What is Asylum Matters?
Asylum Matters is an advocacy and campaigns project that works in partnership locally and nationally to improve the lives of refugees and people seeking asylum through social and political change. It is incorporating and building on the work of the Still Human Still Here coalition and the Regional Asylum Activism (RAA) Project.
Still Human was a coalition of more than 80 organisations campaigning to end the destitution of refused asylum-seekers in the UK by facilitating joint advocacy initiatives and working directly with decision-makers. RAA was established to support local organisations and networks in their regions to campaign effectively and inform and change attitudes about asylum-seekers and refugees.
The merger of RAA with Still Human under Asylum Matters provides new opportunities to increase our collective impact. The project will be hosted by the City of Sanctuary.
Which issues will Asylum Matters campaign on?
The mandate of Asylum Matters will be to secure the goals identified at the Sanctuary Summit in 2014 which have been endorsed by more than 320 organisations as part of the Birmingham Declaration. The goals incorporated in this Declaration include:
- Improved decision making, so protection is granted to all those who need it
- Improved access to good quality legal advice and representation
- An end to the indefinite detention of asylum seekers and migrants
- An end to destitution, by providing sufficient support to all asylum seekers to ensure that they can meet their essential living needs while in the UK
- Permission to work for asylum seekers whose case has taken more than six months, or they have been refused and are temporarily unable to return home
- Free access to healthcare for all asylum seekers while they are in the UK
- Asylum seekers to be welcomed & befriended on arrival, and offered free language tuition so they can fully participate and contribute to the local community
- All asylum seekers, refugees and migrants to be treated with dignity and respect
What is the relationship between City of Sanctuary and Asylum Matters?
Asylum Matters is a project, not an organisation, and therefore it is hosted by City of Sanctuary. The project will be independent in setting its objectives and remit but will work very closely with City of Sanctuary at a local and national level. There is real opportunity for more impactful advocacy as a result of this partnership.
Local groups will now have access to additional opportunities to engage in advocacy activities to support refugees and asylum seekers and receive training through their engagement with Asylum Matters staff. Asylum Matters as well will greatly benefit from the opportunity to increase its links and work with CoS’s network of local groups whose enthusiasm and dedication can have real campaigning impact when channelled towards relevant influencing opportunities.
What kinds of campaigning activities can local CoS groups get involved with?
Asylum Matters will facilitate a number of advocacy initiatives at a local and national level. The type of work undertaken will depend on the influencing opportunity at hand, but below are a few examples of work regularly undertaken by staff which local groups could get involved with:
- Collecting case studies and evidence to inform policy and practise at a local, regional and national level;
- Developing relationships with MPs and local councillors, identifying lobby opportunities and leading lobby groups to meet with local targets;
- Sharing policy updates and advocacy resources (briefings, reports, how-to guides, etc.) to raise awareness of issues and equip groups with info on the changing political context;
- Providing training (in relation to media, campaigns, parliamentary engagement, etc.) for local groups and refugee and asylum-seeker-led groups;
- Facilitating and supporting refugee and asylum-seekers and their supporters to share their stories on political, media, or other platforms in order to influence policies or public opinion.
How can local groups get involved with these initiatives?
Local groups are welcome to get in touch with existing Asylum Matters staff in their region in order to join their mailing lists which highlight local and regional campaigning opportunities and events. They are also encouraged to share ideas and opportunities for local campaigns or request campaigns support and capacity-building from their regional Asylum Matters focal-point. Contact for team members is currently:
- Yorkshire & Humberside, Lorna Gledhill – [email protected]
- Northwest, Estelle Worthington – [email protected]
- West Midlands, Emma Birks – [email protected]
- Northeast, Katie McSherry, [email protected]
- Wales, Currently Recruiting
- Project Director, London-based, Andrea Vukovic – [email protected]
Asylum Matters is also working on its own website where all relevant project updates will be shared (though the site is currently under construction): http://asylummatters.org/.