More than 30 sleep-outs in support of destitute asylum seekers are being organised around the country beginning this week and continuing into March by Amnesty UK, Student Action for Refugees and Still Human Still Here.
The aim is to raise awareness and show solidarity with the thousands of asylum seekers all over the UK who are made destitute when their refugee statuses are refused. With no support or money they often become homeless; this action is part of ‘Still Human Still Here‘, an ongoing campaign to end the destitution of asylum seekers.
Those taking part in the Cardiff and York sleep-outs on 25 February (details of the York event coming soon) will be signing Keep Your Promise postcards and sending them to Cameron and Clegg as a reminder of the coalition’s promise not to put any more children in immigration detention.
This year York Refugee Week focussed on the campaign to end child detention and the plight of children forced to leave their homes and to seek sanctuary in other countries.
Events included a picnic, photography exhibitions, an exhibition opened by Margaret Sentamu (wife of the Archbishop of York) at York Minster, a film night. BBC Radio York covered the week’s events in a series of radio interviews, and a spectacular cultural festival with the participation of local families from York’s Kurdish community rounded off a memorable week.
Here are some photos from the various events that took place during the week. Particular thanks are due to Luli and Flora and all the young dancers from Shpresa for their amazing performances and workshops, and to the student volunteers from the Centre for Applied Human Rights and York St John University.
The largest specialist provider of advice and representation to asylum seekers and migrants in need of protection in the UK faces closure due to a government imposed cash-flow crisis.
End Child Detention Now is shocked and saddened to learn that Refugee and Migrant Justice, despite an impressive public campaign, is to go into administration because of changes to legal aid procedures which mean that publicly funded lawyers in immigration cases are only paid when the case is closed. This can often take years, and without the possibility of interest free loans (which the Legal Services Commission has refused), a lifeline for thousands of refugees and asylum seekers will almost certainly be lost unless the administrators can come up with a rescue package.
Read Jon Robins’ insightful article on the crisis in asylum legal support – Denying child asylum seekers a legal lifeline from the Guardian Comment is Free site.
One of the early, dedicated supporters of End Child Detention Now, Corry Hewitt, died in February and is a great loss to the campaign. Corry’s anger at the injustice of child detention continues to inspire us and we remember her with much love and gratitude.
Campaign supporters gathered outside St Martin le Grand Church in the centre of York just before New Year to protest the detention of children in immigration removal centres over Christmas and to call for an end to all detention of children by the UK immigration authorities.
The government’s Border Agency imprisons between 1,000 and 2,000 children each year many for several weeks despite opposition from the Children’s Commissioner, several Royal Colleges of Medicine and over 100 MPs from all political parties. There is overwhelming evidence that detention is harmful to the health and well being of children, while the Home Office admits that families are very unlikely to abscond when removal directions are issued.
Campaign organiser Esme Madill said: ‘We know of several York families whose children were detained at Yarl’s Wood and who are still fearful of being taken to “the camp” again despite the fact that their case for asylum was subsequently upheld and that they have been granted leave to remain’.
‘No other civilised country treats vulnerable children in this way and we are determined to make 2010 the year when the government’s commitment to respect the rights of the child is genuinely upheld by closing these dreadful children’s prisons once and for all’.