Joy and Despair

18 Aug

RASAG has had two great sources of happiness recently; two of the founding members have been granted indefinite leave to remain. We are all so happy and pleased for the members and wish luck to them and thier families, one of which is here in the Uk and the other is still in the country of origin, hopefully now one step closer to being brought over here to start a new life. However, it has also come to light that one of our key members is living in a state of depression and discomfoft due to being fitted with an elecronic ankle tag to monitor his movements and to impose an unreasonable curfew upon him. This member has been unable to attend RASAG events that take place in the evening, and when he did break his curfew to attend the launch of Chris Stone’s “Shared Sense of Belonging” project, he was threatened with imprisonment.

The member in question arrived in the UK in 2005 and his original claim for asylum was turned down, but as he is from Iran, there was no question of him being returned to his country; one of the many incongruities of the asylum system. Having been forced into destitution, with all benefits and housing rights withdrawn, the RASAG member took the uneasy choice to enter into illegal work. He was caught and was sentenced to 12 month in prison; he served 16 months… This is already a breach of his human and civil rights. When he was finally released after spending an awful year and a quater in Liverpool and Doncaster prisons he was forced to submit to electronic tagging; that was three years ago and he has abided by the conditions ever since. Having reached rock bottom with his situation after suffering damage to his leg from the tag while playing football, and being unable to interact with his local community and the RASAG group because of the curfew, the RASAG member has decided to speak out about his plight and to try to challenge his sentence through the courts. The member in question has spoken to the BBC journalist who we have been working with about his situation and he has taken letters of reference to a solicitor to see if they can help him.

Another source of concern in the latest RASAG meeting was the Home Offices reaction to the Supreme Court Judgement that failed asylum seekers who make a second fresh claim for asylum should be given the right to work if they do not receive a decision within one year of their claim. Damian Green, Immigration Minister, has decided to severely restrict the jobs that this group of asylum seekers, estimated to be around 45,000 in number, will be able to do. He said “I believe it is important to maintain a distinction between economic migration and asylum – giving failed asylum seekers access to the labour market undermines this principle.” (Guardian Thursday 29 July 2010), yet his idea to limit this group to jobs on the shortage occupation list means that infact they will be treated in exactly the same way as economic migrants from outside the UK. As Jonathan Ellis, director of policy and development at the Refugee Council, said “The shortage occupation list is not designed for asylum seekers but rather economic migrants needing sponsorship to come to the UK. Asylum seekers who have waited so long for a decision should be allowed to work for local employers whenever their skills are needed.” (Guardian Thursday 29 July 2010)

The only thing that is clear here is that the right to work continues to be a minefield of uncertainties and the Home Office continues to churn out inconsistant policy and commentary. Progress is slow and even good news is tainted.

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