Leicester became the tenth city and the first in the Midlands to pass the Still Human Still Here resolution opposing policy that results in the destitution of asylum seekers at various points in the asylum process.
The motion was agreed by the majority Labour Group in advance of the full council meeting, after City of Sanctuary Supporters across Leicester asked their local councillors to consider supporting it. Two asylum seekers known to Leicester CoS were made destitute the day before the motion was passed.
The pledge included questioning government policy , engaging local MPs in lobbying of central government to empower local authorities to provide support, called for the right to work within 6 months of claiming asylum and support for the Still Human still Here campaign.
Cllr Adam Clarke, who proposed the motion, said:
“I want to raise the profile of this important, yet often hidden, social issue.
“In Leicester, the Red Cross helped 325 destitute asylum seekers in the last six months of 2013. Obviously, this is of great concern to us and I would like Leicester to join local authorities in cities like Liverpool, Bristol and Leeds in signing up to this pledge.”
He told City of Sanctuary supporters before the motion:
“Thanks to you for the time and effort you have gone to in educating us about the issues and about your incredibly admirable work. I sincerely hope we can do justice to you, City of Sanctuary, Still Human Still Here and particularly those experiencing destitution in the city on Thursday evening – and after Thursday.”
Cllr Manjula Sood, assistant city mayor responsible for community involvement, partnerships and equalities seconded the motion. She said: “Leicester has always had a reputation as a welcoming city, where people from many different backgrounds live side by side.
67 people turned out for the first Public Meeting organised by City of Sanctuary in Loughborough on Wednesday 15th January. The vast majority were keen to set up a new Town of Sanctuary group to welcome the hundreds of asylum seekers who visit regularly from Nottingham, Derby and Leicester to sign on at the East Midlands Reporting Centre. Thank you to John Storer House, who provided a free venue for the meeting, and others, including the Loughborough Echo who helped publicise the meeting.
Andrew Lake spoke about the Dreamers project, supporting unaccompanied asylum seekers who are cared for in Loughborough. This project has worked in partnership with Charnwood Arts, who have helped to produce two excellent publications; Hidden Voices and Voices Beyond Borders. A young Syrian asylum seeker shared his hopes and dreams. People came from the Loughborough Council of Faiths, local churches, the county and local council, the BACA charity and housing project the Human Rights and Equalities Centre, Loughborough University and local schools.
Another meeting is to be organised to take the momentum forward. Ideas already proposed include the free refreshments project in partnership with John Storer House and a local community café, Schools of Sanctuary and even a Drop-in for those who travel to sign on at the Reporting Centre. Look out for a new page on the website!
Leicester City of Sanctuary are proud of the local press The Leicester Mercury. They have followed the campaign to stop the deportation of grandmother Evenia Mawongera all the way as she suffers in detention in Yarl’s Wood – now her 35th day. Yesterday they told the story of Evenia’s granddaughter (just 6 years old) who wrote to David Cameron asking if she could have her grandma aback. Today they published this editorial Mercury Opinion: Stop the deportation of Evenia.
If you haven’t signed the online petition Evenia must stay you can find it here.
Leicester City of Sanctuary were pleased to be asked by Radio Leicester to comment during the Breakfast show on the Home Office Affairs Committee Report on Asylum published today. The Committee was chaired by Keith Vaz MP for Leicester East. Whilst we welcomed the report, which highlights the plight of sanctuary seekers and a system under strain, including the delays in and poor quality of decision making, the outstanding 32,600 legacy cases and substandard housing we don’t think the recommendations went far enough. We were pleased to see at least 4 of the 16 recommendations we made in our submission to the committee in March. These were
• Providing on going asylum support to new refugees until mainstream benefits kick in thus reducing destitution at the point of gaining leave to remain.
• Providing support and child care to women with children under 5 to attend interviews
• Improving interpreting facilities
• Improved country of origin information
The interview with Pam Inder and Colleen Molloy can be heard here from one hour 17 minutes into the programme and again with Keith Vaz from 2 hours and 26 minutes in. We would have liked more time to suggest that real action needs to be taken to address the issues highlighted, including investment in resources and people and a change in institutional culture. We also need a conscious attempt at positive media stories celebrating refugees’ contributions and to make people aware of the realities of the asylum system and to enable the public to see the person behind the statistics.
The full report can be found here.
Refugee Artist Ali Agayev invited city Mayor Peter Soulsby to the City of Sanctuary Drop-in session to present his portrait to him as a thank you for helping to create a welcoming atmosphere in Leicester and all his support for asylum seekers.
Leicester City of Sanctuary Drop-in sewing group produced these colourful patchwork cushions. These were commissioned by the British Red Cross after the successful quilting project (9 beautiful quilts were made and exhibited earlier this year).
Volunteers who run the Drop-in centre were delighted when The Clothworkers’ Foundation agreed a £10,000 grant for new equipment for the Drop-in and other activities.
A volunteer wrote this poem after accompanying an asylum seeker to the UKBA East Midlands Reporting Centre. We think it says so much we wanted to share it with you.
By Lily Silverman – City of Sanctuary Volunteer
What’s your favourite colour?
The ongoing Leicester campaign to prevent the deportation of Evenia Mawongera to Zimbabwe has continued since she was released from detention on 16th July. Evenia (55) has been living in Leicester with her daughters and grandchildren, all of whom are British citizens, for close to 10 years. She is a Leicester City of Sanctuary drop-in user and is one of our quilt makers. The Home Office wants to remove her to Zimbabwe where she is at risk of arrest, persecution and extremely serious ill-treatment. Campaigners from Civic Leicester and the Zimbabwe Association have tirelessly collected signatures from passers by in the Town Hall square (now over 3,000) where there is an “Evenia must stay” tree and have accompanied her to the East Midlands Reporting Centre each week. The local newspaper, Leicester Mercury have reported weekly and Radio Leicester and BBC East Midlands has also covered the story. Evenia and her family have received support from across Leicester and Evenia has been nominated for the Leicester Mercury and East Midlands Housing Group Good Neighbour Awards 2013. To stay up to date with this campaign see the Facebook page . We are proud of Leicester’s support, wish Evenia and her campaigners well and hope that the Home Office will do the right thing and not send Evenia back to inevitable suffering. Supporters can also sign the on-line petition to the Home Office here.
Joel, Zodwe and Abdul, regular attenders at Leicester City of Sanctuary Drop in, enjoyed the get-together for environmental activism last weekend in the beautiful country side at Hartington, Derbyshire. We were delighted that Friends of the Earth offered us 3 free places for asylum seekers and refugees and all three returned with new enthusiasm for the environment, refreshed by a break from the city and meeting new friends and keen to join the Friends of the Earth local group.
Joel who works an allotment for asylum seekers told us “It was beautiful.
We had a successful week of celebrations this Refugee week including an open drop in, an interactive event, a public talk at the Secular Hall,two radio interviews and a news article about one of our clients who was granted refugee status last month. We also participated in the British Red Cross event with stalls, singing, music, dancing and drumming at the town hall square.
Thanks to Ambrose Musiyiwa for this short film to promote us during Refugee Week in Leicester.
Leicester City of Sanctuary plan an open day at our drop in centre and a lively public event to raise awareness about the asylum process on 20th June. We also have an exhibition all week at the Central Library. Contact us to book your place.
Leicester City of Sanctuary Drop in users and friends of Abdul were delighted when he was released last week after nearly 3 weeks in detention.
His release is pending a review of his case. Abdul expressed gratitude to everyone who supported him whilst in detention. He had been overwhelmed with letters and cards of support from Leicester and around the world. Over 3,000 people signed the petition and letters were sent to the Home Office and Immigration Ministers. See the Local press report here
Leicester City of Sanctuary held a fair at Friends Meeting House on 25th May and raised £1,450. Singing from the Zimbabwean and Red Leicester Choirs, excellent curry and rice, scrumptious cakes, crafts, books, plants and bric-a-brac made for a day full of bargains and fun. BIG thanks to all.
Leicester City of Sanctuary is supporting a campaign to release Abdul, a young man we have been working with who is gentle and kind and absolutely should not be being detained at a deportation and removal centre awaiting removal to Afghanistan. We spoke with Abdul this morning and he is very scared. Please support us by sharing the following link with all your friends.
Sign the petition to save Abdul.
More information here
Leicester City of Sanctuary has completed their submission to the Inquiry chaired by Leicester MP Keith Vaz. The inquiry includes an analysis of the process of claiming asylum; the treatment of applicants and post-decision outcome. LCoS have submitted comments based on our experience on issues including destitution, assessment of evidence from vulnerable groups (women, victims of torture) and the use of Country of Origin Information and Operational Guidance. We have made 15 recommendations.
Many of our clients at the City of Sanctuary Drop-in Centre on 11th April were delighted to meet Jon Ashworth MP and talk to him about their problems over lunch.
Jon said “Asylum seekers face a lot of trauma and hardship. They flee their homes, often in fear of their lives, and many of them are separated from their families. City of Sanctuary does a lot of good work in helping asylum seekers and providing the humanitarian assistance they need. I am so pleased to visit their drop-in centre.” He told volunteers they should be proud of all they had achieved. Jon was impressed by the work on display from refugee artist Ali Agayev from Azerbaijan. Ali works with asylum seekers and local people in shared acrylic on canvas workshop sessions held at the drop-in centre in St Martins House, Leicester. Sheila Mosely and John Burnham also came to sing and some of us joined in with them.
We have set up a Just Text Giving code for Leicester City of Sanctuary. Give us a boost by texting 70070 with the message “LCOS13” and then the number of £s you wish to donate from 1 to 5 or 10. £2 will buy a cooked lunch for a destitute asylum seeker. That’s the price of a cappuccino! Thank you.
Thanks to Sue Skyrme for bringing together different cultures for an entertaining evening enjoyed by over 100 people.
An appreciative audience gathered at the Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre on 16th March for an enjoyable evening with the Zimbabwean choir, Indian dancing from a local Primary school and English folk singing.