Looking back over 2007 - Refugee Council
December 28, 2007

Looking back over 2007

By Jane – Campaigns and Public Affairs Team

It’s that quiet time at work, when the office is half empty, the phones are quiet and Parliament is on recess.  So a good time to reflect on the past year in Parliament – asking ourselves what’s worked, what hasn’t, and where do we need to go next year?

The 2006-7 parliamentary session was certainly busy.  27 Early Day Motions on asylum and refugee issues were tabled, covering a wide range of subjects including the detention of children, destitution and the legal aid reforms which will make access to fair legal representation for asylum seekers even harder.  Dozens of Parliamentary Questions were asked, scrutinising the government on their record on all stages of the asylum process.

In the spring, restrictions to English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) brought into question the government’s commitment to integration.  In the summer attention focused on the plight of Iraqi interpreters and staff to the British Forces who faced persecution in Iraq but had been refused asylum in the UK.  More recently the fate of returned Darfuri asylum seekers has brought the fairness of the asylum system into question.

Over the year the campaign to end destitution, ‘Still Human Still Here’, gathered more support inside and outside of Parliament.  We arranged special events at all 3 party conferences to promote the issue with party activists and MPs.  Although the government did not accept our clauses to end destitution in the Borders and Immigration Bill, we will step up the campaign in the New Year and use a new powerful DVD to make the case to MPs (watch the 12 minute DVD here).

One of the most insightful Commons debates arose earlier this month when MPs debated the government’s response to the Joint Committee on Human Right’s report into the treatment of asylum seekers.  The Minister for Immigration, Liam Byrne made some positive indications of future policy regarding the Right to Work, saying, “the debate about the right to work and other incentives is important and difficult. It would be tremendously fruitful if the Committee collaborated in designing a way out of a very difficult situation, to which the Home Office genuinely does not have all the answers.”  He also emphasised his “ambition is that kids are not held in detention centres and that we find workable alternatives.”

We will be pushing the government on all these issues in 2008.  Happy New Year!