News

Updated information on housing for asylum seekers

Whilst the issues around housing for asylum seekers in Home Office dispersed accommodation is changing rapidly, we have updated our information sheets on both the housing situation in general, and the new contract.

Do note that nearly all areas in the UK are due to receive some asylum seekers under new dispersal rules, so do watch out what is happening in your area, and get in touch with us if there are any problems with the housing.

The updated housing document is here housing May 21 05 18

and the latest news on the new Housing Contract is here Asylum accommodation update 21 05 18

these are also added to our “documents ” section on this website.

STOP PRESS ! The news has just come through that Newcastle Council has lost the tribunal case on forced shared rooms, to landlord Jomast.  we will comment and update documents tomorrow

A letter to the new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid

A letter to Sajid Javid, Home Secretary, from Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary.

Dear Home Secretary,

We are writing to wish you every success as you review the immigration and asylum system you have inherited, and seek to make it more humane as befits today’s Britain.

From our own work specifically on the problems faced by asylum seekers, we feel certain you will be able to use the wealth of information on the workings of the present system, collected over the years by charitable and campaigning organisations such as the Refugee Council, Refugee Action, Detention Forum and Amnesty International who have been working with parliamentarians to secure reform.

Your staff will also be able to put you in touch with NGOs such as AVID and Freed Voices, who can inform you from experience of the reality of immigration detention. As you will no doubt be aware, the UK is the only country in Europe (including Russia), which retains indefinite detention for immigration purposes. This gives the UK the opportunity to play an active role in UNHCR’s `Beyond Detention’ initiative, which is currently looking at alternatives to detention.

The Windrush affair is likely to be the tip of the iceberg, and has highlighted the need for change in the core values of your department. We agree with you, Home Secretary, that asylum seekers, indeed all immigrants, should be treated with compassion, respect and dignity.

Too many Home Office decisions seem to come from the very un-British view that a person is guilty until proven innocent. If those applying to enter this country, especially those who have been through trauma to get here, were offered a sympathetic hearing with knowledgeable interpreters and were believed, far fewer Home Office decisions would be overturned on appeal.

We would ask you to look specifically at:

  • The poor level of initial decision making in immigration cases. Only the requisite number of well-qualified, and relevantly trained, Home Office staff can change this.
  • The practice of routinely detaining migrants for immigration purposes in prison-like Immigration Removal Centres. Unlike those convicted of a criminal offence, immigration detention is indefinite, doing real damage to detainees’ mental health. We refer to the APPG Inquiry into the Use of Immigration Detention, and the recommendations of the Government sponsored Shaw Report. You may also wish to read `Inside Immigration Detention UK` by Mary Bosworth (ISBN 9780198722571).
  • The length of time it takes, for some people years, for indefinite leave to remain to be granted, and the prohibition on taking paid employment in virtually all circumstances; if the length of time taken cannot be reduced, it would reduce the strain on the public purse if asylum seekers were allowed to seek work.
  • The high level of forced removals, especially those on chartered flights, and the return of people to unsafe (or unsafe for them) countries; for ex-offenders, please have your staff look carefully at the possibility of rehabilitation.
  • The lack of adequate financial support for asylum seekers who have been refused and are destitute but cannot be removed. There are many who exist in the UK only through the kindness of friends and sometimes strangers.
  • The less than generous treatment of refugees. It took press pictures of a dead child to persuade the Government to accept 20,000 refugees in 5 years and your own county, Worcestershire, has to date accepted just 50 with a promise of a further 50 this year. We welcome your own generosity in offering to meet members of the local refugee group. Through the SVPRS they arrived safely and legally, and we ask you to create more legal and safe routes to sanctuary in the UK for other similar groups. Also to speed up processes for taking unaccompanied children with established family links in the UK.

Finally we would ask you to take a direct interest in the work of Parliamentarians and especially the Home Affairs Select Committee and the APPGs on immigration and refugees. Members of our group have attended meetings in Portcullis House where ex-detainees and refugees have spoken, but we have never seen a senior member of the Home Office staff nor the Home Secretary there. Such meetings provide the opportunity to hear directly from those who have suffered most from the present immigration system.

We hope that you will succeed in making our immigration and asylum system fit for purpose, and will care more for individual people caught up in it than for removal and migration targets.

Yours sincerely,

John Skipworth, Chairman, Suzanne Fletcher MBE , Parliamentary & External Relationships Officer, Janet King, on behalf of

Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary Council.

MAY MUST ALLOW PEOPLE TO CORRECT THEIR OWN DATA HELD BY THE HOME OFFICE

Lib Dem spokesman for Home Affairs, Ed Davey MP, said:

Deporting British people, who have spent fifty years making a life here because the Home Office destroyed their papers – it’s a disgrace.  To add insult to injury, the Home Office is now trying to block the scrutiny that made discovering the Windrush scandal possible.

In the Data Protection Bill, there’s a clause that would remove rights to access any immigration-related data the Home Office holds on you, including citizenship.

That would mean you’d have no way to check if the data the Home Office holds on you is right.

And the Home Office continually get things wrong – from mistaken identity to incorrect personal details. This new clause would stop people discovering those mistakes that can lead to grotesque injustices – and mean the Home Office could cover up the next Windrush.” 

Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary are very concerned about this blatant attempt to allow the Home Office to carry on as before.

There are so many other people affected over and above ourselves.  Those seeking asylum; those applying for citizenship; those without indefinite leave to remain.  And many, many EU citizens are extremely worried about their future here in the UK after Brexit.  In every single case the Home Office holds ‘information’ on them which could be life changing.  They must be able to see and check their own data themselves.  They cannot possibly be expected to trust the Home Office on something so important to their lives.  We wouldn’t, would you?
We want this disgraceful clause out of the bill. If this new law goes ahead, the legal right to access your own data will be taken away: you will not be able to check if Home Office records on you are correct, and would have to go to the courts on any decision you disagree with, with no guarantee the Home Office will allow both sides to see the documents it relies on. This will affect anyone whose status in the UK is challenged by the Home Office, and is simply not British justice.

Please do sign up to this petition, and urge everyone else to, too.

IMPORTANT – UPDATE ON IMMIGRATION, REFUGEES, & IDENTITY CONSULTATION

The Party’s Immigration, Refugees, & Identity Working Group has confirmed that the Group has opened a second survey which contains broader questions of principle than the previous , including those that were requested by our friends at Lib Dem Immigrants. Hopefully this will go some way to respond to concerns which were raised (including by us) about the previous report of the Working Group. This survey includes key questions like:

  • Is it right that the state should be separating family members at all?
  • Is it the job of employers to be enforcing the immigration system?
  • Are there aspects of the current system of border control that lead to people being wrongly excluded, detained, or harassed?
  • How can we convey to the public that migration is not a significant pressure on public services?
  • How can we avoid dehumanising migrants by treating them purely as economic units?

The working group will be meeting again at the start of May and we would like to be able to feed these responses in to that session. The full survey is available online https://libdems.getfeedback.com/r/pQVPu6Mg/, please submit any responses by 1pm, Thursday 10 May.

Faiths in close quarters

This letter, sent by one of our council members, has been published by the Church Times this week.  We hope it will encourage more people to lobby their MPs to change the rules on forced sharing of bedrooms by unrelated adults.  Maybe others can contact other Faith Publications.

Peace amongst nations is surely high in our minds at the present time.

We have a microcosm of this amongst our asylum seeking communities, where people live and associate together, in peace. Many are people of strong faith, and it shows in how they manage this. Here in Stockton we have people from many parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Indian sub continent, as well as Albania and China.

People are allocated shared houses, which means shared kitchens and bathrooms, with no regard for common language, culture, country or faith. It can be difficult as one man said “In my house there are 7 Muslim men and I am a Christian. It makes it very difficult for me being different all the time, I cannot share anything with them, and there is nowhere for me to be on my own as I have to share a room”. There is the situation vice versa as well of course.

Even worse many people have forced sharing of bedrooms with no commonality at all. It is a small space, and not for overnight or a few weeks, but can be years. To quote two people:

“I am from Iran, and fled here because of the Arab Iraqis but I have to share with one, and it makes me frightened”.

I share with a Muslim man, we get on OK, but it is difficult to share with someone with a completely different background and faith. We do try but have no common language”.

The Home Office is in the process of letting the new 10 year contract for housing provision for asylum seekers, and such shared bedrooms will continue apart from those deemed by the Home Office (with no definition) as “vulnerable”.

Can I urge readers who live in areas where asylum seekers are dispersed to contact their MPs of whatever party to urgently intervene before the contract is actually let.

 

 

RESPONSE ON CONSULTATION PAPER ON IMMIGRATION, REFUGEES AND IDENTITY

LD4SOS has responded to the Lib Dem Policy Consultation paper on “Immigration, refugees, and identity”.

You can see our response here :

IMMIGRATION REFUGEES AND IDENTITY CONSULTATION PAPER pdf

Note that there is an online survey on the paper that closes at 1.00 pm on 12th April that can be filled in too.

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