Sanctuary in Parliament III “Standing up for the Right to Asylum”.

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Sanctuary in Parliament III “Standing up for the Right to Asylum”.

Date: 29 Nov 2016
Time: 11:30 – 15:00
Venue: Committee Room 14 Westminster, London SW1A 0AA

the-sanctuary

Bookings are now open for the third Sanctuary in Parliament event which will be in Committee Room 14, Westminster on Tuesday 29th November from 12 to 15.30.  Arrival from 11.30. Our theme is Standing up for the Right to Asylum and an expansion of Safe and Legal Routes to the UK.  Committee Room 13 will also be available for constituents to meet with their MPs between 12.30 and 14.30.

We are relying  on supporters across our network and partners to write to their MP and urge them to attend.  We have made available a sample template letter  to invite your MP  to help you with this and we encourage you to adapt it to suit. This is an opportunity to engage with your MP even if you cannot attend and then you will be able to also follow this up with them afterwards.  We also encourage invitations to peers from the House of Lords. Find your MP here.

To book your place please email SIP3booking@gmail.com with your name and your organisation and constituency. Please let us know if you are a refugee and/or if you need help with your transport and we will send you a travel expenses form. Travel expenses are not guaranteed for everyone and will depend on meeting the criteria as stated in the travel expenses application form. We will accept bookings from across the UK and our partners in and beyond the sanctuary alliance, but we will try to manage these to ensure a fair distribution of places both geographically and from across the sector. Please book early to avoid disappointment as places are limited. Contact us through SIP3booking@gmail.com if you require further information.

Please promote this event and the need for everyone to invite their MPs via your networks and social media. The hashtag is #SanctuaryinParliament

Cllr | Local Government and the refugee crisis – frontline and last resort

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Local Government and the refugee crisis – frontline and last resort

Is the burden of settling refugees falling disproportionately on some councils? Patrick Kelly investigates why some authorities have still not signed up to the scheme to resettle people fleeing Syria.

Rose Bazzie is a nurse in a Sheffield hospital, runs a women’s choir in the city and is a mother of 3 children.

But 12 years ago, she was a refugee from war-torn Liberia. She arrived in Sheffield as one of the first people to be resettled through the Government-sponsored Gateway Protection Programme.

“I remember the day we arrived – I was shocked at how cold it was.” She says. ”I was only wearing slippers and a dress! I knew nothing, nothing at all about the UK. The Refugee Council showed us cookers and washers, and we had to get used to all this electrical stuff.”

In the year ending June 2016, 36,465 asylum applications were accepted in the UK. Rose’s story reminds us that behind that number lies an individual who has not only fled war and persecution, but having reached safety here, has to learn to adapt to their new home, to find shelter, education, work and support. Providing all those things is the task of Britain’s local authorities.

That job has not been made easier by the Syrian civil war, which has sparked the greatest global refugee crisis since the Second World War. Last year, David Cameron promised that the UK would respond by taking in 20,000 Syrian refugees from camps in the Middle East by 2020.

Sheffield, the UK’s first City of Sanctuary, has agreed to help 75 of those refugees each year for the next 3 years. That’s in addition to the 1,162 refugees that it has aided since 2004 through the Gateway Programme. This involves co-ordinating the efforts of public agencies – including the police, health authorities and housing associations – as well as many volunteer agencies, from the national Refugee Council to local church groups. Together, they ensure that the refugee resettlement of people like Rosie is carried out as smoothly as possible.

It’s no easy task, but Cllr Jayne Dunn, Cabinet Member for Housing at Sheffield City Council, is proud of her city’s record in resettling. “Sheffield is a welcoming and inclusive city. It’s important that we do our bit to respond to the refugee crisis, and help people fleeing war and persecution.”

But not every local authority is so keen on signing up to the Syrian scheme, which is voluntary and gives councils £8,500 for each refugee in the first year they arrive, falling to £1,000 in the fifth year. Councils also receive an additional £4,500 for each child aged 5 to 18 years and £2,250 for those aged 3 to 4 years, to cover the cost of education.

Less than two-thirds of councils have signed up, admits Cllr David Simmonds, who leads for the Local Government Association, which co-ordinating the scheme.

Some councils, like Haringey, say the pay-outs will only cover 70 to 80% of their costs. Cllr Claire Kober, Leader of LB of Haringey, said the council would like to rehouse more than 50 refugee families but “the Government’s reticence to put in place the support, not just in terms of housing costs, but in terms of the wrap-around support the vulnerable [people], particularly women and children, require is really causing a stick.”

But costs aren’t the only issue. Council housing waiting lists are already vastly over-subscribed, so local authorities look to housing associations or the private rented sector to find refugees somewhere to live.

Cllr Claire Kober said, “We have 3,000 families in this borough in temporary accommodation. Housing in London is in crisis and what we can’t do is look at this in isolation.”

Other councils, like Medway, say that helping refugees will have too much impact on already stretched local services. Leader, Cllr Alan Jarrett, told his local paper “Our priorities have to be with the people in Medway. It is unacceptable that children may have to be moved out, or residents should suffer.”

Local authorities in Cumbria have said that their priority is with victims of floods, while Manchester’s local authorities say that they already house 1 in 4 asylum seekers, and are demanding a change in the Government’s dispersal policy before they will join the Syrian resettlement scheme. In July, MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee criticized those councils, particularly wealthier ones, for opting out.

In September, the National Audit Office expressed concerns that although early targets have been met, more refugees will have to be resettled each quarter from now on if the 20,000 figure is to be reached. It added that 4,930 houses or flats and 10,664 childcare and school places will be needed. “The future of the programme could be put at risk by local authorities’ lack of suitable accommodation and school places.”

But David Simmonds says that it has been a relative success story. So far, more than 2,800 people have been resettled “without a great deal of difficulty” and 20,000 offers, meeting the Government target, “are now on the table.”

He says the biggest challenge for local authorities is the patchwork of other refugee resettlement schemes, many of which were contracted out to private companies purely on the basis of price. The contracts, which account for the vast majority of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, mean that companies are going for places where housing is cheap and readily available, adding to the already stretched services in areas of disadvantage. “Local authorities have no say in where people go, but they still have obligations in education and social care,” says Simmonds.

In addition, there are pressures created by schemes for unaccompanied refugee children and other EU agreements under freedom of movement regulations.

The LGA estimates more than £100m a year is spent by councils in looking after refugees, money that is not backed by any central Government funding. “Of course, no-one is saying that councils should not be helping, but that help needs to be backed by funding,” adds Simmonds, who points out this would assist in cementing public support for resettling refugees.

He sympathises with authorities which face significant housing shortages, and suggested that areas which are facing depopulation are in a better position to accommodate refugees.

David Hill, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services [ADCS], says that outside of major cities, it does get harder for infrastructure to cope. There are fewer translators, and local schools are unused to dealing with traumatised children from conflict zones but “if we’re going to make this work, everyone has to make it work together,” he says.

Some councils are calling for more drastic action.

Coventry City Council, which has taken in more than 100 Syrian refugees, is writing to MP Theresa May, demanding that the Government enforces a minimum quota on all local authorities.

Coventry’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Abdul Khan, say, “We are very happy to support the programme because we believe these Syrian refugees are facing real danger and have been recognised by the UNCHR. It is part of our common humanity.”

He says that’s it not a question of money or resources. There is little justification for other local authorities not sharing the responsibility. “It’s not a question of having the right infrastructure, it’s a question of providing a place of safety,” he says. “Our argument is basically about fairness.”

Across the political divide, Tory-run Kent County Council also wants a compulsory system, The council, which sees itself in the frontline of the refugee crisis, because of its proximity to France, says it faces “enormous pressures” on services, foster placements, accommodation and finances.

“We believe that any national dispersal scheme should be mandatory,” says Cabinet Member for Childrens’ Services, Cllr Peter Oakford. “We urgently need to share the numbers fairly across all local authorities.”

Finally, the NAO in its report suggests that councils were worried that the Syrian Resettlement Programme is dealing with the most vulnerable group of refugees, and many of them may need substantial support beyond the 5 years of the programme. “Support for these needs is not covered by existing programme funding,” says the NAO.

Patrick Kelly is a freelance journalist

City of Sanctuary | Statistics, Facts and Figures

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Key Facts from the Home Office last updated 3rd March 2016.

Asylum applications from main applicants increased by 29% to 32,414 in 2015, the highest number of applications since 2004 (33,960). Including dependants, the number of asylum applications increased by 20% from 32,344 in 2014 to 38,878 in 2015, and there were around 1 dependant for every 5 main applicants.

The largest number of applications for asylum came from nationals of Eritrea (3,729), followed by Iran (3,248), Sudan (2,918) and Syria (2,609).

Estimated figures show the UK had the ninth highest number (39,000) of asylum applications within the EU in 2015, including dependants. Germany (431,000), Sweden (163,000) and Hungary (163,000) were the 3 EU countries that received the highest number of asylum applications, together accounting for 62% of asylum application in the EU.

Grant rates vary between nationalities; for example, at initial decision, the grant rate for Syrian nationals was 85%, compared with 21% for Pakistani nationals. The overall grant rate at initial decision for all nationalities was 39% in 2015.

UK Asylum Statistics for Quarter 1 (January, February, March) 2016

Applications:
In Q1, there were 8,228 asylum applications, compared with 10,100 in Q4

Decisions:
There were 6,644 initial decisions in Q1, of which 30% were grants of asylum (1,963) and 1% were grants of HP/DL (52). This compares with 6,901 initial decisions in Q4, of which 35% were grants of asylum (2,381) and 1% were grants of HP/DL (78).

Pending cases
There were 19,128 cases pending initial decision at the end of Q1 (of which 5,059 were over 6 months old). This compares with 18,111 cases pending initial decision at the end of Q4 (of which 3,626 were over 6 months old).

Appeals
In Q1, 2,960 appeals were received and 1,974 were determined, 43% were allowed (840).

In Q4, 3,252 appeals were received and 2,031 were determined, 43% were allowed (874).

Asylum Support
At the end of Q1, 35,683 asylum seekers were supported (2,748 subsistence only, 32,935 dispersed acc), compared with 34,363 who were supported (2,931 subsistence only,31,432 dispersed acc) in Q4.
At the end of Q1, 2,366 were receiving S4 support, compared with 2,525 at the end of Q4

sculpture

Please also remember the person behind the figures.

Sculpture by Frances Bruno Catalano, which symbolizes the vacuum created by being forced to leave your land, your life, your people… for any reason.

 Other sources of statistical information:

You can also check the website of the UNHCR and the Refugee Council where the very latest figures can usually be found.  Also Home Office Migration Transparency Data where you can find updated asylum transparency data which includes data on:

  • older live cases unit
  • the appeal representation rate
  • decision quality
  • breakdown of adult asylum intake and 6 month decisions by gender
  • breakdown of adult 30 day decisions by gender
  • asylum work in progress
  • breakdown of costs and productivity
  • breakdown of cases concluded and removed
  • the number of azure cards in use
  • asylum support (section 4 and section 95)
  • travel documents