London elections – impact on asylum and refugee policy?

What are the likely effects on asylum seekers and refugees in the capital, particularly for the future of London’s refugee integration strategy, of a victory by the main candidates? While the subject of asylum and refugees is not a clear campaigning issue and is unlikely to appear explicitly in candidates manifestos, they are impacted upon by general attitudes toward immigration, poverty and diversity, amongst other things. The following summarises what can be weaned from the candidates’ policy proposals.

Livingstone: The current mayor has been active in the area of refugee integration and has consistently advocated for asylum seekers and refugees amongst other often marginalised groups. Yet he is not making this a specific election issue. This partly relates to what he actually has the power to do as mayor, but it is likely that if Livingstone is returned to power we will see a continuation of the developing refugee integration strategy, continued support for RCOs and avowed ideological support for a ‘multiculturalist’ approach to integration and community cohesion.

Johnson: There is little on the candidate’s website that will have an impact on asylum seekers or refugee specifically, despite many verbal references to appointing a team reflecting London’s diversity. There is no mention of diversity or community policies in general, only a focus on the elderly (in terms of ‘age equality’) and crime in the community more specifically. Nor is there mention of the attitudes toward immigration, perhaps a vote loser in London with the people that Boris needs to draw in to generate critical mass? However, not discussing the subject now does not necessarily mean that a conservative mayor will de-rail existing work on refugee integration, though the tone and proposed support structure of the current refugee integration strategy may sit a little uneasily well with conservative principles.

Paddick: Once again, there is little in the Liberal candidates manifesto on issues that will specifically affect asylum seekers and refugees, which is perhaps more surprising from a Liberal candidate. The Liberals often have a particular stance on issues related to asylum and human rights, yet have an indifferent electoral record in London (only very few parliamentary constituencies and no City Hall constituencies). This perhaps explains why Paddick’s focus is more on core issues – such as the environment and crime – that reflect his own interests and experience rather than that of the party. It is even less likely, however, that were he to reach power, that he would reverse existing work on refugee integration.

The lack of specifics is perhaps not surprising. Yet refugee integration in particular is one area where the current Mayor has negotiated more policy-making power for City Hall, arguing that there is something specific to being a refugee in London compared to elsewhere in the UK. A specific policy on asylum and/or refugees by other candidates could possibly have presented a different side to the overall feel of their candidacy.

So, it is difficult to gauge the future direction of asylum and refugee policies and/or advocacy under the three main candidates, yet, it is likely that once in power each candidate may revert to asylum and refugee policies closer to those of their own party generally rather than the specific tone and approach being adopted for election purposes.

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Asylum Update – 23rd April 2008

Research

New from UNHCR: Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries, 2007: Statistical Overview of Asylum Applications Lodged in Europe and Selected Non-European Countries.

Hostility themes in media, community and refugee narratives by Ivan Leudar, Jacqueline Hayes, Jirí Nekvapil and Johanna Turner Baker appears in the new issue of Discourse and Society

Evasion, Reinterpretation and Decoupling: European Commission Responses to the ‘External Dimension’ of Immigration and Asylum by Christina Boswell. Published in the May issue of West European Politics. See also Policy and Law below.

The April 2008 issue of Forced Migration Review includes articles on the integration of Burmese refugees resettled in Sheffield and the social exclusion of asylum seekers in the UK.

Statistics on self harm and families in immigration detention between January and December 2007 have been made public by the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns.
See also The Independent


Policy and law

The Standing Committee of experts on international immigration, refugees and criminal law have presented their views to the European Parliament on the European Commission report on the FRONTEX agency.

UNHCR has published its Position on the Return of Asylum-Seekers to Greece under the “Dublin Regulation”.

At the High Court, a judicial review has ruled in favour of a failed asylum seeker who will now be eligible for NHS treatment. The ruling will impact on asylum seekers only able to access emergency care. Meanwhile a test case has begun on behalf of Iraqis employees of British forces in Iraq since refused asylum in the UK.

Events

Climate Change and Forced Migration, 29 April 2008, central London. One day conference with speakers from government, UNHCR, IOM, Stern Review and others. Email IPPR for details.

Migrant community organisations: their role in promoting integration and social cohesion, London, 13 May 2008. Research-based seminar to coincide with Communities and Local Government consultation on the funding of organisations that work with a single community.


Resources

ICAR has co-produced with the UN Refugee Agency and the National Union of Journalists a new leaflet – “Reporting Asylum and Refugee Issues”. It offers journalists reporting on refugee issues practical guidance on terminology, usage of images and filming, and interviewing refugees and asylum seekers.

Asylum Update – 16th April 2008

Research

The Home Office’s Country of Origin Information Service has this month published a new country report on Afghanistan, and Key Documents on Angola, Mali, Gambia, and Sierra Leone.

“Symposium in migrant women: war rape disclosure in women refugees” is a symposium of articles in European Psychiatry, V. 23 No. SUPP/2, 2008 soon to be available online

Policy and Law

Statewatch has published an updated analysis of the EU Returns Directive. It covers the latest versions agreed upon by the European Council in the context of the negotiations with the European Parliament and within the Council.

The Refugee Council has published its response to the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills consultation: Focusing English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) on Community Cohesion.

The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA) has published updated information on a range of topics including Zimbabwean asylum claims, citizenship and the UK Borders Act 2007.

The Scottish Government has published a consultation document on: ‘Safeguarding Children in Scotland who may have been Trafficked’.

The report on the conference ‘From Isolation to Integration’ is now available. The conference, held in January 2008, was the culmination of a two-year joint programme focussing on older refugees by Age Concern, the Refugee Council and the Association of Greater London Older Women (AGLOW).

News

The first Iraqi interpreters and their families have arrived under the special resettlement programme. See also ICAR blog. Meanwhile an Asylum and Immigration Tribunal ruling will allow the Home Office to return failed Iraqi asylum seekers to any part of Iraq. The decision is being appealed by the Refugee Legal Centre.

Rules banning some migrants in England from NHS treatment are to be challenged in the High Court by a Palestinian ‘failed’ asylum seeker.

The TUC and Refugee Council have launched a new campaign to give asylum seekers the right to work.

Events

A seminar on the secondary migration of non-EU nationals in Europe will be held on Tuesday 22nd April 2008 at ippr in London. Speakers include Anna Lindley and Nick Van Hear, Centre for Migration, Policy and Society, University of Oxford and Jill Rutter, Institute for Public Policy Research.

The first City of Sanctuary National Conference will be held in Sheffield on Wednesday 4th June 2008. To book a free place or for more information email or visit the website

Resources

STAR (Student Action for Refugees) has launched RefugeeMap: a new interactive online resource providing accessible information for volunteers working with refugees.

The British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) have published new titles in their series on caring for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and young people. China and Somalia now join Afghanistan, Eritrea and Iran among the guides available.

The ethical issues surrounding immigration, migration, asylum and refugees are among the topics to be discussed on the anthropologists’ discussion forum ASA Globalog from mid April till the end of June 2008.

The Country of Return Information Project, a network of European NGOs, has launched a new website containing their country reports and an enquiry service.

The Basis Project is a new, England-wide service giving support to refugee community organisations set up by Refugee Action and the Refugee Council.

Asylum Update – 7th April 2008

Research

Immigration impact
A House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report rejects arguments that immigration benefits the UK economy and calls for an explicit range of targets for net immigration.

See ICAR blog

Dawn raids and destitution

PAFRAS (Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) briefing papers now available on dawn raids and legal aid and destitution.

Violence against women

Southall Black Sisters and Amnesty International have published a report: ” ‘No recourse’ no safety: the government’s failure to protect women from violence’ which examines the relationship between immigration status and protection.

See also events

Policy and Law

Dublin Regulation

A new ECRE policy paper calls for replacement of the Dublin Regulation determining the Member State responsible for processing an asylum claim in the EU, in opposition to the European Commission’s June 2007 evaluation

See also: UN High Commissioner for Refugees calls for harmonised asylum system in EU

Children

The refugee and Asylum Seeking Children’s Project (CLC) guide to care and support for unaccompanied asylum seeking children now covers the implications of the Hillingdon judgement on local authorities’ duty of care. They have also issued an information note on a recent Court of Appeal ruling that the courts should have the final say on the matter of a young person’s age and identity

News

Border Agency

The Home Office has announced the unification of border, immigration, customs and visa checks under the country’s new UK Border Agency.

Events

Women

Course: asylum and immigration law: protecting women from violence and securing their position in the UK. 23rd April, London N1. Provided by Rights of Women. Women only; aimed at first tier organizations and advice givers. Email for further details.

Reaction to the Lords report on immigration

In addition to the IAC report, this week saw the release of a Lords report suggesting that immigration is negligible economic benefit to the UK, with a main recommendation being an annual cap on the number of migrant workers entering the UK. Irrespective of the content of the report, it has generated a number of responses from mainstream columnists; the below links represents four strands of argument in this debate:

Philippe Legrain, Guardian – the report is inaccurate and a cap should not be introduced
Deborah Orr, Independent – the report may be correct but is a cap the best option
Daniel Finkelstein, Times – the report is incorrect but a cap should be introduced for other reasons
Philip Johnston, Telegraph – the report is correct and a cap should be introduced

Independent Asylum Commission launches interim findings

Last week the IAC launched its interim findings at the House of Commons from a year’s consultation and research with asylum seekers, immigration officials, policy-makers and the general public. The commission is a laudable exercise: to independently assess the efficacy of the asylum system from the perspective of a range of citizens and taxpayers in whose name it is set up. The report contains comprehensive and detailed findings and represents the major concerns of the commissioners having consulted widely on the issue. At the launch, however, the findings introduced by the commissioners seemed to focus almost entirely on the mistreatment of individuals within the system, with asylum seekers giving oral testimony to illustrate the suffering and hardship which many experience. Given the exclusive focus at the launch on the experiences of asylum seekers rather than the efficacy of the system, the lack of contributions from other stakeholders may have left an unbalanced impression in the minds of many of the audience. No doubt there is suffering and inhumanity, some of it extremely severe, that is inherent in the design of the asylum system at various stages. Yet the commission has found other important evidence and causes that do not merely echo the press releases of advocacy organisations from the last few years.

What was missing from the event was testimony from citizens concerned that there is abuse of the asylum system or confused over terminology or reasons for seeking asylum, as acknowledged in the report. Also missing was testimony from immigration officials about the difficulty they may experience in carrying out their work for whatever reason, again acknowledged in the report. For the launch of a report that was supposed to consult a wide range of stakeholders and ordinary citizens (and it did, as the regional hearings and list of interviewees is testament to), the tone and substance of proceedings at the launch was remarkably consensual, unlike many comment threads that follow media reports on the launch of these findings.