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The latest news from Asylum Welcome.

We also contribute to the debates on asylum and detention in the media.

New Plan for Immigration: a brief explanation and information sessions

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Dear Friends,

To read this in Arabic click here.

To read this in Farsi click here.

To read this is Urdu click here.

As you may know, on 24th March the government published a plan to reform the immigration and asylum system. We have until 6th May to respond to this plan.  The government will then take steps to implement the final plan. We don’t know how long it will take but some parts will happen before others.

Asylum Welcome are concerned that these plans will make it harder for asylum seekers to come in the future, and harder to stay, other than through official resettlement schemes such as the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (SVPRS) that has just finished. We are challenging the new government’s plans and encourage you to do so too.

The plan is over 50 pages long and we can’t summarise it all here. Among the parts that cause us concern, are the intention to:

-       Treat people who don’t arrive through official resettlement programmes as “illegal.”

-      Where possible send “illegal” arrivals back to countries through which they have passed on their way to the UK or to other “safe” countries (note, they can only do this if these countries agree to accept them, and at the moment none have).

-  Tighten the definition of having a “well-founded fear of persecution” which is the fundamental test of who is allowed to stay.

-       House all illegal arrivals in new accommodation which is still to be built.

-       Reduce benefits and appeal rights for “illegal” arrivals, give them only temporary leave to remain, which is reviewed regularly, and reduce their right to reunify with their family members.

-       Increase the number and speed of deportations.

If these policies are introduced, they will apply to all new arrivals who seek asylum, other than the people coming on resettlement schemes. They won’t affect people who already have status. We don’t know if or how they will be applied to people who are already here whose cases are still being heard. Nothing will happen in the next few months and we would then expect the government to publish more detailed plans.

As Asylum Welcome we know that many refugees fleeing harm or persecution have no choice but to travel on their own and to enter the U.K. by what are being called “illegal“ means. We reject the two-tier system for people being treated as legal and illegal.  We intend to work with clients, supporters and other organisations to challenge the plans.

If you can read English you can see the full plan here. This includes a link to the consultation where everyone is able to give their views.

We also want to be able to publish your views and stories so you and the voice of refugees can be heard. If you want to be part of this, please email us at advocacy@asylum-welcome.org or speak to your contact in Asylum Welcome who will help.

We plan to hold a number of zoom meetings in different languages to explain the proposals, hear your views and see how we can work together. These will be on Tuesday 20th April.  Please email advocacy@asylum-welcome.org or call reception on 01865 722082 for details.

If you have specific queries or for more information ask one of us, email advocacy@asylum-welcome.org or look at our website.

Finally, please don’t be alarmed. Nothing is going to happen immediately, and we don’t know how the rules will affect people already here whose cases are already being processed.

Key documents
-24th March 2021, Priti Patel speech and the debate here.
-The paper is here.
- Summary of the paper is here.
- How to write to your MP is here.
-Contributions to the consultation can be made here.
-Asylum Welcome's guidance on responding to the consultation can be found here.

In solidarity

All at Asylum Welcome

We can see Joy even in the darkest of times

Monday, April 05, 2021

Hello,

The last 12 months really have been the darkest of times. I joined Asylum Welcome in April last year – just as the pandemic took hold. So many of our clients were facing exceptional difficulties – unprecedented legal, housing and financial worries, unemployment, isolation, domestic violence, and of course Covid-driven health challenges.
 
I’m truly proud of the work that we’ve been able to do; our community really has come together to reduce adversity and suffering. I want to sincerely thank you for the incredible help and support that you, and hundreds like you, have given Asylum Welcome in the last year.
 
Asylum Welcome has risen to the challenge at every turn – we stayed open even during the worst times of national lockdown and we ran a skeleton service for clients who had to see us in person, or we supported them remotely. We maintained vital food deliveries, helped with crucial legal claims, and brought comfort and assistance to clients old and new.
 
When we are able to step in and help clients, we know that it’s truly valued: “Asylum Welcome is like a home to me! It is where I started my journey to rebuild my life in the UK. I decided a long time ago that I needed to help refugees the way that Asylum Welcome helped me.
 
I have witnessed some of the joy and relief that we have been able to provide, and I want to share one exceptional heart-warming story with you.
 
Ruth arrived in the UK from Kenya in 2018 and made a claim for asylum. However, she quickly found herself struggling to afford even basic necessities whilst waiting for the results of her claim. She sought help from Asylum Welcome; we were able to help with access to our hardship fund, to cover those basic needs.
 
We continued supporting Ruth and helped her apply for asylum support. Her claim for asylum was successful, granting her refugee status and ensuring that she could begin an ordinary life away from persecution.
 
With refugee status secured, we referred Ruth to a local legal firm to apply for family reunion visas. This was successful, and, after three very difficult years apart, Ruth will finally be reunited with her children this month.
 
Ruth would like to be a nurse. Our education and employment teams have helped her to apply for jobs and college courses, and we have helped her access public funds that are available for training. We were delighted to hear that she is now employed as a care assistant for people with learning disabilities, enabling her to support herself.
 
This is a real turn-around for Ruth and she looks brighter and happier every time we see her. We are so delighted to see these positive results but we couldn’t achieve such positive outcomes without our supporters’ unswerving backing.
 
"Asylum Welcome has been very supportive of me and is like a family to me. I am very grateful to everyone at Asylum Welcome." Ruth

Ruth’s circumstances have improved so much but we know that there are hundreds of people who are only on the first rung of the ladder in terms of seeing their lives improve. We need your help to see more success stories like Ruth’s in the year ahead. 

It can take years for many of our clients to sort out their legal status, secure housing, take on education or paid work, and begin to see real progress. There are some terrible examples of hardship and adversity where our work is so desperately needed. Yvonne’s case illustrates this:

Yvonne was born in Jamaica and came to the UK as a young girl as part of the Windrush generation. She is now 62 years old. We have been supporting Yvonne for the last 18 months but sadly she is still in great need, after years of hardship.
 
Windrush policies resulted in all of Yvonne’s benefits being taken away, including her right to work and her legal status in the UK. She was at serious risk of being deported.
 
We lost touch with her for a few months last year, despite making increasingly desperate efforts to maintain contact by phone, text and letter, and trying to get food delivered to her.
 
We discovered that Yvonne had been in hospital and our support was reinstated immediately. We were also able to arrange for a district nurse to visit as she needed follow-up care once she was back home.
 
Despite having a legal representative and being vulnerable, Yvonne is still awaiting the outcome of her asylum claim. She lives alone, in arrears, in her rented flat – and her current accommodation is unsuitable given her age and her fragile health.

Yvonne has no legal status, no benefits, she cannot work and she is ill. Hers is a heartbreaking story, one of unfairness and a lack of basic human rights. As with all our clients, Asylum Welcome is determined to help her as much as we can. 
 
When I go into the office and see other clients who are still just at the start of their journey, I know that I must ask you to help us do more.
 
We cannot be complacent. Many people still need support to find permanent accommodation. They have been street homeless during the last year and whilst they’ve been provided with temporary accommodation, we’re looking for longer-term solutions (we’re working with local partner organisations such as Sanctuary Hosting). And we still need to provide weekly hardship payments of £30-£40 for approximately 50 people every single week.
 
With your support today we will help many more people like Ruth and Yvonne.

Right now, as lockdown eases and vaccinations continue at speed, most of our clients remain particularly vulnerable and they will often need longer-term help. So please, can you help keep our services going to the fullest possible extent? Please make a donation today, of £20, or £40, or whatever you can afford.
 
Our ability to support clients who are so vulnerable at present is only possible because of the continued concern, solidarity and support of people like you. I am hugely grateful for your support and I hope that stories like Ruth’s inspire you – as they do me, my colleagues and our wonderful volunteers. Thank you.
 
If you have not already, would you consider making your donation a standing order? This really helps us plan for the future.
 
With kind regards and deep gratitude,
 


PS: We at Asylum Welcome are deeply concerned by the plans to reform the asylum system announced on 24th March. The plan, as laid out by Home Secretary Priti Patel here and which you can read in full here clearly divides refugees into welcome and unwelcome according to how they arrive in the UK, rather than based on the legitimacy of their claim for asylum. These proposals would make it even harder for people like Ruth and Yvonne to claim asylum and to live in safety and with dignity. To find out more about the New Immigration Plan and to keep updated about what you can do, please visit our Borders Bill 2021 page on our website. 

You can also read here a powerful and personal reflection on what the New Plan for Immigration will mean for those seeking sanctuary in U.K. by our Services Director, Almas Farsi, also known as Navid, who fled persecution in Iran: "How can people who are being persecuted and in danger possibly benefit from this firm but not fair policy?"

Thank you.

‘The New Plan for Immigration’: Asylum Seekers Not Welcome Here?

Thursday, April 01, 2021

‘The New Plan for Immigration’: Asylum Seekers Not Welcome Here?

A personal reflection from Asylum Welcome’s Services Director, Almas Farzi (known as ‘Navid’).

About thirty years ago, fearing for my life, I fled Iran. I certainly fitted the UN Refugee Convention description of having a well-founded fear of persecution – so immediate was it, that even though my wife was eight months pregnant we made the difficult and dangerous journey overland across Europe to seek sanctuary in the U.K. On arrival, our claim was assessed and we were granted asylum. Under the Home Secretary’s new plan, we would have arrived “illegally”, have had fewer rights and opportunities, and less security. There would be a presumption that we shouldn’t be here at all.

Having now worked in the immigration and asylum field for more than two decades, I have seen countless others in similar positions to my own, and many in even worse situations. I am therefore deeply saddened and angry about the Home Secretary’s new immigration plans announced on Wednesday 24th March. These plans target asylum rights that should be considered at the heart of human rights and that are a fundamental part of recognising a shared humanity.

It is especially distressing for me as a refugee to see the rhetoric coming from a Home Secretary whose family were themselves migrants. It furthers the impression that to succeed as a person of colour in this country, you must shut the door behind you and deny institutional racism in our system. Would her family have been able to come here under these plans? This dangerous approach puts the lives of refugees at risk, despite her claims of the opposite.

The Home Secretary claims that she is trying to rescue migrants and asylum seekers from people smugglers. She refers to the Kurdish family from Iran whose lives were destroyed while trying to come to the U.K. But should they really have waited with 30,000 other Iranian refugees living in Turkey in terrible conditions, many still being pursued by the Iranian authorities, hoping beyond hope that they would be among the 5,000 refugees a year – out of 26 million globally – to be selected to come to the U.K. under official resettlement programmes?

For years, asylum seekers have wrongly been called “illegal” and have been told that they should stay in the first safe country through which they pass, neither of which are true under the Refugee Convention. What we are not told is that the reason that people’s lives risk being destroyed is because they are left with no realistic option but to make the dangerous journey to Britain, as our government is not allowing safe routes to be created on any meaningful scale.

We are told that the new plans will protect those who flee persecution, oppression and tyranny. But the plans contain no detailed commitments or proposals as to how to actually better protect people. How can people who are being persecuted and are in danger, even outside of the country that they have had to leave, possibly benefit from this firm but not fair policy!?

All of the resettled Syrian families around Oxford that we work with will tell you of their many relatives stuck in camps in desperate situations who are struggling to survive and who have so little chance of ever being resettled. Even when the new resettlement scheme eventually starts, will they really take their remote chances on this?

The Home Secretary indicates that reforming the asylum system is the focus of her plan. In fact, I would argue that the plan is to get rid of the asylum system altogether by creating two definitions of refugee – deserving and undeserving; legal and illegal. This is wholly against the principles of the Refugee Convention and lacks any understanding of why people flee their country and of the suffering and discrimination already built into the asylum system.

As someone who has myself gone through the system and who works closely with people who are affected by it on a daily basis, I know that the new plan fails to address the misery that this system creates for asylum seekers – its wastefulness, inefficiency and perceived bias towards the ideological approach deployed by the government. The system has for many years eaten away at human rights and put enforcement before compassion and humanity. Instead of recognising human rights and bringing much-needed efficiency to the system, the new plans will increase the pressure on and fear of refugees. The new plans prevent them from feeling safe and able to get on with their lives. This is not just a continuation of the hostile environment but an extreme escalation which should bring shame to us all in the U.K.

Government credibility around asylum and migration issues is very much in question. There are legal, inspectorate and public health challenges to the use of former military barracks to accommodate asylum seekers in what are inhumane and dangerous situations. The victims of the Windrush scandal are still seeking justice whilst asylum seekers are not allowed to work and are forced to live in miserable conditions on just £39 pounds per week. The hostile environment created for migrants and refugees by successive governments pervades every aspect of their lives.

The New Plan for Immigration could hit several short-term targets for the government, but, as have many other attempts by successive Home Secretaries of various parties in the past, it will fail to stop a steady flow of people arriving. The countries where so many asylum seekers come from – Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq and others – are so dangerous that people will take risks, and people will have to take risks, to get out and to get here. And which countries will accept the U.K. sending refugees back to them – countries that have far greater numbers of people coming in than ever come to the U.K. – simply because they have passed through those countries on their journeys? The current plan fails to recognise these realities. There are plenty of other things that we do need to do to develop a fair, efficient and accessible immigration and asylum system that treats people with dignity, respect and fairness, rather than criminalising them. We should get on with making these happen.

Human rights organisations, and refugee and charitable organisations, along with many other groups that care about human rights, need to work together with people across the spectrum, and with politicians and the public, to improve these plans. Crucially, we need to do much better than we have so far in terms of expressing our views, mobilising support and offering alternatives. Only then can we create the humane, tolerant and respectful society that we all deserve.

Almas Farzi – Navid
Services Director

Plans for reform of the asylum system

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Plans for reform of the asylum system


We at Asylum Welcome are deeply concerned by the plans to reform the asylum system announced on 24th March by the Home Secretary. We welcome the commitment to change the asylum system and to reduce the huge and increasing delays within it, but are worried that it will do this by reducing the rights and opportunities that people seeking sanctuary need and have a right to.


The overall tone of the Plan, as laid out by Home Secretary Priti Patel yesterday here and which you can read in full here, is one of the UK being flooded by “illegal” refugees, when we actually receive far fewer than most European countries. The implication is that the limitations of our asylum system are their fault rather than ours. That is far from our experience. The Plan very clearly divides refugees into welcome and unwelcome, according to how they arrive in the UK rather than based on the legitimacy of their claim for asylum. We know that such an approach would have risked excluding some of most desperate clients.


The document includes the following key proposals on asylum reform:

  • Repeating the government’s commitment to resettling refugees without outlining any targets on numbers to be resettled.

  • Providing enhanced levels of protection to resettled refugees, including permanent leave to remain and enhanced family reunion rights.

  • Reducing the level of protection for refugees who arrive via irregular routes, by limiting their access to welfare benefits and family reunion rights, and requiring them to be reassessed by the Home Office every 30 months.

  • Replacing current arrangements for accommodation with reception centres in the south of England.

  • Removing the current margin of error policy whereby Immigration Officers decide to treat those claiming to be children as adults make age assessment decisions about people seeking asylum.

  • Changing the way that asylum decisions are made and fast-tracking appeals for certain categories of applicants.

  • Keeping the door open to allow offshore processing in the future.

Asylum Welcome is very supportive of the commitment to continue organised resettlement programmes, though we are disappointed at the lack of detail in terms of scope, numbers and timing. Under these schemes, refugees already in countries such as Lebanon and Jordan are identified by UNHCR as being particularly needy, then selected through the Home Office to come to Britain. They are a valuable part of our system but many people fleeing violence or persecution won’t ever be able to access them and they will only help a small minority of people in need of, and if they get to the U.K., entitled to sanctuary. We are disappointed not to see progress on family reunification or accepting unaccompanied children.

The desire to reduce dangerous cross channel crossings is shared by all, but the increased presumption that anyone who comes to the U.K. other than through official routes is illegitimate is a dangerous and damaging one. Some commentators are suggesting that it is unlawful in that it breaches the UN refugee convention requirement not to judge a claimant’s claim based on how they come to the country.

We will make our views known through the official consultation process and encourage you to do the same. The consultation is short and only lasts for six weeks. The link to the consultation document is here. You can respond on line.

But it won’t be enough to only work through the Home Office official consultation. We will talk to our clients and seek to amplify their voices and will work with other organisations to apply whatever pressure we can. We are already in touch with local MPs and we ask you to express your own views to them and through any other channels you are able. 

We will update our website in coming weeks to share more detailed analysis and case studies and to help and encourage our supporters to make their views known. The recruitment of our new Policy and Advocacy Coordinator could not have been timelier.

To find out more about the New Immigration Plan and to keep updated about what you can do, please visit our Borders Bill 2021 page on our website. 


Mark Goldring

Director


A Letter to the People of the UK: Speaking from the Heart about Napier Barracks

Friday, March 19, 2021

A Letter to the People of the UK: Speaking from the Heart about Napier Barracks

Taken from Hastings Community of Sanctuary, on 16 March 2021, at: https://hastings.cityofsanctuary.org/2021/03/16/a-letter-to-the-people-of-the-uk

On 15th February, HCoS Campaigns Team and Hastings Supports Refugees co-hosted an online event to inform interested participants about the circumstances and conditions surrounding the use of Napier Barracks in Folkstone. Over 60 people attended; you can follow up here, and read our report of that event here (Challenging the Barracks, p6). You can also watch the recording of the event here, using the Passcode ^=E^4Su&

Our three speakers were Clare Moseley the founder of Care4Calais, Jay Kramer of our Campaigns Team, and “Ethan” – a former resident held in Napier Barracks for nearly 6 months, and who was one of the nearly 200 people who contracted Covid in the massive outbreak in the barracks in January.

Ethan has written a powerful letter to the People of the UK. We are honoured to share it here.

Dear People of the UK,

You may know me from the letters which were written on behalf of the Napier barracks residents. I am now outside of the camp and cannot talk on behalf of my other friends. However, I personally would like to say a few important things about what I have seen and learnt during my stay at Napier Barracks and the United Kingdom.

I was moved to Napier Barracks in October 2020. Being in an unhygienic, prison-like place with so many people from different backgrounds and traumatic experiences living with each other, can affect anyone mentally. Moreover, by sharing a block with 28 people each and 2 toilets and showers in total, it is obvious your physical health can also deteriorate from Covid-19 and any other kind of contagious diseases.

400 people had to share their dining room and bedrooms together, which subsequently made half of the population become infected with Covid-19. Apart from the effect on their physical health, vulnerable people who fled war and persecution had to bear the prison-like atmosphere of the camp. Victims of torture, hostility and aggression had no mental support or access to a specialist or someone who at least is trained to deal with vulnerable asylum seekers. One nurse on site was for sure not adequate for all the 400 residents, and asylum seekers were relying on painkillers to calm their dental pains and any other pain.

The lack of information has also been a great cause of frustration. No one knows for how long you are going to be there. And when you will receive an update about your asylum process.

Our complaints have always fallen on deaf ears. Several peaceful protests, one hunger strike and so many suicidal attempts were not important enough to catch the Home Office’s attention. Over time, residents became more and more depressed and distressed. Everyone lost their motivation to socialise with one another.

I was tested positive with more than 170 other residents in January. No one checked on me to ask if I am alright or if I need any medication. Isolation was impossible and people were not able to ask for vitamins or anything that can help them to improve their immune system. I had severe pain in my chest, ribs and head for a week. Having fever, shivering at nights and being fatigued and completely energyless were other symptoms that I experienced.

The fire made the conditions even worse, with two full days and nights without power, heating and hot water. The conditions were so unbearable that everyone was suffering. Sleeping in your cold and dark bedroom for two nights was agony.

Two weeks before the inspection by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration took place, I and many other residents were moved out, including those who spoke English. There are currently fewer than 50 residents still there, who remain in limbo, feeling increasingly hopeless.

It seems that the attitude that asylum seekers are currently experiencing in the UK is due to some politicians’ view of immigrants which are either ignorant or discriminative. They are spreading misinformation across the country to their citizens, students and children. I would like to raise some points about their statements.

Firstly, there is no such a thing as an ‘illegal immigrant’. When your life is in danger, you cannot just go to an embassy or sit behind your laptop and apply for a visa – which is almost impossible to get for non-privileged European citizens – and then simply book a flight ticket and come to the UK. You have no other choice but to leave everything behind and go to another country which can protect you.

However, there are also people who came to the UK to study, to visit their family members or to work and then faced problems in their own country, which made them unable to go back; and then they had to claim asylum, as persecution and punishment, and in many cases, torture, would be an expected consequence for them on their arrival back in their country. Some people also do manage to apply for a visa as they have a different economic status or have enough time to flee. I have seen so many asylum seekers in the camp who came to the UK with a visa and not by boats: we all suffered from the same vile and hostile policies.

Although the UK is one of the European countries which hosts asylum seekers, the numbers are not that remarkable in comparison to other countries in Europe. While Germany and France receive more than 100K asylum applications, Greece and Spain more than 70K, the United Kingdom received 29,456 asylum applications last year (an 18% drop from the previous year). Yet this is being discussed as if this country is having a migration crisis and the asylum system is broken. I think the UK could learn from other European countries which are hosting much larger populations of asylum seekers, about how to handle so many asylum applications; and also, about avoiding significant problems about how the asylum seekers are treated or how their asylum accommodation is. But it is of course cheaper for the government to follow the Australian approach which is condemned by all international bodies as being completely inhumane.

People seeking asylum, like all the members of a community, will contribute to the society that gave them safety, freedom and refuge. Some of them may become a professor at a Scottish university; some of them will study and choose to have a professional, insightful career and choose to contribute to the society and economy. Discriminating against them and making them suffer will subsequently affect the next generation of this country. Words do matter. Asylum seekers are not invaders, criminals, savages or ‘illegals’. They are humans like you, but with a different background. They did not have the privilege to be born in a safe, free and democratic country and when you have it for free, with no effort – just by the place you were born in – it is easy to blame them for the things that they have not been responsible for.

It is truly shocking, that now in 2021, in a country like the UK that the government is promoting the xenophobic and racist side of its country which is surely not the majority of the people’s way of thinking: a country, in which 50% of its capital’s population is not originally British. Just imagine how this kind of attitude from the Home Office, the propaganda of Nigel Farage and Britain First can affect the people who are originally immigrant, and how their safety and rights will be preserved, after such spreading of hatred and bias.

By making these points, I want to urge everyone to be sensitive about what has been happening to the asylum seekers now. It is not just about the people seeking asylum, it is about how the politicians think about immigrants. When it comes to disrespecting a human’s dignity and decency, everyone must know that there is no end to it, and that others can be next. Because this view of immigrants is not about seeing you as a human. It is about the passport you hold, the language you speak, the religion you practise and your hair and skin colour. It is about being in a hierarchy, and if you are not already, you are going to be the next victim sooner or later.

I hear politicians repeatedly saying that the United Kingdom has a proud history of protecting the vulnerable people, but the question is; will the United Kingdom have a proud future of protecting those who are in need? Will the students and children of this country be proud or ashamed by what has been happening now?

“Ethan”

Policy and Advocacy Coordinator vacancy at Asylum Welcome

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Policy and Advocacy Coordinator

Do you want to make Britain and Oxfordshire more welcoming for refugees and migrants? Help Asylum Welcome work with others to change law, policy and practice.

Working with our clients, staff, volunteers and partners, making refugees voices and experience heard to improve legislation, policy and practice, if you’ve experience in policy, advocacy or campaigns, you could have a real impact on refugees lives.

The postholder will lead the efforts of our small, Oxford based, volunteer powered charity, working with others internally and externally to improve policy and practice, locally and nationally.

Role status and duration: Permanent role, part time, (2- 2 ½ days a week, to be mutually agreed)

Salary:  £29,350-£31,350 pro rata, according to seniority and experience.

Closing date: 02 April 2021

To read the Policy and Advocacy Coordinator job description and to apply click here.

FIRST DOSE Covid-19 Vaccinations for the Homeless Population of Oxford City Centre

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

FIRST DOSE Covid-19 Vaccinations for the Homeless Population of Oxford City Centre

A drop-in clinic giving FIRST DOSE Covid-19 vaccinations will be taking place on the following date/time:

Date: Tuesday 16 March 2021

Location: 1 Floyd Row, Oxford, OX1 1SS

Drop-in Time: 1.30 – 3.30 pm

A queuing system will be in place for the drop-in clinic so please be aware you may have to wait for your vaccination.

Please ensure that you wear a mask.

Please maintain social distancing whilst waiting to enter Floyd Row.

For further information, please contact Luther Street Medical Centre: 01865 901571 or speak to us via the intercom.



Census day is March 21st!

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Census day is March 21st!

Translation support is available for the following languages: Arabic, Portuguese, Urdu, Farsi, Pushtu, Albanian, Polish and many others: https://census.gov.uk/help/languages-and-accessibility/languages


If you can’t find your language, or need more help, please call our free language helpline on 0800 587 2021.

Lisa Stead and Sinead Leach are census engagement managers for Oxfordshire. They would really appreciate your support by sharing census messages and encouraging your networks and communities to get involved. 

The census benefits everyone. Without census data it would be more difficult to understand the needs of your community and for the government to allocate funding and provide services such as schools, housing, bike lanes, apprenticeships etc.   

Here's how you can get involved to ensure your community counts:

If you are a primary or secondary school you can still sign up for the census schools programme with lots of curriculum based lesson plans, resources and competitions. You could also encourage parents to complete the census and perhaps provide support to those who need it most: https://census.gov.uk/media-and-campaigns/census-education-resources-programmes

If you are a language school you could help students to improve their English by teaching key census terminology and helping them to navigate the census in your lesson. 

There is census guidance in 49 languages and a free language helpline on 0800 587 2021: https://census.gov.uk/help/languages-and-accessibility/languages

If you are a housing association, charity, community group or any other type of organisation, you can support your residents and communities by sharing census communication material in newsletters and mailings and on social media.You could put up posters, give out leaflets or invite Sinead and Lisa to give a presentation or provide training on, 'How to help others complete the census'. They can also provide a census completion event to help individuals and groups complete their census

A variety of communication materials and resources are ready to download at: https://census.gov.uk/downloadable-resources/

Guidance on how to help others complete the census can be found here:https://census.gov.uk/help/getting-started/helping-someone-who-has-asked-for-help

Please get in contact if you need support, further information or resources:

Thank you so much for your support!

Lisa and Sinead

https://census.gov.uk/

Vaccines For All campaign to mark the anniversary of the pandemic

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Vaccines for All - Campaign Briefing

This briefing document sets out the background for the campaign calling on the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to take action to ensure access to the Covid-19 vaccine for everyone in the UK, regardless of immigration status, proof of address or ID.

The campaign calls on the DHSC to:

  1. Guarantee a firewall that prevents any patient information gathered by the NHS or Test and Trace being used for the purposes of immigration enforcement.
  2. End all Hostile Environment measures in the NHS, including charging for migrants, to combat the fear and mistrust these policies have created.
  3. Provide specific support to all GP surgeries to register everyone, including undocumented and underdocumented migrants and those without secure accommodation, and ensure that all other routes to vaccination are accessible to everyone.
  4. Fund a public information campaign to ensure that communities impacted by the Hostile Environment are aware of their right to access the vaccine and the steps taken above.

Introduction

Over 340 organisations have signed the call to the DHSC, including Oxford, Haringey and Bristol Councils, health institutions such as the Royal College of Midwives and the Faculty of Public Health, migrant and homelessness charities, GP surgeries and primary care networks, and trade unions including the Trades Union Congress. You can view the full list of signatories at www.VaccineForAll.co.uk

The call responds to the Government announcement on Monday 8th February that the coronavirus vaccine will be available free of charge to all adults in the UK regardless of immigration status, and that immigration status will not be checked when registering for the vaccine. In this document, we evidence why the current policy does not go far enough to guarantee that everybody living in the UK will be able to access the vaccine.

Background

The current policy - as laid out in the NHS Entitlements Guide - is that access to coronavirus testing and treatment (including the vaccine) is free for everyone, regardless of immigration status. NHS providers have been instructed not to check patients’ eligibility for free NHS care or share patient data with the Home Office when someone is undergoing treatment for coronavirus. The Government has also advised that access to GP services remains available and free to everyone regardless of immigration status, and that lack of proof of address or ID should not prevent someone from registering with the GP.

Nonetheless, many people are still likely to be excluded from accessing the vaccine. This includes those without immigration status (undocumented migrants), those with precarious immigration status, migrants housed by authorities, people experiencing homelessness, people not registered with a GP, and people who do not have ID or proof of address.

The policies designed to ensure testing and treatment for coronavirus is available to everyone do not mitigate the wider deterrent of wider Hostile Environment immigration policies in the NHS, including charging, data sharing, and ID checks. Nor will they go far enough to challenge practices promoted by these policies that lead to migrant and BME patients regularly being challenged about their entitlement to care, or facing delays and outright denial of access, often in contravention of national policies.

Evidence

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have raised concerns about existing health inequalities are likely to exacerbate poor access to the vaccine for certain groups, including undocumented migrants, and that “to reduce health inequalities, targeted action focussed on some population groups is required.” Public Health England’s report “Beyond the Data” has also highlighted the negative impact of the Hostile Environment on BME communities. They note that the policies deter and delay migrants and BME communities from seeking care, and create mistrust between these communities and the NHS.

In a recent survey of migrants’ experiences trying to access the NHS, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) found that 43% of migrants were fearful of seeking healthcare for fear of having their status tested, or being charged. Of those with refugee status, 56% were wary of accessing healthcare because of fears about data-sharing between the NHS and Home Office, rising to 81% for those with no official status.

Research from Medact, Migrants Organise, and the New Economics Foundation that found 57% of migrant support organisations surveyed reported that migrants have avoided seeking healthcare, both before and during the pandemic, because of fears of being charged for NHS care, data sharing and other migration enforcement concerns. This was the case even when they had been told by trusted support workers that treatment and testing for coronavirus was exempt. These findings are supported by research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission that shows fear of data sharing prevented asylum seekers and refugees accessing care despite being exempt from charging, and are denied care.

Doctors of the World research has also shown that, even when supported by an NGO, around 1 in 5 migrants are wrongly refused GP registration, highlighting the frequent deviation of GP registration policies from NHS England guidelines and GP contract obligations. In 2019, Haringey Welcome also conducted local research which found that approximately two-thirds of the GP practices surveyed in Haringey refused to register a patient who either had no UK residency status, no formal ID or no recognised proof of address. Only one practice agreed to register such patients with no prior conditions.

Why Are We Making This Call?

In light of the evidence above, it is vital that the Government act now to address the fear, deterrence, and exclusion created by Hostile Environment immigration policies in the NHS, even for primary care services that are not included in these policies, and despite exemptions for coronavirus. The call to the DHSC sets out clear recommendations to tackle these problems and promote access to the vaccine for everyone, regardless of immigration status.

Ending NHS charging and data-sharing is the first step to ensuring people can access the NHS safely and without fear, accompanied by a public information campaign that aims to directly address the fear and mistrust created by these policies and begin to restore confidence in the NHS for the communities that have been excluded from care.

GP registration remains the primary route to access the vaccine for most people. The Government must support GP surgeries to register patients and ensure that people are not being denied registration in contravention of national guidance. Simultaneously, the Government must also provide resources, support and guidance for all organisations involved in the vaccine rollout to ensure that undocumented migrants and other excluded groups are not prevented from accessing the vaccine through exclusionary policy and/or practices (such as asking people to bring ID when it is not needed). This must include non-GP vaccine delivery sites and centres that allow people to self-register for the vaccine when these centres become operational.

For this to be effective, the Government must take the lead from and work with local and community organisations delivering the vaccine, including the Public Health Teams and community leaders already involved in vital vaccine outreach and hesitancy work. This is why we are encouraging local organisations across the country to sign on to the call, particularly those involved in the vaccine roll out.

We invite you to join the campaign and sign the call to the DHSC. You can see the full list of signatories at www.VaccineForAll.co.uk. For more information and to sign, please contact Aliya Yule (aliya@migrantsorganise.org) and James Skinner (jamesskinner@medact.org).

Migrants' Rights to Healthcare and access to Covid vaccinations: do you know your rights?

Thursday, March 04, 2021
Migrants' Rights to Healthcare: do you know your rights?

This page contains some useful resources on how to help undocumented migrants access Covid vaccinations. These resources can greatly assist with encouraging undocumented or migrants who are as yet unregistered with GPs to access the Covid vaccine,namely:


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