City Hall launch of ICAR research on disabled refugees and asylum seekers

ICAR’s new research into levels of support for disabled refugees and asylum seekers was launched at London’s City Hall on 14 November. The research was commissioned by the Metropolitan Support Trust (MST) and supported by the Greater London Authority (GLA).


A full house of 100+ participants including many of the organisations and individuals who participated in the research, spanning central and local government, statutory providers, and disabled, refugee and BAME organisations. The event was chaired by ex Minister for Immigration Barbara Roche, now chair of MST.


ICAR director Neil Amas introduced the research and highlighted two key findings: the gap in support for this group from mainstream disability organisations, with the strain being picked up largely by refugee community organisations; and the profound effect a disabled person’s immigration status has on the level of support they receive.


Claire Glasman, representing the women’s disability organisation WinVisible, raised her organisation’s concerns that many disabled asylum seekers experience extreme hardship due to restrictions in income, prevention from employment, denial of services and discrimination.


Jhon Marulanda for refugee community organisation the Latin American Disabled Peoples Project focussed on the difficulties users of the Project had in accessing statutory services such as GPs and Job Centres. He claimed that staff at these places often do not understand the rights and entitlements of disabled refugees and asylum seekers. 


Disabled asylum seeker Iman Saab described the hardships of not being allowed to work, and instead having to get by on supermarket vouchers and subsistence payments from social services as opposed to normal disability benefits.


According to deputy mayor Richard Barnes, the research findings would ‘frame our vision’ in regard to the GLA’s equalities agenda. He also confirmed that in March 2009 the new four year Refugee Integration Strategy for London would be ready and, following regional policy elsewhere, a London Strategic Migration Partnership would replace the old Board for Refugee Integration in London.


In the discussion a number of the research findings were revisited, such as the effect of status on access to support, as evidenced by the recent Slough judgement on local authority support for disabled asylum seekers with no recourse to public funds, and by the increase in passport checks at GPs’ surgeries. Culturally appropriate training for frontline staff was one strongly supported recommendation, especially for NHS staff. Contributors to the discussion included social workers, the chair of NHS London Strategic Health Authority, and advocacy and campaigning groups. 


Finally the participants broke up into workshops to discuss three of the report’s main recommendations, around refugee and asylum seeker access to mainstream disability organisations; relevant training across different types of organisations; and a proposed review of Home Office policies.



Press release


Executive summary

Full report


Asylum Update – July 30th 2008


Good Intentions: A review of the New Asylum Model and its impact on trafficked women claiming asylum is a new joint research report by the POPPY Project and Asylum Aid.

Birmingham: A City in Need of Hope? analyses the situation of asylum seekers and refugees living in the West Midlands, using the Independent Asylum Commission’s Interim report as a point of departure. The report is written by Lizzy Sharman for Hope08Birmingham.

More Destitution in Leeds by David Brown builds on the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust’s 2007 Destitution Inquiry reports by surveying the same five agencies to see what has changed. See also BBC and Community Care coverage


Policy and law

A ‘UNHCR-NGO Joint European Advocacy Statement on Resettlement’ has been signed in order to encourage governments to support resettlement programmes, promote NGO-UNHCR partnerships in areas of resettlement, and argue for a more active role for NGOs in the resettlement process.

Ten independent human rights experts of the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council have expressed their concerns regarding the EU Returns Directive in a letter to the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union.


What is a Good Asylum system? National conference in Leeds on 18th October 2008 organised by Leeds Asylum Seekers’ Support Network and both the universities in Leeds. It will “explore the asylum system in the UK from political, practical and academic view-points to see how it could become fair and just.”


The Refugee Council has published two new free multilingual leaflets: ‘Schools for children – information factsheet for refugee parents’ and ‘Sexual health – information factsheet’

The Department for Communities and Local Government has issued a guide to cohesion policy and how it can be implemented locally, drawing on the work of the independent Commission on Integration and Cohesion.

Asylum Update – 25th June 2008


The UNHCR Statistical Online Population Database  provides data and trends on the “Population of concern to UNHCR” at country, regional, and global levels. Updated along with the recent 2007 Global Trends report, data up to 31 December 2007 can be downloaded.

Structure and Operation of the KhAD/WAD in Afghanistan 1978-1992 is a recent UNHCR Note examining the eligibility for protection for Afghan asylum seekers previously members of two security and intelligence bodies. 

A new Amnesty International report, Rhetoric and reality: the Iraqi refugee crisis, looks at the international response to Iraqi refugees and in particular the threshold applied by the USA and the UK in granting asylum.

Community engagement and community cohesion is a new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which recommends that government policies to promote community engagement ensure that refugee and other new migrant groups are heard. See also press release

Call for papers: Coming home? Conflict and return migration in twentieth-century Europe 1-3 April 2009, University of Southampton.

Asylum Rights Watch is an ongoing research project by Asylum Aid documenting experiences of the asylum system ongoing project. It has released 3 new dossiers covering responses received between October 2007 and April 2008, including an introduction, destitution and the right to work.  

Journal article: Accounting for the Dominance of Control: Inter-party Dynamics and Restrictive Asylum Policy in Contemporary Britain by Squire, V. in British Politics Vol 3 No 2.


Policy and law

A new UNHCR Note on DNA Testing to Establish Family Relationships in the Refugee Context provides guidance on DNA testing in the refugee context.

The European Commission has announced its Policy Plan on Asylum, listing the measures that it intends to propose in order to complete the second phase of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). See also ECRE press release

As reported last week the European Parliament has adopted the draft EU Returns Directive. See ECRE and European Parliament  press releases, UK media coverage and Latin American presidential protests

The Welsh Assembly has launched its new Refugee Inclusion Strategy. See also press release and local news item on skilled refugees in Wales

The Government’s strategy for finding and deport migrants with no right to remain are outlined in a new report, Enforcing the Deal, which states that to this purpose and to ‘ensure the country gets the migrants who will benefit UK socially and economically’, 7,500 UKBA staff will be reorganised into 70-80 Local Immigration Teams. See also UKBA press release



Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) Manchester will launch a new book ‘Am I Safe Yet? – Stories of Women Seeking Asylum in Britain from 6-8pm on July 11 at Manchester Town Hall, 1st Floor Banquet Room. Further details by email 



Asylum Update – 18th June 2008


UNHCR has released its annual report “2007 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum-seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons”, showing refugee numbers rising for second year running.

The Red Cross have publicized the findings of a survey of British perceptions of refugees and asylum seekers. The survey was conducted by ICM with 2,068 adults in May 2008.

The Home Office’s Country of Origin Information Service has published new country reports on Albania, DRC, Eritrea, Somalia and Key Documents on Nepal and South Africa.

Figures obtained by the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns show 48 incidents of self-harm requiring medical treatment in UK immigration removal centres in the first quarter of 2008, an increase of 54% on the last quarter of 2007.

The Mentoring and Befriending Foundation’s annual conference in May launched a new report, Mentoring and Befriending, in which refugee and refugee organisations feature strongly. The report focuses on the relationship of mentoring and befriending to cohesion and cross cultural issues

Policy and law

Home Office Minister of State Liam Byrne has provided a written answer to the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs stating that it is not feasible to distinguish how many Iraqi asylum claims had been granted on the basis of work for British forces, and that the resettlement scheme operated from Iraq does not include the granting of asylum. 

  • See also recent parliamentary debates on situations in countries of origin of UK asylum seekers.

Statewatch have published “The Returns Directive: 9 June 2008” and a supplementary analysis: “The Returns Directive – the final stages?” Both are by Professor Steve Peers of the University of Essex and look at the directive in terms of human rights and asylum and immigration law.

  • See also: European Parliament approves Returns Directive


The Centre for Migration Policy Research (CMPR) at Swansea University will host a conference on Refugee Rights and Realities in Wales on 10 July. It is supported by the Welsh Refugee council and places are free for refugee and not-for-profit organisations.

Nigel Harris will speak on “Refugees, economic migration and the future of the world economy” at the Royal Society in London on 26 July, as part of the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA).


In a special feature for Refugee Week (16-22 June) hosts MigrantVoice on refuge, a “debate on the issues that matter for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.”

Asylum Update – 11th June 2008


Destitution in the Asylum System in Leicester is a new report commissioned by the Leicester Refugee and Asylum Seekers Voluntary Sector Forum and co-ordinated by Refugee Action, which surveys 135 destitute asylum seekers.

The Children, Youth and Migration Network is an international network of researchers and professionals set up following the recent Children and Migration conference in Cork. Anyone with an interest in these issues can join.

Journal article (1): Risk and resilience for psychological distress amongst unaccompanied asylum seeking adolescents by Matthew Hodes (et al). Available online now for future publication in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. See abstract and press release

Journal article (2): Understanding Integration: A Conceptual Framework, by Alistair Ager and Alison Strang. Read online in the Journal of Refugee Studies Vol. 21 No. 2


Policy and law

The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association has produced two new information sheets: Immigration Rules – concessions on general grounds for refusal and Access to Healthcare

UNHCR has published Building a Europe of Asylum: UNHCR’s Recommendations to France for its European Union Presidency (July – December 2008). It contains eleven recommendations for ensuring that future asylum initiatives are fully grounded in the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees.

The House of Lords has this week debated the Immigration (Registration Card) Order, which will extend criminal offences for misuse of the ARC card to those on Section 4 support.

Managing the Impacts of Migration: a Cross Government Approach is a new strategy paper from the Communities and Local Government department. It focuses on five main areas: border controls; improved population data; funding for cohesion; transition impacts projects; and migrant workers.

The department has at the same time published a Review of Migrant Integration Policy which includes a feasibility study of the need for an Integration Agency to support new migrants, as recommended by the Commission for Integration and Cohesion.

In a further response to the Commission’s report, the first Specialist Cohesion Team Pilot will be launched in Breckland. The Pilot seeks to provide extra government support for areas where migration is considered to have had a particularly strong impact.



Refugee Week is a UK wide programme of events which celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK. 



Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has expressed his “strong disapproval” of the Dungavel Removal Centre and dawn raids on asylum seekers in Scotland to Liam Byrne, the UK immigration minister. This comes after fresh calls to close the centre in light of what human rights groups and churches claim is its detrimental effect on vulnerable women and children.



Two guides with information specifically for and about asylum seekers and refugees have been updated. The new information focuses on work, training and education. The guides were produced by RAGU (Refugee Assessment and Guidance Unit) at London Metropolitan University with one version for advisors and another for their clients. Translations available.

The May edition of the Asylum Support Partnership newsletter is now available and contains articles on Refugee Week and the Saving Sanctuary Report amongst others.



Asylum Update – 14th May 2008


The Equality and Human Rights Commission is gathering evidence for its Human Rights Inquiry into how human rights works in Britain. The deadline is 21 June for both employees and users of the public and voluntary sectors to submit evidence.

Journal article: The Human Rights of Failed Asylum Seekers in the United Kingdom by J.A. Sweeney in Public Law 2008

The Refugee Council has published Beyond the School Gates, its report on supporting refugees and asylum seekers in secondary schools.

The TUC Commission on Vulnerable Employment has published its findings. A section on asylum seekers recommends the right to work after six months.

Future Floods of Refugees is a new report published by Norwegian Refugee Council on the issue of ‘climate refugees’ escaping environmental disasters in developing countries. See also Foreign Secretary David Milliband’s response to BBC Newsnight on the prospect of such refugees seeking asylum in the UK.

According to Fortress Europe at least 12,059 people have died since 1988 along the European frontiers, including 36 in February 2008.

The European Migration Policy Centre (EMPC) is a new European Commission initiative aimed at linking policy-making and research. It will be set up by the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, and is due to open in the autumn.

Policy and law

The government has advised local councils to map and monitor local refugee communities as part of a new guide for local authorities aimed at promoting greater community cohesion and integration.

The Refugee Council and Asylum Aid have made available their responses to the UKBA’s consultation over its Code of Practice for Keeping Children Safe from Harm. See also press coverage

The European Court of Justice has ruled that the European Parliament must have as much a say as member states in designing ‘safe countries of origin’ for asylum seekers.

The European Commission will propose harmonising refugee resettlement practices in the EU member states in the asylum policy plan to be presented in June. The proposal does not however recommend specific quotas. Background: See 2005 ECRE resettlement paper

During discussions over a draft return directive, EU member states have failed to agree the maximum period a migrant can be kept in detention after entering EU territory.


People on the move: The challenges of displacement in the 21st century. International Rescue Committee (UK) annual lecture by António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. 7pm, 16th June, London. Details here

Comic Relief-funded refugee integration project Shared Futures launch with the Children’s Commissioner for England. 10am, 17th June, London. Places can be booked by email

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.