World Refugee Day is here, giving us a moment to celebrate the achievements of refugees, and also gives us time to reflect on what else we need to do to make sure their lives here are respected and valued.
BY FIZZA QURESHI
Tragedies here & Positivity from Abroad
Last week, we heard of the tragic death of Syrian refugee, Mohammed Alhajali in the Grenfell Tower fire. A sad indictment considering he fled the bombs and fires of Syria only to succumb to a fire in his new home. Fortunately, his parents have been granted a visa to attend his funeral after an online petition reached over 85,000 signatures. Highlighting just one of the sad realities refugee families face when separated.
In spite of all the tragedies, recently charities have become the target of the right wing press and politicians. Claims are being made that humanitarian rescue ships are taxis without borders, encouraging refugees to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, because they will rescue them. However, a report by Goldsmiths University, refutes these allegations and rightly points out that: “The argument against NGOs deliberately ignores the worsening economic and political crisis across several regions in Africa that has driven up the numbers of crossings in 2016”.
And as refugees continue to flee to Europe’s border, the European Commission has finally stepped up to its mark and launched infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland for their refusals to take their quota of refugees. The Commission stood firm stating that “the implementation of the Council Decisions on relocation is a legal obligation, not a choice”.
Further positive news has come from the settlement the Australian government made to the refugees detained on Manus Island and Nauro, which was equivalent to £41 million pounds. But, what will happen to those who will not be transferred to the USA, and will remain unfairly and inhumanely detained on those islands?
What next for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK?
The Conservative Party in their recent manifesto stated their intentions to redefine the definition of refugees and asylum. This continues the two-tier system created that categorises refugees into good ones (resettlement programme) and bad ones (those who have fled and made perilous journeys to reach the shores of Britain). While it will be near impossible to redefine an internationally recognised term, the disregard to ensure we offer protection to all those to who seek it is indefensible. So what can we do in the mean time?
Continuing the campaigning for asylum seekers & refugees
A committee of the Scottish Parliament commissioned a report into the impact of destitution on asylum seekers and those with insecure immigration status, whilst looking at the reasons why destitution occurred. The sensible and positive recommendations from the report should be used by refugee and migrant groups to launch renewed efforts to ensure that those who come here seeking protection are not left in desperate situations.
For a start, a demand needs to be made for asylum seekers to be allowed to have the right to work, supporting their mental and physical health.
Family reunification for refugees is still a hurdle they have to jump. Without legal aid to support them to bring in their family members the fees for applications and appeal become increasingly inhibitory, and divide families. Alongside this, unaccompanied minors are left without any opportunity to be reunited with any of their family members because they don’t have the right to bring over any family members.
Keep your eye out for campaigns on this issue coming soon.
UNICEF, and UNHCR have both recently issued reports highlighting the increasing number of refugees, especially as at least half of those are child refugees. They urge the UK and others to take responsibility and do more. But will this government do that?
Here in the UK, the Dubs Amendment remains unfulfilled, and somewhat now off the radar due to other events, like the General Election and Brexit negotiations. We, now have many unaccompanied minors remaining in the woods around Calais in unsafe conditions awaiting their chance to flee to the UK.
Only 550 children were transferred to the UK, so a legal action against the Home Office is being brought with regards to allegations of inconsistencies in how they dealt with the clearance of the Calais camp. At least 400 remained behind who have claims of family in the UK. The legal case will be one to watch.
What you can do as part of Refugee Week?
While we wait for the courts to decide the UK’s humanity, and campaign once again, let’s give ourselves this week to celebrate with all the refugees here. One way is to share this Saturday with young refugees from Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia, who will take you on their journey through the National Gallery listening to their newly commissioned audio trail and poetry series. For more events held during Refugee Week click here.
Fizza Qureshi is Director of MRN.