We campaign to improve the situation of asylum-seekers and refugees across the UK, engaging with elected officials at all levels. We regularly correspond with our local MP, Julian Smith, about refugee and asylum-seeker issues, and met with him in July 2017 to discuss our work and highlight our concerns. Over the last couple of years, our MP and his staff have attended Sanctuary in Parliament days at Westminster.
We also network with other organisations including regional City of Sanctuary groups and Asylum Matters.
Our primary concerns
We are concerned about upholding the rights and welfare of refugees and asylum-seekers, and are asking the government to develop a comprehensive national integration policy for refugees, with a dedicated minister. We campaign on number of discrete policies which we believe adversely affect refugees and asylum-seekers and run counter to the UK’s tradition of welcome. Specifically, we would like the government to:
- Extend the 28-day ‘moving-on’ period to 56 days. Currently, the government only gives people 28 days to find new accommodation after they are granted leave to remain in the UK. This is too short to navigate our complex welfare bureaucracy, get key identity documents (such as National Insurance numbers), and secure new lodging. Sadly, many newly recognised refugees fall into destitution as a result.
- Allow for an expanded definition of family reunification to permit unaccompanied child refugees in the UK to be reunited with their parents and close family members. Currently, family reunification is very limited, which keeps families apart – causing psychological harm and hampering refugee integration.
- End indefinite detention for asylum-seekers. The UK Border Agency administers 9 detention centres across the UK, where rejected asylum-seekers, including stateless people, can be held indefinitely. The UK is the only country in Europe where they can be detained for years.
- Allow asylum-seekers to work (once they have been waiting for longer than 6 months for a decision on their asylum claim), offering them the dignity of contributing to our society and the ability to live on more than £36.95 per week. Some asylum-seekers wait more than 12 or even 15 years for a decision. Ripon City of Sanctuary has signed up to the Lift the Ban coalition, made up of refugee organisations, faith groups, trade unions, businesses and individuals from across the country.
- Provide extra support for new refugees, such as English lessons, to assist them in integrating into British society.
Underlining the positives
At the same time, we want to underscore – especially from our own direct experience – the many positives of having refugees in the community here in Ripon, and how many people in Ripon share our concerns about the welfare of refugees and asylum-seekers in the UK.