Influencing Policy

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Changes in rules that may seem minor to the average person can make all the difference to the life of an asylum seeker and I am very proud to play a part.

Judith, Policy Manager

My role at the Refugee Council is to lead on the work we do to influence policy – the nature of my work means that I don’t have a typical day, which gives me lots of satisfaction (and a few headaches).

Influencing policy happens at various stages of policy development – I mainly work with UK Border Agency officials although of course have input into our parliamentary work and have a say in research and media too. It is important for an organisation like the Refugee Council to have some clear simple messages that everyone can understand what needs to change to improve the lives of asylums seekers and refugees, but in order to get change we need to work at all levels of details with those who make the laws and rules, and who write the administrative processes that affect our clients’ daily lives. I use a variety of methods to try to effect change; from formal letters and responses to government consultations, to meetings that range in size from two to forty people.

It’s important to recognise that influencing asylum policy is not as simple as pointing out how existing rules and processes harm our clients or make life more difficult for them. The government does not always share our view of how people should be treated as they wait for decisions on their asylum claims, or whether or not it is reasonable to lock them up as part of the process (we don’t think it is).

I also talk to those who have more influence, such as the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, or the Children’s Commissioner for England, as their power includes a requirement that government responds to what they say. That’s not to say that the UK Border Agency doesn’t listen to us and we do get some changes in policy as a result of our intervention. Changes in rules that may seem minor to the average person can make all the difference to the life of an asylum seeker and I am very proud to play a part in the improvements that we do secure by developing reasonable positions based on evidence from the work of colleagues in the rest of the organisation. I also need to be able to think on my feet and respond to the views of those I am trying to influence in a passionate but reasonable way. Not always easy, frequently frustrating, but never dull!