Abused, kidnapped and lost – the government should hang its head in shame over its lack of care towards vulnerable minors
Unaccompanied children fleeing war, torture and chaos are surely one of the most vulnerable demographics in the world. Yet an Observer investigation has exposed how once these children reach the UK they can be treated with an appalling lack of care, to the extent that large numbers are being kidnapped in plain sight by criminal gangs. Today, we publish allegations by a whistleblower that the staff in one hotel accommodating some of these already traumatised children have subjected them to repeated emotional abuse.
Peter Kyle, the Labour MP for Hove, has met some of the children being housed in a hotel in his constituency. He has described their vulnerability: one 15-year-old from Iran who had lost both of his parents travelled to the UK with a friend but was separated from him because he tested positive for Covid and was so anxious “his face was pinched and his legs were buckling”. The majority of unaccompanied children arriving in Britain come from countries with terrible records of conflict and human rights abuses: Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. Many will be in immediate danger from the criminal gangs to whom they owe money for smuggling them into the country.
A new law has recently come into force in Finland that expands health care for undocumented migrants living in the country. Under this law, undocumented people can now access necessary care – that is, care that health care professionals deem necessary. This covers, for instance, conditions like diabetes or asthma that, if left untreated, would constitute a risk to the person’s health and increase the likelihood of urgent care being needed in the future.
Updated 21 January 2023: Another beautiful day as we stand in solidarity with the women incarcerated at the Derwentside IRC aka Hassockfield detention centre.
We were joined by students from Durham university – this tells us our call to shut down this centre is gaining momentum. We had senior member from Durham and a politician that spoke strongly against this establishment. It was peaceful and the police were there but did not have work very hard.
‘This is the overarching lesson of our ever-more disrupted world: we need to reimagine how power in the world is exercised, and that all governments not only have the opportunity but the responsibility to take action to protect human rights within and beyond their borders.’
“In 2022, we saw the most significant assault on human rights protections in the UK in decades,” said Yasmine Ahmed, UK director at Human Rights Watch. “From your right to protest to your ability to hold institutions to account, fundamental and hard-won rights are being systematically dismantled.”
Human Rights Watch highlighted several laws introduced in 2022 that had the effect of significantly weakening human rights protections. The UK government introduced laws that stripped rights of asylum seekers and other vulnerable people, encouraged voter disenfranchisement, limited judicial oversight of government actions, and placed new restrictions on the right to peaceful protest.
The government also proposed the repeal and replacement of the Human Rights Act, which gives life to the European Convention on Human Rights in the United Kingdom, with a so-called Bill of Rights. Human Rights Watch said the bill, if adopted, would fundamentally undermine human rights protections in the UK.
Welcome to this edition of SNN newsletter where we are covering a number of items that will be of interest to everyone involved in migrant and refugee solidarity work.
The first article analyses the renewed government attacks on the rights of migrants and invites all movements for migrant justice to come together and intensify our campaigns to defeat them. The second article reports the launch of the antiracist network promoted by the Trade Union Congress. A call for the rights of domestic workers by our signatory Waling Waling is the topic of our third article, while a contribution by our signatory Migrant Voice denounces the horrible conditions experienced by asylum seekers in London hotels. Finally we welcome our new signatory Migrant Democracy Project.
Migrant Voice have been engaging with asylum seekers accommodated in hotels across London, to learn about their conditions and experiences.
We are currently conducting a survey and we will be launching a report on the conditions and experiences of asylum seekers as part of a campaign to give them a voice and improve their situation.
The campaign came about from hearing from a number of asylum seekers in hotels and organisations supporting them. We learnt that some of the hotels are overcrowded, with some having up to ten people in one room and one toilet for the whole floor. We’ve heard complaints about the quality of the food, the lack of support, the mistreatment from some staff, lengthy waiting times in hotels which can exceed a year and a half, and lack of communication from the Home Office.
Among the asylum seekers are families, children and women, some of whom pregnant, who did not receive proper care. We are aware of women who have not been moved out of the hotel, even after giving birth.
The inaugural meeting of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) anti racist network took place in London last November.
It was attended by about 50 people, The overwhelming majority of them were migrant and migrant advocate organisations’ members.
The discussion stressed the importance that all workers, whatever their immigration status is, get organised to stop exploitation, and showed a general wish to see a permanent network created and coordinated by the TUC.
A number of thought provoking speakers were heard (including Emmanuelle Andrews, Liberty; Fizza Qureshi, Migrants Rights Network; Gargi Bhattacharyya, TUC Race Relations Committee; Liam Shrivastava, Institute of Race Relations; Sereena Abbassi, gal-dem; Sophie Chauhan, Dalston Superstore). The Government’s anti migrant and racist legislation was condemned and it was evident that the TUC and individual Unions accepted that they must do much more, both in challenging racism and organising precarious workers.
Waling Waling: In 1997/98 the then Labour government accepted that domestic work in the private household would be recognised as work in employment legislation.
This followed a ten-year long campaign organised by Kalayaan, Waling Waling, the Commission for Filipino Migrant Workers (CFMW) and fully supported by the Transport & General Workers Union, now Unite. Other organisations and individuals including parliamentarians in both Houses and in the European Parliament supported the campaign over the years. Disgracefully, in 2012 the then Home Secretary in the coalition government, Teresa May abolished the domestic worker visa with rights and protections, saying that future domestic workers would be protected under the Modern Slavery Act, thereby reducing workers with legal rights and protections to victims with the promise of protection. This system simply doesn’t work.
StatusNow4All: Welcome to 2023, as the government renews its attacks on the rights of migrants
The New Year was underway before the prime minister offered up his ‘five pledges’ to the nation, one of which being to stop “small boats” crossing the Channel. The use of phrase is intended to put a benign gloss on a political programme which aims at a final end to the right to seek asylum in the UK.
The right wing of Mr Sunak’s party sees a renewed attack on the rights of migrants as the only chance the Conservative party has of digging itself out of the deep hole of its current unpopularity and winning a general election sometime in 2024. They are prepared to throw everything they have got at the task of ending all vestiges of migrant and refugee rights and returning to the hostile environment policies which produced the ‘Windrush generation’ scandal of 2017.
We are proud to be the UK’s first literary magazine of Sanctuary, accredited by City of Sanctuary.
The second print edition has now been released and is also available online. With a forward by Lord Alf Dubs, it is a selection of fiction, poetry and non-fiction works written by those with with first-hand experience of displacement and seeking asylum. You can find out more here