In just seven days an incredible 27,000 people have signed our open letter to the Chancellor calling on him to immediately reverse planned funding cuts that will see thousands of vulnerable refugees struggle to access vital services – such as housing, access to healthcare, support with mental ill health and help into employment – in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
In what can can only be described as a disgraceful U-turn, the Government has confirmed it plans to withdraw millions of pounds of pre-allocated funding in the event that Britain leaves the European Union without a deal. Our worry is that such a move will seriously undermine the futures of vulnerable refugees that the Government itself has committed to supporting, many of whom are at crisis point and in need of urgent support.
Amongst those who are supporting our calls are actors Dame Emma Thompson and Greg Wise. The couple’s adopted son, Tindy, is a refugee from Rwanda who they met at a Refugee Council event many years ago. Actor Joanna Lumley has also leant her support to the campaign.
Set up in 2014 by the European Union, the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) is a pot of billions of euros to be used by EU member states to support, in part, the effective integration of non-EU nationals, including newly recognised refugees.
We were awarded an AMIF contract worth £2.6million to support 3,500 refugees over two years. Since October 2018 we have has received part of the funds to support refugees at crisis point – those at high risk of homelessness and destitution, and in desperate need of support with isolation and mental ill health. The loss of the remaining funds will leave 1,900 refugees deprived of this vital support.
Refugees with stories similar to Mary’s. After receiving refugee status, Mary had just one month to leave the accommodation she was in. Shockingly, the council told her they couldn’t help her find somewhere to stay until she’d slept outside as a rough sleeper. Already suffering with PTSD, Mary’s physical and mental health rapidly deteriorated as she became more stressed and worried than ever.
Luckily, Mary was referred to us at the the Refugee Council. The charity helped her find a solicitor and a new place to stay. Mary says: “My experience leads me to wonder what would have happened to someone in a similar situation to me, who did not have the opportunity to contact the Refugee Council and get support from a solicitor? If I had slept rough as suggested and was harmed or my belongings stolen, who would be held responsible for it? What would have happened to me had I not been in contact with the Refugee Council?”
While the Government has committed, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, to guaranteeing other streams of EU funding that has been secured directly from the EU, it has refused to do the same for AMIF funds which were issued to charities via central Government. The Refugee Council, along with a host of other charities supporting refugees in the UK, received its AMIF funds via the Home Office, and has been told that, in the event of a no deal Brexit, their funding will be cut immediately. The charities say this is a clear back track, citing assurances given by the UK government when it first awarded the grants that funding would be secure post Brexit.
The charities – which includes Refugee Action, the Scottish Refugee Council, Barnet Refugee Service, RETAS and Refugee Women’s Association – estimate that the joint value of the AMIF funds are in the tens of millions of pounds and support an estimated 30,000 refugees in the UK.
Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said: “We are heartened by the amazing response from thousands of members of the public in such a short period of time. Once people hear the simple facts and imagine the damage these cuts will do, they have been very quick to act and show their support.
“The fact is this funding is for refugees who are in the gravest danger – those who are very likely to end up on the streets without our support, are destitute and extremely isolated. It is hard to believe that these vital services are going to be shut down. We urge the Chancellor, Sajid Javid, to see reason and listen to what thousands of people are saying – overturn this decision immediately so that we can continue to help refugees build their lives and start to contribute to UK society.”