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Campaigning

Campaigns we’re supporting (and you can too)

‘No study’ conditions and immigration bail

In January 2018, the UK government made significant changes to the law regarding immigration bail and detention. ‘Immigration bail’ replaced several old kinds of status, including ‘temporary admission’, a type of leave given to asylum seekers in the UK.

The changes mean that many children and young people may not be allowed to study while in the UK without leave to remain or enter. The restrictions on what asylum seekers could do were previously limited to not working, living at a specified address, or reporting to the police or Home Office.

If you currently have an asylum claim being processed you can find some valuable advice about Immigration Bail and education on the Coram Children’s Legal Centre website.

June 2018 update – We are pleased to say the Government has revised its guidance on when to apply study conditions.  The guidance now makes clearer that a ‘no study condition’ should not be imposed on asylum seekers with claims/appeals outstanding, and care leavers who are still receiving support from the local authority. However, no study conditions will still apply to undocumented young people.

Working with partner organisation to safeguard asylum seekers and refugees

Bristol Refugee Rights would like to commend the work of the Safer Bristol Partnership who, on 18th December 2017, published their report in to the tragic murder of Iranian refugee Bijan Ebrahimi.

The report found “evidence of both discriminatory behaviour and institutional racism on the
part of Bristol City Council and Avon and Somerset Constabulary”. It is therefore now essential that all Bristol’s agencies continue to work together to safeguard the vulnerable.  People who are refugees or seeking asylum are particularly vulnerable; because of their backgrounds, and because of the dangerous scapegoating of migrants in the media.

Bijan was not a BRR member. However, we regularly see cases where people are isolated and do not feel safe.

Another tragic case is that of Kamil Ahmed who was murdered by Jeffery Barry in July 2016. Jeffrey Barry is now serving a life sentence for Kamil’s murder and has been told that he will spend a minimum of 23 years in prison. There are striking similarities between the two cases, like Bijan, Kamil was disabled and fleeing persecution; like Bijan he was falsely accused of indecent sexual acts; and like Bijan, Kamil asked for help with his ongoing harassment. BRR are currently working with several organisations including the Bristol’s Adult Safeguarding Board (BASB) to learn lessons from this tragic murder.

The BBC noted that :

Jeffrey Barry stabbed neighbour Kamil Ahmad at their supported flats in Bristol in July 2016, hours after his release from a secure mental hospital. Barry was detained after hearing voices and threatening to murder Mr Ahmad. The report said the decision to release him had “tragic consequences”.

In June 2018 Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board (BSAB) published a Significant Incident Learning Process (SILP) review of the circumstances surrounding Kamil Ahmed’s death. It states that:

[Jeffery Barry] held racist opinions, and his attitude towards Kamil was not the result of the deterioration in his mental health; in short, he was a person with racist views who was mentally ill, rather than mentally ill person whose racism was a manifestation of their illness. These views crystallised into a personal hatred of Kamil that was based on his race and legal status.

The review also notes that the murder was avoidable and that mistakes were made when Jeffrey Barry was released:

Information sharing between AWP and Cygnet Health Care failed due to the absence of key personnel due to annual leave. The systems should have been robust enough to have contingency plans for when a key professional is absent from work.

Read a statement about Kamil Ahmed’s murder by BRR Director Beth Wilson.

Read the BRR response to Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board SILP review.

Also see the BRR Policies and Procedures for details about our Adult Safeguarding policy.

Patients Not Passports/Docs Not Cops

The UK government recently introduced new rules to counter “health tourism”. Medical staff are now require to establish whether patients are eligible for state-funded healthcare before providing treatment. BRR have been spreading the message about these changes and the effects that they are having on people seeking asylum. Some individual cases, such as that of Albert Thomson, are getting a lot of media attention.

If you would like to find out more about the NHS charges there are lots of good resources on the Docs not Cops campaign website.

Since January 2017 there has been a ‘memorandum of understanding’ in place which allows the NHS to pass the Home Office the addresses of immigrants accessing their services . However, The Chair of the Health Committee called for this data sharing to be stopped. One concrete action that you can do is to sign the petition on data sharing.

BRR contributed to Department of Health review looking at the impact of the charges on vulnerable groups. You can read Doctors of the World’s thorough contribution to this review here.

Alice Cutler, manager of our Welcome Centre, attended meetings with various local groups including: the Bristol Care Workers Network, Protect our NHS Bristol and Defend the Asylum Seekers Campaign. From these meetings it seems that the implementation of the regulations has so far been patchy. However, when they have been implemented they have certainly had a terrible impact on individuals. One example involves a disabled BRR member who had her knee operation cancelled for the second time just as the Home Office refused her asylum case.

Health professionals who are considering not complying with the regulations can draw strength from several sources; there are various ongoing reviews, legal challenges and people refusing to implement these charges. There are good reasons not to impose the charges. They not only pose a risk to people’s lives and are dangerous to public health, they also encourage racial profiling and discrimination.

We hope to be involved in more campaigning activities and are hosting a workshop from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants about the implementation of health charges.

City of Sanctuary Bristol campaign – Dignity not destitution

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of themselves and their families, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.”

(Article 25 Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Bristol City of Sanctuary has issued a call for equality, dignity and an adequate standard of living for all.  We support them; everyone in Bristol, including people who are seeking sanctuary, should have:

  • Appropriate shelter;
  • Access to education and skills training;
  • The right to earn a living through their own labour.

You can find out more about the Bristol City of Sanctuary campaign and pledge your support here.

Unfortunately most people seeking asylum do not have the right to work and those who have had their cases turned down by the Home Office face destitution.

While the Home Office considers a person’s asylum claim they are entitled to ‘asylum support’. However, this can be difficult to claim. We aim to help people in this situation with our Asylum Support Project. Also, ‘Slipping Through the Cracks‘,  a report by Refugee Action, highlights the delays faced by people accessing asylum support.

Refugee Action “Stand Up for Asylum” campaign

Refugee Action has launched a new campaign, Stand Up For Asylum, to reform the current asylum system, which too often fails those it is meant to protect.

To mark the launch of the campaign, Refugee Action has published a vision for what a fair and effective asylum system would look like. It is a vision of a society that provides all those seeking sanctuary with compassion, a fair decision, essential support and help to rebuild their lives.

Bristol Refugee Rights are supporting this campaign.  Add your voice to the campaign here.

Refugee Action have also worked with Huffington Post to publish a series of blogs by people (AnaSardashtRose) who have been through the system.  They will also be promoting a new video that highlights the true meaning of asylum – safety, security, shelter.

In May 2018 Refugee Action released new research that concluded Home Office failings –  including long delays and poor decision-making –  are having a devastating effect on people seeking safety in Britain. Their report, Waiting in the Dark, reveals an asylum system that is too often damaging, dehumanising and disempowering those who rely on it to make life-changing decisions.

Other issues that concern us

We campaign alongside other partner organisations for a fair and just asylum system; the government should not detained asylum seekers without due process and that they should get adequate support to avoid destitution.

Brexit and the rise in Hate Crime

In 2016 the UK voted to leave the EU. Since then there has been a steep rise in reported racist hate crime and the leave campaign has been widely criticised for overstating the negative impact of immigration and scapegoating migrants. These events have left many foreign nationals, including our members, feeling insecure.

While the majority of Bristol residents voted to remain, we urge refugee and migrant supporters to be vigilant. If you experience or witness a hate crime you should immediately report it to 0800 171 2272.

Destitution

A quarter of the members who come to our Welcome Centre are destitute. Bristol is a City of Sanctuary and because of this the Mayor signed a number of pledges at a conference last year. The Council needs to implement these pledges to support people with no means of supporting themselves.  Measures in the Immigration Act will increase destitution, particularly among families, so our Council needs to be prepared for this.