Like many, we’ve been shocked and saddened by recent events in Afghanistan, which have resulted in a new refugee challenge. We are grateful that many organisations and individuals are compassionately stepping in to help.
As Restore’s vision is for a society into which all refugees and asylum seekers are welcomed, valued and integrated, we will offer befriending and group social activities to Afghan refugees, as we do to other refugees and asylum seekers arriving in our city. Refugee Action, who are providing support to the Afghan interpreters and their families for the first 12-months through the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) will refer Afghan interpreters and their families to Restore for befriending. As more Afghans arrive in Birmingham, Restore will seek to respond with befriending.
We are grateful to Emma Birks, Asylum Matters Campaigns Manager – West Midlands, for the following update on the Afghan crisis and campaigns. Please do write to your MP about refugee issues.
“Following public pressure, on the 17th August the UK Government also announced the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), which will resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees over five years, with 5,000 people to arrive in the first year. (Addition from Restore: On 13 September, the Home Office released further details of this scheme to Local Authorities so that they can make pledges of the number of Afghan they will welcome to their area under this scheme.)
Emma’s update continues: “On Wednesday 18th August, Parliament was recalled to discuss the UK’s response to the crisis in Afghanistan, during which many MPs called for reforms to ensure Afghan refugees are welcomed, including scrapping the Nationality and Borders Bill. On 13 September, the Home Office released further details of this scheme to Local Authorities so that they can make pledges of the number of Afghan they will welcome to their area under this scheme.
“Despite warning that Afghan refugees should not try to reach the UK by irregular means, the Government has only set out initial plans for ‘Operation Warm Welcome‘ within the last few days. These include appointing Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins as the new Minister for Afghan Resettlement; and setting out plans for a package of support.
“Concerns continue about the accommodation refugees are housed in on arrival, with Doctors of the World raising concerns about access to healthcare. Campaigners including Lord Dubs have called for a more ambitious target for the scheme, while Refugee Action continues to call on the Government to #CommitToResettlement.
“Local leaders across the UK, including the mayors of Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, and the Liverpool and Sheffield city regions have said they welcome refugees, calling for all local authorities across the country to play their part; and for improvements to the Home Office’s approach to dispersal and accommodation. Meanwhile, local communities have responded with an outpouring of support for Afghans seeking sanctuary.
“Campaigners are also urging the Government to act urgently to support Afghan people seeking sanctuary who are already in the UK by expediting decisions on outstanding claims for refugee protection and reviewing decisions for people whose claims have been previously refused.
“As evacuation efforts have ended and MPs continue to try to assist thousands of people still trapped in the country, there has been increased focus on how the UK Government will respond to refugees who arrive in the UK outside of the ARAP and ACRS schemes. Despite the extremely limited availability of safe routes, the Home Secretary has appeared to indicate that Afghan refugees forced to make an irregular journey to the UK will be penalised by measures in the Anti-Refugee Bill.”
Emma continues, “The Afghan crisis has reinforced the cruelty of the proposals in the Nationality and Borders Bill (AKA the Anti-Refugee Bill). It is shameful that in a few months’ time, some Afghan refugees will reach the UK after a perilous journey because of the lack of safe routes to get here. Under this Bill, they would then be criminalised, housed in reception centres, and threatened with deportation.
We need to stand together against this Anti-Refugee Bill and call for it to be thrown out (or radically changed). There are many ways you can take action, including:
Sign and share the Refugee Action petition against the bill.
Writing to a local newspaper using Asylum Matters’ template letter to the editor to make sure other people in your area know about this Bill and the harm it will cause. You can download a Word version of the letter, or open it as a Google Doc.
Call on local leaders to speak out against the bill using our local lobbying kit.”
Restore continues to stand #TogetherWithRefugees from Afghanistan and across the world, and one way that we are showing this support is by sharing the #OrangeHeart on our social media channels. Whenever you see it, why not share it yourself, and help us to raise awareness.
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