).

Ends

Download here: 2015 April 22 Q Quakers speak on plight of migrants

PDF: 2015 April 22 Q Quakers speak on plight of migrants

News Release 22 April 2015

Notes to editors
• Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends.
• Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

http://www.quaker.org.uk/news/quakers-speak-plight-migrants

Destitution

At a Meeting for Sufferings held in London on Saturday 28 March 2015 MfS/15/03/15 Asylum Seekers:

Destitution: We receive the following minutes from Area Meetings: South East London AM minute 14/102; Pendle Hill AM minute 10; Leeds AM minute AM14/109; North East Thames AM minute 15/36; Leicester AM minute 15/32; South Wales AM minute 14:12:07; and Oxford and Swindon AM minute 16/2015c. These minutes bring to our attention a statement made by Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network about the use of destitution as an instrument of immigration control.

Sheila Moseley of Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network has spoken to the concern. Many Friends are deeply troubled by the situation and we have heard of the work that Friends are doing locally, both as Meetings and as individuals. Many are working with local asylum and refugee groups, the Red Cross and the City of Sanctuary movement.

This is not an issue that is going to go away quickly, and we feel it would be useful to develop a public statement that we can use in working with national and local governments.

We forward this minute to QPSW Central Committee and ask them to bring a draft back to a future meeting.

Ethel Livermore, Clerk

Juliet Prager, Deputy Recording Clerk

Detention, Destitution and Deportation – gathering Quaker energy to speak truth to power’, Conference over the weekend of 6-8 February 2015 at Woodbrooke, Birmingham.

The Conference was attended by Quakers from Quaker Meetings in England, Scotland, Eire and Wales, and we were joined by Jerome Phelps of ‘Detention Action’ and Mike Kaye of ‘Still Human Still Here’ who were speakers during the Saturday.  Our experience was enhanced by the presence of five members of ‘RAPAR – Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research’ from Manchedter, who shared their experiences and energy over whole weekend with us.

The Conference brings the following Minute:

Fifty plus people, mostly Quakers met at Woodbrooke over the weekend 6-8 February 2015 to gather Quaker energy to speak truth to power about the injustices we see in the treatment of people seeking safety/asylum in UK.

We have shared our anger, confusion, hopelessness and helplessness, and now we move forward to share our strengths and uphold each other while we seek to effect change.

We have been strengthened by those who joined us over the weekend from organisations with whom we share our concern and will help us discern our way forward so that we can effectively work alongside those who share our vision towards bringing about the Quaker Testimony to Equality.

QARN: Withdrawal of search and rescue operations

‘That which is morally wrong cannot be politically right’ 1822 Quaker Faith and Practice 23:26
QARN minute regarding search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean:
We stand with our love and Quaker testimony to equality in recognising that people attempting to reach a place of safety by sea have a right to life. It is absolutely morally wrong for our Government to make a conscious decision to withdraw funding for the rescue of those at risk of drowning, and thereby to leave these vulnerable men, women and children to die in the water. This is effectively manslaughter. The situation arises because desperate human beings have no other legitimate means of reaching safety.
We urge the UK Government to find remedies for this and accept its moral duty.
10 January 2015

QARN: Statement about destitution

“That which is morally wrong cannot be politically right” 1822 Quaker  Faith and Practice 23.26

QARN Destitution statement 25 Oct 2014: Enforced destitution is being used as an instrument of immigration control and, increasingly, of other government policies which primarily affect the most vulnerable. Quakers believe that there is that of God in every person and strive towards equality of respect. Refusing people any legal means of survival or dignity is denying the divine and humanity, which can never be justified.  While we being mindful of settled residents struggling with poverty and destitution because of austerity pay rates and austerity benefit policies, we should neither ignore nor blame those who have sought sanctuary in the U.K.

People seeking asylum are not allowed to do paid work or claim any state benefits.(1) Many are forced into destitution without food, clothing or shelter. Many also do not have friends or family in the UK they can turn to. The precedent of forcing people into destitution is spreading to other groups, including long-term unemployed people, people with mental health problems, children of low or unpaid, dis-benefitted and indebted families, and adults who are sick or disabled. Local authorities have duties towards the latter but do not get adequate central government funding. Legal representation is often needed to persuade Local Authorities to grant accommodation and support. Legal aid is no longer available to secure such legal representation in most cases.

What support is offered to asylum seekers?

 Support Payments for people seeking asylum do not lift people out of poverty. The money allowance is around 52% of income support. In 2014 under Section 95, a single person gets £36.62 a week, a couple £72.52. The High Court has ruled that the Home Secretary must revise their support rates upwards. (5)

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 if they submit a fresh claim they may qualify for even lower ‘hard case’ Section 4 support, provided only in around 3% of cases. If their fresh claim is recognised, they may receive the slightly higher Section 95 payment. The remainder are not allowed to work and receive nothing.

Why are refused  asylum-seekers and other forced migrants still here?

  • They are afraid to go back: Most destitute asylum seekers are from countries considered extremely turbulent[i] like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Zimbabwe and Iran.(2) Others have fled from environmental disaster. There is strong evidence that some countries plan to arrest and torture those who return after seeking asylum elsewhere.
  • They cannot be returned: The Government cannot return people to countries at war, where there is continued persecution, with uncooperative governments or unreliable means of travel.
  • They believe they have a case: Many people apply for asylum in good faith, unaware that their case does not meet the strict criteria of the 1951 Refugee Convention or the European Convention on Human Rights or their case is not recognised. (3)
  • They cannot get legal representation to present their case. Legal aid has been drastically cut in the last decade.  The number of solicitors doing legal funded asylum representation has shrunk.
  • They face threats to life, health and liberty due to environmental or economic catastrophe not currently recognised as grounds for asylum or humanitarian protection by the UK Government.

If 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.  Allowing those who have waited 6 months for a Home Office decision to work would be compassionate and save tax payers money. Regularising the immigration status of people who have survived for two years and begun to integrate in the UK, without committing serious crime would be compassionate and cheaper than trying to deport them all. The costs of destitution are greater than those of regularisation. People working and paying taxes and national insurance are net contributors.

Welcoming strangers and enabling them to become contributing members of UK society is in keeping with Quaker commitment to compassion, equality and peace.  We recommend that people seeking asylum should be allowed legal means of survival, whether by paid work or by a system of support.

Footnotes and additional information

1. See: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/immigration-statistics-july-to-september-2013/immigration-statistics-july-to-september-2013. Apart from asylum-seekers, over 400,000 people had their job seekers allowance stopped, 223,000 for  4 weeks, 48%  up to156 weeks, between October 2012 and June 2013. http://tinyurl.com/o7kvpbe

2. In the past most people from these countries would usually have been given Exceptional Leave to Remain (ELR) for four years if not full refugee status, and been allowed to work to support themselves.  But in 2003 ELR was replaced by more restrictive categories of discretionary  leave to remain.

3. They may have fled violently unstable countries, experienced violence, torture, or environmental catastrophe. Even if a person is legally refused asylum, it does not automatically follow that their claim is unjustified. Even if the government accepts you were persecuted, you may be refused asylum unless you can prove it will happen again.

4. 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.

5. In 1999 the level of support was set at 70 per cent of Income Support, on the basis that it was for a short period of time, and that housing and utilities bills would be paid for separately. Support rates have been further reduced in recent years. Since 2012 – 13 there has been no increase in line with Income Support. Before these recent reductions Refugee Action found evidence of severe hardship, including parents who experienced hunger and were unable to feed their children. They took a case to the High Court and on 9/4/2014 got a ruling upholding their argument that the amount paid to destitute asylum seekers is unlawful because it is insufficient to meet their essential living needs.

6. For more detailed policy recommendations see “Still Human, Still Here” on which QARN and QPSW are represented.

http://stillhumanstillhere.wordpress.com/

Download here: QARN Destitution statement 25 Oct 2014

PDF: QARN Destitution statement 25 Oct 2014

25 October 2014

Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network – QARN: Annual Report 2014

Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network is a network of Quakers across 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.

We have continued to meet – September, November 2013, February 2014.

We use our face-to-face meetings to discuss our concerns, and to find a Quaker response to the injustices we find.  We consider ways to bring this alive to other Quakers, and to plan our engagement with others who are walking the same path so that we can effectively combine our strengths to bring about positive change.

The Steering Group consists of Sheila Mosley (XX to end of 2016), Tim Neal (x to end of 2015) and Barbara Forbes (x to end of 2016).  We thank Elizabeth Coleman for her strong steer as she steps down from the Steering Group.

Going forward we would like to be able to meet in other locations, and for some of us maybe stay overnight so that the next day we can visit local meetings to talk about the work of QARN

  • QARN decided in the early days to focus on those who were in detention which is in our Quaker tradition, and to join our voices to those who sought a commitment to stopping the practice of detaining children for immigration purposes.  There have been welcome changes in the system and fewer children are now held in detention centres, but it is still a live issue and remains a concern.
  • We added a second major concern, that of bringing an end to the practice of holding people who have been refused asylum in indefinite detention, again for immigration purposes.  We have a formal link to the Detention Forum.
  • In 2013/14 we decided to widen our focus to work for the ending of destitution, and we are in the process of setting up a specific link to Still Human Still Here

We sent a contribution to the Home Affairs Select Committee on Asylum

We have a useful link with Jessica Metheringham who has responsibility for Quaker Parliamentary Liaison and have been able to build links between Jessica and the Detention Forum.

She also formed a link for us with issues around the Immigration Bill that has been going through Parliament.

We have a link to the Churches Refugee Network

Our issues link closely with those of QPSW and Quaker Concern for the Abolition of Torture

Membership of Detention Forum: The Detention Forum is a loose network of over 30 NGOs who are working on immigration detention issues.  We are working together to build a momentum to question the legitimacy of immigration detention which has become such a normal part of the British immigration system.  We are not a membership organisation, but a collective of organisations who want to work together to challenge immigration detention. 

QARN has two members on the Detention Forum working groups, one considering Indefinite Detention, and the other in the Judicial Oversight group.

Social media: We continue to manage a website where reports and information is uploaded alongside ideas about what you can do: http://qarn.org.uk

We also have a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/QuakersQARN

During the past twelve months we have had a presence at:

  • Britain Yearly Meeting, with a Special Interest Group and a stall at the Group Fair
  • QPSW Spring Conference 2014, where Tim presented workshops

Our individual interests: it is clear from our circle time that we have a wide variety of interests and involvement in supporting individuals and groups, and with organisations that aim to change the system

Future plans in the making:

Yearly Meeting Gathering: we will have a presence at the Gathering, 2-9 August 2014

Conference: We are organising a conference with Woodbrooke that will take place over the weekend of 6-8 February 2015. We agreed that the following two points were a good working description of aims for such a conference:

  • To provide an opportunity for mutual support for Friends doing very emotionally demanding work supporting people dependent on UKBA decisions and facing detention, destitution and/or deportation.
  • To support and encourage political action for change such as bringing an end to indefinite detention and the use of destitution as an instrument of immigration control.

Further statements: we plan to produce statements relating to other aspects of the asylum system that concern us.

25 April 2014

Quaker statement on indefinite immigration detention

[The QARN statement (see below) has now been adapted by Quakers in Britain and may be used in correspondence with press and local MPs: http://www.quaker.org.uk/news/quaker-statement-immigration-detention]

That which is morally wrong cannot be politically right.

1822 Quaker faith & practice 23.26

We urgently call for the ending of indefinite detention, which is fundamentally unjust and causes much suffering to its victims.

As Quakers we believe that there is that of God in everyone. We see the Testimony to Equality as clearly relevant to our concerns about those migrants and asylum seekers who are kept in detention. They are treated much worse than those born British.

The right to liberty is a fundamental right enjoyed by all people in the United Kingdom, whether British citizens or subject to immigration control. It is a right established in common law as well as protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. Recent anti-terror legislation that allows for terror suspects to be locked up without being charged has been controversial. There has justifiably been an outcry about it and the time limit has now been reduced to 14 days. However, thousands of people are kept every year in detention by the UK Borders Agency with no date set for their release, yet there is no public outrage about this.

The Immigration Act 1971 first included the power to detain immigrants; later legislation has extended or amended that power. People can be detained on arrival in the UK as immigrants or when seeking asylum, if considered likely to abscond, or when they have already been refused the right to remain and deportation is expected to be imminent.

The decision to detain is made by immigration officers without reference to a court. In theory each detainee has the right to apply for bail after 7 days, but many people are unaware of this procedure and find it difficult to access legal advice. The immigration court ‘judges’ do not have to be trained or experienced to the level of senior judiciary, inadequate records are kept, and in many cases the Home Office view that the applicant is likely to abscond is accepted without evidence.

In theory it is Government policy not to detain survivors of torture or those with serious medical conditions or mental health problems, but in practice even proven survivors of rape and torture, pregnant women, and those with severe mental and physical health problems are often found in detention. Many innocent men, women and children who have been locked up in immigration detention centres have suffered severe mental health problems, with detention in many cases adding to trauma already suffered in their home country.

Download here: 2012 May Q Quaker Statement on Indefinite Immigration Detention

PDF: 2012 May Q Quaker Statement on Indefinite Immigration Detention

May 2012

Quaker response to UK Borders Agency review of detention of children

Review into ending the detention of children for immigration purposes

1. We welcome the Government`s commitment to ending the detention of children for immigration purposes and this opportunity of making a submission to the UK Border Agency’s review. We hope that this may be a first step to reducing the reliance on immigration detention for adults.

2. We welcome also the recognition that this review will take place within a framework of international EU and human rights obligations and the duty of the UK Borders Agency to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in carrying out its functions under section 55 Borders Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009.

3. Improving the quality of initial decision–making would be the single most effective contribution towards reducing the pressure on the UKBA to detain children. The statutory duty to promote the welfare of children requires that children should not be separated from their parents except where there are significant child protection concerns brought a competent court. Where there are ambiguities in age assessment a precautionary principle should be applied.

4. We welcome the Solihull Pilot Scheme as a way of ensuring that asylum seekers have access to high quality and early legal advice and hope that an enhanced scheme combining this with high quality ‘contact management’ can become a benchmark for good practice. Only a system where asylum seekers are listened to with a receptive mind and have access to independent legal advice and representation will command the faith of those affected. Appropriate advice and consultation will maximise the chances of voluntary return in those circumstances where asylum seekers do not meet the rigorous requirements of the Refugee Convention and complementary protection.

5. Families with children are among the groups least likely to abscond. Where it is considered that there is a serious likelihood of absconding, Bail provides the most appropriate and least restrictive alternative to detention. In these circumstances we suggest that a model that includes dedicated case workers and welfare officers is most likely to guarantee the well being of children who are always vulnerable and sometimes destitute. We hope that the UKBA will consider the lessons of the Toronto Bail programme. We understand that in the period 2002 to 2003 the project had a record of over 90% compliance with Bail conditions. In those rare cases where there is a particular risk of absconding at the end of process we would urge the provision of high quality hostel like accommodation. We understand that in the case of Mathew House (www.matthewhouse.ca) in Canada 99% of asylum seekers have complied with conditions.

6. In those circumstances where families including young children need to be returned at the end of process we would urge the continued monitoring of those affected to ensure the education and well being of vulnerable children. We note the decision of Mr Justice Collins in the cases of A v SSHD (CO/1995/2009) and T v SSHD (CO/1858/2010), a case of unaccompanied minors, in February of this year, where the removal of children without notice and without enquiring into reception conditions was held to be unlawful. In end of process cases, we recognise the value of advice, support and practical assistance in maximising the rate of voluntary returns. In the Canadian Failed Refugee Project run by the Greater Toronto Enforcement Agency over 60% of the project’s clients returned to their country of origin after a 30 day period and over 80% after a further visit. We recognise the value of appropriate support both for re-housing and access to schools on return to their country of origin. Even in manifestly unfounded cases the Government of the UK has a duty of care towards those children affected. Where there is a reasonable prospect of returning families voluntarily we would suggest that time-limited temporary leave to remain may be an option.

7. We do not consider that electronic tagging is an appropriate alternative to detention. In coming to this conclusion we are aware both of the damaging psychological effects that can be caused by tags among children and the moral hazard of introducing a new alternative to detention. We would suggest that where there is a particularly high risk of absconding of the families concerned that more onerous reporting conditions are a preferable alternative.

Michael Bartlet, Parliamentary Liaison Secretary, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain

July 23, 2010

http://www.quaker.org.uk/review-ending-detention-children-immigration-purposes

We must not punish the children

Quakers oppose detention of migrants’ children, and so should a new government 
Quakers believe in the unique value of every individual. From this follows a sense of equality that animates Quaker thinking today. The right to asylum becomes a legal counterpart to the religious insight of the common humanity of us all.

Refugees are the human face of international injustice. They are the place – in this country – where we see the real impact of inequality: armed conflict, the inability of failed states to provide a secure home for their citizens, and abusive governments. The impact of climate change adds a further dimension in increasing pressure on land and resources. That is why migration policy presents such a difficult problem. It is easier to close our eyes and ears to the victims of injustice abroad than acknowledge its wounded presence at our door.

Whatever arguments arise about immigration policy during a general election – and we have seen how the episode with Gillian Duffy ignited the debate on Wednesday – the routine administrative detention of children cannot be right. There are at any one time around 30 to 40 children in immigration detention, at Dungavel in Lanarkshire, Tinsley House near Gatwick and Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire. Last year around 1,000 children were detained, often for as long as six weeks.

In the Belmarsh case concerning the legality of detaining suspected terrorists, Lord Hoffmann said: “The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve.” What is true of the detention of suspected terrorists should be unarguable in terms of those who present no threat. Can it ever be right to detain those who have neither been charged with nor convicted of a criminal offence?

This is not to argue for an open-door immigration policy. If the UN refugee convention is to be respected, those who do not require human rights protection or meet its strict standards need to be returned. But in doing so the least restrictive alternative is always to be preferred.

There are alternatives to detention, such as supervised family hostels with social-work support. Even electronic tagging would be less degrading than detention. And wherever the government detains children, even for a very short time, their welfare needs to be the guiding principle from arrest to removal.

During the second world war Quakers became best known for their conscientious “objection” to participation in military conflict. Today, many Quakers are drawn to conscientious “engagement” with the root causes of injustice and violent conflict and its humanitarian consequences on the victims of displacement.

The Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network is a community of around 80 Quakers offering practical support and advice to refugees and asylum seekers. But this is not just a matter for Quakers; it is about the common decency of us all. Our shared values call for those seeking asylum to be treated as human beings, not statistics.

An election is not just a time for clarifying policies that divide the parties but for affirming values that unite us all. Children of migrants should be treated as children first and as migrants second. A new government, of whatever political complexion, should put this humanitarian issue beyond party politics, accept responsibility for the welfare of all children, change the practices that are damaging children now and commission a public inquiry into the use of immigration detention.

by Michael Bartlet, The Guardian, Saturday 1 May 2010 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/may/01/quaker-immigration-child-detention

Letter to Jack Straw Secretary of State for Justice

To Jack Straw, from the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain:

We are writing on behalf of Meeting for Sufferings, our national representative body, to express our dismay at the continued detention of children who are subject to immigration control in Britain. We remain deeply concerned at what amounts to the imprisonment of children despite very clear UNCHR guidance that young people should not be subject to immigration detention. We do not consider that this practice reflects the humane values of this country or corresponds to any proper understanding of the rule of law.

We urge you  to reconsider your current policy in the light of the recent report of Sir Al Aynsley-Green the Children`s Commissioner, the overwhelming evidence offered by the Royal Colleges of Psychiatrists, Paediatricians and GPs in their recent report of the harmful effects of such detention and the report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers on Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre that sharply criticised the detention of children. We draw to your attention the findings of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights that “detention centres are prison like” and the Home Office Select Committee`s finding that “present practice is unacceptable.”

In the light of these reports, we would like to know what changes you have made or are planning in the way children are taken from their homes and transported to detention and the efforts made to ensure their well-being while they are detained.

We would also like you to clarify, in particular, what action the UK Government will be taking in the light of the recent judgment in the European Court of Human Rights in the case of ‘Muskhadzhiyeva’ where it was found that the detention of children in Belgium was unlawful.

Susan Seymour, Clerk, Meeting for Sufferings
Gillian Ashmore, Recording Clerk
April 1, 2010