And finally, the Conservatives... and a visit to Newcastle - Refugee Council
October 12, 2009

And finally, the Conservatives… and a visit to Newcastle

By Jonathan, Policy and Development team

Last week we were off to Manchester for the Conservative Party conference, where we held a fringe meeting with the Red Cross and the Still Human Still Here campaign coalition. Our meeting was chaired by Alistair Burt MP and there were speeches from David Ndiwanyu, a social entrepreneur and refugee leader from Bradford, Sir Nicholas Young (Red Cross), Julian Prior (Centre for Social Justice) and our own Donna Covey.

Sir Nicholas spoke about the need for policy solutions to end the destitution of asylum seekers and for the need of an asylum policy to be proud of.

Donna referred to the 70th anniversary this year of the start of the second world war and how important it was to defend the central principles of the 1951 refugee convention. She also spoke about the need to get asylum decisions right first time and to abolish the detained fast track for asylum seekers.

Julian spoke about the need to tackle public confusion around asylum in the midst of wider migration and described destitution as being absolutely immoral.

Yet the key speech came from David who gave his personal story about why he had to come to the UK and his experience as an asylum seeker in the UK. He expressed his surprise at the hostile reception that he had received when arrived here and that he had not been expecting benefits but had wanted to work.

Then I left Manchester to attend the World Day for Decent Work event in Newcastle held jointly by the Northern TUC and the Regional Refugee Forum North East. This was an inspiring event as it focused on hearing individual stories from people who had come to this country seeking safety and had been denied the entitlement to work. We heard from some amazing people who had been denied the chance to use their skills.

There were also speeches from young people seeking asylum who, while they were in support of the work campaign, made the point that they were being denied access to higher education. They spoke of attending schools in the UK, but at the age of 18 being unable to join their friends at university as asylum seekers are classed as overseas students and have to pay much higher rates.

It was an inspiring event and a powerful example to the rest of the country of how refugee groups and trade unions can come together with a common purpose of campaigning for asylum seekers to be able to work!