Destitution or Sanctuary
Wednesday January 16, 2013 13:12 by nickleberry
On Tuesday evening I spent a rather chilly night sleeping on College Green to show my support for the campaign "Dignity for Asylum Seekers". This is a campaign run by Bristol Refugee Rights which highlights the plight of people seeking asylum in this country.
The catch-word of our short camp was "destitution", for this is the condition in which many asylum-seekers in Bristol find themselves. (One of the banners at the camp reminded people that "over 150 asylum seekers are destitute in Bristol".) And the word "destitution" felt particularly urgent, and ugly, after I'd spent a night in the cold - God help those poor folk for whom this is their daily life.
In addition to showing solidarity, the camp was also in anticipation of a Council debate concerning asylum seekers, which took place the next afternoon (yesterday). In 2011 Bristol declared itself a "City of Sanctuary" for asylum seekers, with members of all political parties signing the declaration. Clearly sanctuary must mean something more than destitution, and this is what the debate in the council chamber was focused on.
I'm pleased to report that the Council recognised that the current state of affairs is unacceptable, and have resolved to do something about it:
Full Article | Outside and Inside the Council House - another report on the action | Sleep Out in the Chains of Destitution Callout
Council asserts that if our proud declaration stating Bristol IS a City of Sanctuary is to be meaningful and worthy of it’s fine words we MUST act to improve this situation as follows………..
1. That the Mayor writes to the UK Government seeking a change of policy to allow local authorities to assist refused asylum seekers in danger of destitution .
2. . Calls on all Bristol MPs to not only support the letter, but to arrange a debate in the House of Commons and support a change in current laws regarding asylum applications by removing discriminatory restrictions upon local authorities in the support they can provide to asylum seekers, and to restore their right to work.
3. Agrees to produce a report highlighting all existing support available in Bristol including Housing Training Education options for their children Legal Advice etc open to vulnerable applicants including asylum seekers awaiting decisions on their future.
4. Believes that the City Council should act as the focal point for help, support advice to applicants via a designated officer and bring a more coordinated response to be easily available to those in need, at vulnerable times of their lives.
5. Agrees to seek further support for this motion and actions via The Local Government Association encouraging other Councils in the UK to follow Bristol’s lead.
The full text of the resolution can be found here. A webcast of the afternoon meeting will soon be linked here - look for "Full Council (15 Jan)".
These are fine words of course... Now we must make sure that the council follows up with action. It is up to us, the people of Bristol, to ensure that asylum seekers find sanctuary, not destitution, when they arrive in our fair city.
[Another report from the camp | The original call-out | Dignity for Asylum seekers (including photos of the camp) | Bristol Refugee Rights ]
The camp and the cathedral
Dignity for asylum seekers