Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Success for Tyne and Wear CITIZENS for Sanctuary!

An alliance of faith, citizen and refugee groups have established a relationship with the UKBA Assistant Regional Director North East England, Mr Colin Flynn following a successful negotiation last week. Mr Colin Flynn responded positively to the call for improvements in reporting procedures in the Tyne and Wear region. Currently, individuals who live as far away as Sunderland are forced to report at Northumbria House, North Shields, which is approximately at 24mile round trip. The team gained a commitment from Mr Flynn to develop the prospect of a having a more central reporting centre as well as commitments on improving conditions at the current reporting centre.

Tyne and Wear CITIZENS for Sanctuary presented Colin Flynn with a report card based on findings from a listening campaign that they carried out in November 2009. The findings revealed that for the majority of people reporting at Northumbria House, the location of the reporting centre wasn’t the most convenient. Northumbria House is situated in North Shields, a residential area north of the River Tyne however, most people seeking sanctuary are accommodated in Newcastle or South Shields or even further afield in Sunderland. As the crow flies, South Shields is less than three miles from North Shields however; individuals must travel first into Newcastle before making the trip up to North Shields.

B, from Zimbabwe is due to start studying in September but says the 2 ½ hour round trip that he has to make, will disrupt his studies. B was able to present his story in the meeting with Colin Flynn, which resulted in Mr Flynn agreeing to set up a working group to explore buildings that could be used for a more local reporting centre. Mr Flynn agreed that 2 ½ hours is a disruption to someone’s day and agreed that a more central location would make more sense.

In the meeting, Mr Flynn also agreed to work towards improving conditions at Northumbria House ensuring those eligible for travel funds are aware that they are eligible. This will be done through introducing a more relational culture at Northumbria House encouraging staff to communicate more effectively with those who report.

Introducing a more relational culture, will also encourage staff to inform those with physical disabilities that there is a disabled entrance which previously was not used resulting in many individuals struggling with the steps at the entrance to the building.

Dr Paddy Harrigan leader from CITIZENS for Sanctuary Tyne and Wear said: “The team found Mr Flynn to be very welcoming to talk to us and the meeting was incredibly useful for local citizens and people seeking sanctuary in the area. We look forward to the progress that will be made at Northumbria House, but also to a healthy relationship with the UKBA North East. We now feel that we can do business with them.”

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