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Food collection for Care4Calais.

Busy month for local refugee support groups

October is a month of action on various fronts for local refugee support groups, including a food collection this coming weekend, a poster campaign around town and the delivery of a petition urging the government to lift the ban on asylum seekers working – all this against the background of the Home Secretary’s announcement that she plans to reform the “broken” asylum system. Nick Terdre reports.

Hastings Supports Refugees is holding its annual food aid collection this coming Saturday, 10 October. Between 11am and 3pm they will be collecting food items outside Debenhams in the town centre for Care4Calais and Hastings Food Bank.

A list of suitable items can be seen on their Facebook page. Due to difficulties in getting the aid to France, they have restricted the goods for Care4Calais, which include some clothing items as well as foodstuffs.

As part of a Weekend of Celebration The Refugee Buddy Project is organising ‘banner drops’ on the beaches of Hastings, St Leonards and Bexhill. The main slogan is Hastings Welcomes Refugees, supported by other slogans such as Seeking Refuge is a Human Right, and Safe and Legal Routes NOW!

From the poster campaign.

During the month Hastings Supports Refugees and Hastings Community of Sanctuary are jointly running a poster campaign – Conversations from Calais – to “raise awareness and change the negative narrative around refugees with […] testimonies of the shared humanity of the people seeking refuge from war and persecution.” Thought-provoking and heart-breaking posters will be on view all over Hastings and St Leonards, they say.

Lift the Ban petition

Following a massive effort across the country a petition calling for an end to the ban on asylum seekers working is due to be handed in to Parliament on Wednesday 21 October. Among more than 157,000 signatures are, at the latest count, 758 collected locally.

Hastings Community of Sanctuary is one of 240 adherents to the coalition of groups backing the Lift the Ban campaign. The coalition has a diverse membership which includes the Adam Smith Institute, the CBI, Ben & Jerry’s and the Church of England, as well as faith groups, NGOs and grassroots organisations across the UK.

Asylum seekers, many of whom arrive with skills and qualifications under their belt, are obliged to remain idle while their application is processed.

“There is very strong cross-party backing to change the rule on this aspect of asylum policy, clear evidence of this coming from the East Sussex County Council motion passed unanimously last year in support of the right to work of those who are in the asylum system – often awaiting their decision for years and currently unable to work in that time, forced to survive instead on £5.66 per day,” Felicity Laurence of the Hastings Community of Sanctuary Campaigns Team told HOT.

Among refugees housed in Hastings are health workers desperate to help in the current Covid-19 crisis, she said.

“This month we are discussing this issue with our MP Sally-Ann Hart, and continuing our active work within the coalition to get the rule changed.

“The Home Secretary has announced a review of the asylum system, with the stated aims of making this fairer and of adopting all of the recommendations from the Windrush review to change fundamentally the structure of the asylum process, and to dismantle the ‘hostile environment’. We are arguing a strong case for including right to work as part of this review.”

The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has the power to authorise the change.

Immigration detention

The two groups are also part of a national campaign to bring in a 28-day limit to immigration detention, for which a change in the law is required. In summer an amendment to the EU withdrawal bill tabled by David Davis was defeated, but the issue is up for debate in the Lords this month and may re-appear when the bill returns to the Commons.

The October issue of the national Community of Sanctuary newsletter features an online interview on the matter with Safwa Chowduhry, a member of the Hastings Campaigns team, who has also started a campaign on Instagram.

And an interview with a young man who, though having committed no crime, was locked up indefinitely while his asylum application was processed, can be seen on the Hastings Community of Sanctuary website.

 

The Lift the Ban petition can be signed here or here; more information here.

Posted 21:58 Wednesday, Oct 7, 2020 In: Politics

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