Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Education is the way forward to safeguard our long term future of providing sanctuary

An alliance of 18 teachers, education consultants, ex immigration officers and migrant leaders came together last week in the first step to ensure that: No child is to leave education without an understanding of our past and present role of providing sanctuary and that they are given an opportunity to develop their own minds in the great migration debate.

"The Migration Conundrum" is an exciting new resource being produced by London CITIZENS, a partnership of CITIZENS for Sanctuary and the Schools Alliance. The resource aims to bring compelling, discursive and active teaching and learning around the issue to every classroom. We believe that every young person should be entitled to experience a high quality, evidence-based exploration of this issue.

The resource is designed in a flexible resource to teach this issue, but also associated issue to fit the curriculum. There are four key parts to draw from:
Real Lives - Case studies of some of our young leaders.
Activate - Ideas, activities and resources to bring the issue alive in the classroom.
You Can Tool Kit - A tool kit to help students make a difference and take action.
Evidence Bank - A bank of supporting facts, figures and evidence.

The team will bring a wealth of skills, experience and knowledge to the resource as well as painting a clear picture of the situation.

Jon, 27, fled Zimbabwe 2 year ago "It's a shame that the media tend to tell a negative story when it come to issues around sanctuary and immigration. This resource will help students understand what individuals really go through and who they can become whilst seeking sanctuary in the UK. It will encourage them to make up their own minds, and hopefully take some action."

The resource, is currently being trialled in 4 of our London schools and will be available for the start of the new year 2010/2011 however, if you would like to trial it in your school please contact

Monday, 8 February 2010

Cold, Confused and Cashless: South Wales Citizens celebrate successful negotiation with the UKBA to help bring the cashless out of the cold'

Before Christmas South Wales CITIZENS for Sanctuary, an alliance of faith, citizen and refugee groups, held an action in Cardiff to test out the new Azure card and to monitor the impact of the card on people seeking sanctuary. Local communities formed Citizen Monitoring Teams to assess the impact of the new Section 4 payment card on dignity, stigma, travel, access to food, clothing and healthcare, ease of use and value for money. The Citizen Monitoring Teams who braved sub-zero temperatures for the action found the card to be poor value for money, inadequate to meet the needs of families and unacceptably difficult to use.

The action was a media success and the inadequate provision for people seeking sanctuary on Section 4 was covered by the Western Mail, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru and on BBC1 Wales 6 o’clock News.

The findings of that action have now been collated and published in the South Wales CITIZENS for Sanctuary report, ‘Cold, Confused and Cashless’. And, on Friday 29th January Mr. Philiip Smith, UKBA Regional Chief of Operations for Wales and the South West, met with a team of leaders from South Wales CITIZENS for Sanctuary to discuss possible solutions to the many problems they had been recording since the introduction of the Azure card to Wales in early December. The CITIZENS for Sanctuary team in South Wales presented Mr. Smith with the 'Cold, Confused and Cashless' report which outlined their requests to address some of the pressing concerns around the Azure card.

The South Wales CITIZENS for Sanctuary negotiation with Mr. Smith was a cause for celebration. The team was really pleased to hear that Mr. Smith would work with them to sign up local charities shops and businesses to the Azure card, providing they meet UKBA requirements. He also agreed to join CITIZENS for Sanctuary to meet with Cardiff Bus to discuss signing them up to the Azure card scheme in Wales. This would make an enormous difference to people like Constance and her family who have to survive on the Azure card. Constance said “trying to look after my two young boys with no access to the bus is so hard. I was forced to walk back in the driving rain over three miles with my young children and our shopping bags which left me and my family ill for several days. All because I couldn’t get on the bus. So now I am really pleased that Mr. Smith has now agreed to work with us on the issue.”

Sister Ruth O'Neil and Edie who is seeking sanctuary from Zimbabwe, both leaders from South Wales CITIZENS for Sanctuary, raised concerns about staff training. Edie’s powerful testimony about the loss of dignity she feels using the Azure card, especially when shop assistants don't recognise the card or she is unnecessarily forced to show ID, moved Mr. Smith to agree to work on reminding stores of their obligation to train staff. Mr. Smith even agreed to meet with Cardiff City Council to discuss children accessing school trips if their parents are on the Azure card. It was a very successful morning and gave citizens and people seeking sanctuary the chance to hold the UKBA to account and to look together at solutions for some of the problems associated with the Azure card.

However, the team was most impressed by Mr. Smith’s agreement to build a relationship with South Wales CITIZENS for Sanctuary. Reynette Roberts, who chaired the meeting, said:

"This is a really positive outcome and I am looking forward to working with the UKBA to address the concerns of local citizens and people seeking sanctuary in Wales".