Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Things start to move at Becket House reporting Centre

A diverse alliance of faith, refugee and civic groups have been working extremely hard over the past 8 months to improve reporting conditions at Becket House reporting Centre, and it is starting to pay off.

What was an hour and half queue on a Monday morning has now been reduced to 20 minutes as many peoples reporting arrangements have been reduced. Also, to mark Refugee Week, Becket House are hosting the “Saving Sanctuary” photography exhibition which tells the story of the Independent Asylum Commission along side stories of those who have fled persecution and British Citizens and where they find sanctuary to escape the hecticness of everyday life.

In September 2009 a group of leaders carried out a listening campaign which identified the issues which could be acted upon. A report was then presented to Tony Smith the then Regional Director for South East London for UKBA and CITIZENS for Sanctuary entered into a dialogue around reporting issues. Since January 2010 the team, have been meeting with Becket House to look at how they can work together to improve reporting conditions as well as working with members of staff to introduce a more relational culture at Becket House.

One of the biggest wins for the team, was to see peoples reporting frequency reduced. The team heard stories from people reporting up to three times a week. This has now been changed, with many people reporting just once a week. The team was also concerned about those waiting in line for up to an hour and half on Monday mornings come rain or sun. Because people are now reporting less frequently, the queue is considerably shorter and 20 minutes is the longest waiting time that people are experiencing.

Becket House also agreed to provide umbrellas so individuals no longer have to wait in the rain, and agreed for Friends of Becket House to serve free tea to the queue every Monday.

Lucky from DRC, who has been reporting at Becket House for many years is one of the volunteers who serves free tea said that “We serve about 70 cups of tea every Monday. It is very popular and the people are very grateful. It has also started people talking to each other in the queue. People tell me that no one ever looks out for them, so they are glad that we are taking small steps to change their experience of Becket House”.

CITIZENS for Sanctuary has also been working with Becket House to provide a more relational culture in the reporting centre. Regular “friends” events will take place, which will encourage members of staff to meet with those who report and members of the local community to ask questions about Becket House and the role that they carry out.

For more information that is being done with other reporting centre’s around the UK please contact

Immigration Minister Damian Green recognizes Citizens for Sanctuary as one of the most effective lobbying organisations ever.

Speaking at CITIZENS for Sanctuary Garden Party Minister Damian Green gave massive recognition to the work of CITIZENS for Sanctuary at the same time stating that there would be no more children and families detained by the end of summer and certainly not by Christmas 2010.

The event was organized to celebrate the successes of CITIZENS for Sanctuary over the past year and half and to pay tribute to the leaders and partners who have worked together over the past 6 months to bring about an end to detaining children and families for Immigration Reasons.

Around 80 leaders, partners and funders gathered at Westminster Abbey to celebrate and to meet other leaders from around the country. A number of MPs who had signed the pledge were also present as well as Sharon Flannery, Director for London and South East region for UKBA.

Amongst the celebration, there was still politics to be done. CITIZENS wanted to hear when the new coalition government would stop detaining children and families.

Minister Damian Green stated “It was not just a duty but a pleasure to end the practice. This will be a better country when we don't detain children for immigration purposes", he said, adding: "There is no getting away from the fact that if you are a civilised decent human being the sight of young children locked up behind bars should make you feel profoundly uneasy."

Referring to widespread press coverage at Christmas last year over the refusal by Yarl's Wood to allow CITIZENS for Sanctuary leaders to give Christmas presents to the children locked inside, Neil Jameson, Citizens UK executive director), asked Mr Green if he could confirm there would be no children there by next Christmas.

Mr Green also congratulated CITIZENS for Sanctuary campaigners for securing a more humane reception centre at the immigration processing centre at Lunar House in Croydon."I'm pleased to say that when I went there last week it now looks like an entry point for human beings rather than cattle. So that's one significant thing you chalked up even before the issue of children in detention," he told the gathering at Westminster Abbey.

Jeff Sango, leader with CITIZENS for Sanctuary said that “The build up of the campaign against child detention by CITIZENS for Sanctuary , the pre-election debates at the CitizensUK party leaders accountability assembly on 3rd May 2010 and an immediate action to stop child detention by the new coalition government ,through the personal commitment by Minister Damien Green , shows how the power of organising communities by CitizensUK can bring about effective policy changes in government. As a Zimbabwean community leader, I am very excited and encouraged by Minister Damien Green`s immediate response and a call to action by the new coalition government. There can be no better route to good government than constructive engagement between the governed and those who govern them.”