By Forward Maisokwadzo, National Media & Communications Officer
The ‘hostile environment’ created by Home Office policies is wrecking people’s lives and ruining Britain’s reputation for fairness, justice and
humanity. As an organisation working to make the UK a welcoming place and proud to offer sanctuary to people seeking safety, the City of Sanctuary network urges the government to rethink its attitude towards those fleeing violence and persecution who have looked to this country as a beacon of hope.
The Windrush scandal is not an isolated case. We have more than 100 groups in cities, towns and villages across UK and Ireland. Many provide practical support to sanctuary seekers and know how the ‘culture of disbelief’ within the Home Office has devastated the lives of so many who have sought asylum in the UK.
Many have spent years without any decision on their claim, and others have suffered indefinite detention. Such unnecessary delays in adjudications causes a great deal of mental damage. An asylum seeker from Somalia suffering from depression once said, “In my home country, I experienced physical torture but here in UK it is mental torture caused by this intolerable waiting and in limbo.”
How can people be expected to integrate effectively into the community when the official policy creates a hostile environment for them? The Brexit vote has unfortunately seemed only exacerbated tensions within communities.
The City of Sanctuary network has facilitated opportunities for the natural generosity of ordinary British people. They have given their time, thought and skills to organise a welcoming atmosphere from social activities to educational opportunities, from short holiday breaks to cultural events as a counter to their government’s restrictive and inhumane immigration policies.
The Home Office is in dire need of reform. We welcome the rejection of the term ‘hostile environment’ by the new Home Secretary, but we call upon Sajid Javid to ensure that his ‘compliant environment’ means that Home Office officials and the companies to whom they outsource responsibilities comply with the values of justice, fairness and tolerance which are claimed as essential British values. If he is to put his compassion into practice, the Home Secretary must devote more time, energy and resources towards those things which unite us all rather than to tacitly promote division and suspicion.
The public reacted with shock and disbelief at the appalling treatment of the Windrush generation who have borne the brunt of a hostile environment deliberately created to deter migrants who want to live and work in the UK.
Sabir Zazai, Chair of City of Sanctuary UK said, “The City of Sanctuary network believes the Home Secretary should respond to the evident public sympathy for those trapped by inhumane policies, by insisting that his department adopts a fresh approach: one which is open and welcoming and treats people looking to make the UK their home with humanity, dignity and fairness.”