Tuesday, 26 January 2010


An alliance of faith, citizen and refugee groups is celebrating success after the UK Border Agency and Nottingham City Council responded positively to their campaign for local reporting for local people seeking sanctuary, at a meeting in the Council House on 22nd January.

Nottingham CITIZENS for Sanctuary gained a commitment from the UK Border Agency’s Regional Director, Gail Adams, and the Leader of Nottingham City Council, Jon Collins, to work with them to develop the prospect of a local reporting facility in Nottingham. A new facility in Nottingham would help the hundreds of people living in Nottingham who currently have to make the regular 32 mile round-trip to a reporting centre in Loughborough.

Nottingham CITIZENS for Sanctuary presented Gail Adams with a report entitled ‘Signing for Justice’, based on a sample of over 50 people who have to travel from Nottingham to Loughborough to report to the Border Agency. The report found that the journey caused serious difficulties for some vulnerable people and that the burden for assisting people to reach Loughborough often falls on local residents who provide lifts or expenses.

Also in attendance at the meeting were people seeking sanctuary for whom the regular trip to Loughborough is a reality. Christian, who fled persecution in the Democratic Republic of Congo and now lives in Nottingham, told Gail Adams that he had resorted to begging in order to raise the bus fare to Loughborough. Vera, from Malawi, explained that she had to pay for a childminder every month because her appointment in Loughborough requires her to leave the house before the children have gone to school.

The proposal for a local reporting facility in Nottingham had attracted high profile support from Alan Simpson MP, the Bishop of Sherwood, the Bishop of Nottingham, and the Leader of Nottingham City Council, and over 150 local people had demonstrated their support when a mock reporting centre had been set up in the Market Square in November 2009.

Gail Adams explained that the establishment of a local reporting facility in Nottingham would not be easy, but that she was prepared to explore the idea. In the meantime, she also committed the UK Border Agency to providing more flexibility to alter reporting times in order to minimise disruption to their family lives, and to consider piloting a voice recognition system in Nottingham as an alternative to travelling to Loughborough for vulnerable people.

Rev’d Karen Rooms, a Leader from Nottingham CITIZENS for Sanctuary, said:
“We were delighted that Gail Adams came to listen to what we had to say – and even more delighted that she has agreed to work with us to develop a local reporting facility in Nottingham so that people seeking sanctuary here do not have to travel to Loughborough.”

Cllr Jon Collins, Leader of Nottingham City Council, said:
“It makes sense for a city the size of Nottingham, that is proud to welcome those who have fled persecution and seek sanctuary in the UK, to have its own reporting facility. We will work with the UK Border Agency and Nottingham CITIZENS for Sanctuary to see what we can do to make this happen.”

Gail Adams, Regional Director of the UK Border Agency, said:
“I was pleased to be invited to meet with Nottingham CITIZENS for Sanctuary. Reporting is an essential part of our immigration system and offers an alternative to detention. Foreign nationals who are genuinely in need of our protection deserve a quick decision so that they can learn English, get a job and look forward to a safe, positive future. Equally, those who don’t need sanctuary in the UK are expected to leave the country as soon as possible.

“When we become aware of difficulties in reporting, we will work to overcome these problems. That’s why we are looking into alternatives for reporting in the Nottingham area. But it remains the responsibility of the individual to stay in contact with the UK Border Agency and reporting centres are an important part of this process.”

Monday, 18 January 2010


An alliance of faith, citizen and refugee groups conducted an inspection of the homes allocated to people seeking sanctuary across Greater Manchester on Saturday 16th January to identify and highlight poor treatment at the hands of private housing providers with government contracts.

Local citizens from more than 20 organisations participated in the Greater Manchester CITIZENS for Sanctuary campaign which they hope will result in decent housing for people seeking sanctuary from the three private housing providers. Happy Homes, United Property Management and Priority Properties North West are contracted by the UK Border Agency to provide housing to people seeking sanctuary in the North West of England according to agreed standards and response times for repairs.

But a listening campaign run by Greater Manchester CITIZENS for Sanctuary has revealed that housing problems are consistently ignored. These have included a cockroach infestation, a raw sewage leak, overcrowding and broken heating and hot water systems in the middle of winter.

Eve, from war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, is living in a house swarming with cockroaches. They are present throughout the house, including in the kitchen and in her bedroom. She keeps all her belongings zipped up in plastic bags as they get into everything, and she is too afraid to use the kitchen for cooking. Eve and another resident have reported the problem repeatedly for 8 months but her housing provider has not done anything to deal with the cockroaches.

Frustrated at seeing vulnerable people in their community being treated unfairly, residents from across Greater Manchester joined together to form their own Citizen Housing Inspection Teams to assess the quality of housing against the UK Border Agency’s own guidelines. They have written to the UK Border Agency’s Regional Director, Jo Liddy, requesting a meeting to discuss the results of their Citizen Housing Inspections.

Father Peter Conniffe, priest at Our Lady of Dolours in Salford and a leader with Greater Manchester CITIZENS for Sanctuary, said:

“As local citizens, we want to make sure that our taxes are being spent wisely and that we are not giving lots of money to irresponsible landlords who force slum housing on people who have come to the UK seeking sanctuary. The three housing providers have a responsibility to meet the terms of their contracts. We hope that Jo Liddy, UKBA Regional Director, will meet with us to find ways that we can sort this problem out.”

Esther, a Zimbabwean doctor who fled the Mugabe regime, explained:

“We had a very old toilet in my house which was always breaking. They finally replaced it after two years but didn’t fit it properly. In October, sewage water started leaking through the ceiling into our living room. We kept on reporting the problem but we were left in this situation for an entire month. Eventually they came and fixed the pipe but did nothing about the soiled carpet. I don’t want any special favours – but nobody likes living in a house that smells of sewage.”