Joelle, a young woman from the DRC, joined Refugee Council Chief Executive Donna Covey at the Conservative Party Conference, where she urged Damian Green to abolish the Azure payment card for refused asylum seekers. Read her account of her second party conference.
My second experience at the party conferences was great. Great because it was an open door for the breakthrough in my campaign against the azure payment card.
This time I travelled along with Jonathan Ellis (Executive Director – Advocacy and Influencing at the Refugee Council) straight to the Midland hotel where our fringe meeting at the conservative party conference was supposed to be. I liked the venue and the Rolls Suite where we held our meeting. It was convenient for everybody there.
Our theme was “Fit for purpose: The Refugee Convention after 60 years” and this opened good topics and different issues around refugees and asylum seekers and guess who was there! Damian Green MP, minister of State for Immigration, Gavin Barwell MP Member of Parliament for Croydon Central who was the chair of our meeting, Nicola Blackwood MP Home Affairs Select Committee, Roland Schilling, UNHCR Representative to the UK, Donna Covey the Chef Executive of the Refugee Council and me of course. See how we had like a block of three persons from the government and three others advocating on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers—interesting, isn’t it?
The reason for me to be there was to lobby the Minister of State for Immigration like you know that I’m campaigning against the azure card that is a payment card for all asylum seekers who have had their asylum claims refused and are waiting to return to their own countries, but have no other way of supporting themselves. The users of this card could be your brother, your sister, your friend or whoever else so dear to you.
Would you really sleep in peace while they are starving, humiliated, sick and depressed? What kind of future we are building? I’ve a case of a young intelligent man, full of ambition but can’t concentrate because he is tired of depending on the azure card and that means he doesn’t even think of going to university???
The Immigration Minister didn’t have the opportunity to answer to my plea on the panel maybe because I was the last speaker but I had a little chat after our fringe meeting to try to find directly from him if he could pledge to abolish the azure card. Thank God that, though he gave me some reasons, he eventually agreed to look again at the azure card’s policy which is good news.
I’m doing my part, but I strongly believe that it is our duty all as human being. We all want to be treated with respect and dignity but this azure card is taking that dignity away from the asylum seekers. Please contact your parliamentary representative to raise this issue in parliament and let me or the refugee council know at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com with any feedback you receive
Joelle is a guest blogger for the RC. The views expressed in this blog are hers and not necessarily those of the Refugee Council.