Month: June 2010

Campaign to save Refugee & Migrant Justice fails

Refugee and Migrant Justice administration – update

RMJ’s final release: Refugee and Migrant Justice is saddened to announced that a last-minute rescue plan to save the organisation has not succeeded.

After launching an emergency appeal for funds, £76,525 was pledged by members of the public within a 24 hour period and a number of charitable trusts and organisations offered significant support. However, talks with the Legal Services Commission, RMJ’s main funder, were unsuccessful.

The administrators BDO are now in the process of winding down the organisation.

People who kindly pledged money to RMJ are being informed and their money will be returned.

Caroline Slocock, chief executive of Refugee and Migrant Justice said:

During this period, RMJ has received the most amazing support from supporters and we were overwhelmed and touched by the offers of financial help in response to our campaign. We would like to thank everyone who has tried to save RMJ and very much regret that it has not been possible.

Please direct any media enquiries to the BDO press office, which can be reached at http://www.bdo.uk.com/press/press-office-contacts

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Highlights of York Refugee Week

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.

Shpresa dancers performing at York St John's chapel theatre
A group of drummers and performers from Zimbabwe perform at York St John's University during Refugee Week 2010.
Shpresa dancers at a workshop for Refugee Action York
Shpresa dancers at the Refugee Action York workshop during Refugee Week

24 Hours to Save Migrant Justice – Your Help is Urgently Needed

ECDN is backing this urgent appeal from Refugee and Migrant Justice – Don’t allow this lifeline for hundreds of vulnerable asylum seeking children to be lost. For many refugee families this is a life and death cause. Pledge your support now!

If you would be prepared to donate some funds, however small to help save RMJ and secure its services over the next three months, please read this post. If funds from both Government and other funders can be agreed, RMJ’s administrators would, in principle, support the proposal to take RMJ out of administration.

A consortium of charitable trusts and city law firms, supported by Simon Hughes MP, are putting together a proposal to Government to save Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ). The proposal asks the Government to at least pay the money that it would have to pay anyway on insolvency on the understanding that this will be matched with up to £1,000,000 by way of grants, secured loans and donations to meet cash needs to finance work in progress.

We need concrete commitments for these funds today or as early as possible tomorrow – actual cash can come a bit later. So far to day, we have been pledged £134,000. Significantly more could follow from charitable trusts and others we are already talking with. But at this point it is clear that this is going to be a very considerable challenge without some additional help.

savermj@gmail.com

If you wish to discuss this further please telephone Kathleen Commons on 0787 216 1271.

Refugee and Migrant Justice goes into administration

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.

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Release Carnival protesters pledge to keep pressure on government to end child detention

Children from Shpresa march on Downing Street.

Hundreds turned out in the warm sunshine on Saturday June 5th to hear speakers from Citizens for Sanctuary, Outcry!, Refugee and Migrant Justice, No-One is Illegal, Medical Justice, End Child Detention Now and former detainees urge the government to make good on its pledge to end child detention, to rule out the separation of families and all other inhumane alternatives and to treat asylum seekers with the respect and dignity they deserve.

The event was brilliantly organised by the SOAS Detainees Support Group and featured a wonderful dance performance and poetry recital by the children of Shpresa – an Albanian speaking refugee community organisation based in London, face painting, hand print making, a samba band and an amazing human dragon which led the carnival on a march through central London to Downing Street. At No10, Phil from SOAS DSG, Millie and Pamela and 11 year old May Beth handed letters addressed to David Cameron, along with hand prints and a petition calling on the government to release all families and children from detention immediately.

Photo credits: Juliane Heider and Simon Parker.

Don’t replace child detention with enforced separation

New immigration plans will end child detention but we should be wary of substituting one form of state abuse with another.

Simon Parker, Comment is Free, The Guardian, Friday 28 May 2010.soas-carnival-logo

The announcement in Tuesday’s Queen’s speech that along with a cap on non-EU immigration, the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat government no longer intends to detain children under immigration control powers comes as a welcome boost to the many thousands of concerned citizens who have signed petitions, lobbied their MPs and parliamentary candidates, written to the local and national press, and organised vigils and demonstrations in order to bring this shameful practice to an end.

However, before we begin any premature celebrations, there are some troubling aspects of the new coalition agreement that deserve especially careful scrutiny. The first point is that Nick Clegg and his team rightly sought to insist that the declaration would commit to ending the detention of families, but the Conservatives struck this out and insisted that the no-detention policy would apply only to children.

Damian Green also declared that while the review was underway, the existing policy of detaining children would remain in place, despite the fact that the government now appears to accept that the practice of detaining children is harmful and unwarranted. The shocking case of the arrest and detention of Sehar Shahbaz and her eight-month-old baby in Dungavel and their nine-hour journey in a prison van to Yarl’s Wood, which Colin Firth highlighted in a letter to the Guardian, if anything suggests a hardening of minds rather than the “changed mindset” that Sir Al Aynsley Green has called for in the Home Office.

Indeed, an Iranian family of five, including the pregnant mother, were arrested and detained on the day it was announced child detention was due to end – and were issued with removal instructions to a brutal regime whose response to political dissent involves torture, lengthy jail sentences and state execution.

Campaigners should at least take heart that the review is about to start soon and that it is expected to conclude within weeks rather than months. But as yet there is no commitment to a timetable for implementing any alternatives to detention, or a promise not to arrest and detain families in the meantime.

A major concern for refugee, asylum and children’s welfare organisations is the clear implication that by agreeing only to spare children from detention, the Home Office is considering the option of taking children into care while their parents are detained. This would be to substitute one form of state child abuse with another, and would not only be contrary to article 8 of the European convention on human rights, it would be opposed, one would hope, by every local safeguarding children board and director of social services in the country – not least because it would make social workers complicit in damaging rather than protecting the welfare of the child.

As advocates of the end to child immigration detention, Clegg and Chris Huhne are in a powerful position to insist that their pledge to release children from their detention nightmare does not give way to the equally abusive cruelty of enforced separation. Opponents of child and family detention will be taking their demands to No 10 Downing Street on Saturday 5 June as part of the Release Carnival, which starts in Torrington Square at midday. I look forward to seeing many of you there.

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