News

Funding slashed for WRC and other refugee charities

Press release

31.01.2011

Welsh Refugee Council is facing the biggest challenge in its 20 year history as central government funding for its advice services is set to be slashed by 60% from April 1st. Drop-in advice centres for asylum seekers and refugees in Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Wrexham are under threat. Other major refugee charities in the Asylum Support Partnership are also affected. The ASP includes Refugee Council, Welsh Refugee Council, Scottish Refugee Council, Refugee Action and North of England Refugee Service.

In response to the government proposals to slash funding to the refugee charity sector, the Asylum Support Partnership said in a joint statement:

“Savage cuts to the refugee charity sector will force people who have already fled torture, conflict and persecution in their own countries to suffer even further while seeking safety in the UK. This is unacceptable. Asylum seekers and refugees depend on the specialist services and expertise of refugee charities to enable them to rebuild their lives.

Despite urging the government to reduce the unprecedented scale of these cuts, and to give us more time to implement the changes, we are extremely disappointed that cuts at a local and national level to our vital services will nevertheless go ahead as planned. We understand these are challenging times, but we are gravely concerned cuts this deep will not only devastate the organisations that provide asylum seekers with a lifeline, but will a have a serious and lasting impact on the wider voluntary and public sector.

Sixty years on from the UN Convention for Refugees, which has saved countless lives, it is imperative our government continues to protect those seeking refuge in the UK today. They must do this by ensuring the organisations that support them can carry on with their life-changing work.”

Welsh Refugee Council is very concerned about the impact in Wales.

Numbers of asylum seekers and refugees in Wales are small and so many mainstream services are not used to working with them and specialist services are needed. About half of Welsh Refugee Council’s staff are refugees and they are able to provide a unique service. The proposed cuts come at a time of cuts across the voluntary sector so vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees will have fewer options for help from other organisations.

In Wales it is difficult for asylum seekers to get access to the legal advice they need, WRC helps them to find lawyers and offers other forms of advice. Without this help, more will be without legal advice on their asylum claims.

WRC’s offices run on a shoe-string with a lot of volunteers, every penny is needed, and every penny is well spent.

CEO Mike Lewis said:

“We expected a cut in our funding but not on this scale. We will try our best to keep our much-needed services running but I am very worried that we will be turning away people who have no-where else to turn.

I know that people in Wales will continue to provide a welcome – and that is hugely valuable – but expert advice is also essential to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees are safe.”

Ends

For further details contact the Welsh Refugee Council press contacts:

Althea Collymore : 02920 489800

More information about the work of the Welsh Refugee Council can be found in the latest Impact Report.

Read Asylum Aid’s new report

Asylum Aid has published its new research report, Unsustainable: the quality of initial decision-making in women’s asylum claims. It can accessed at http://www.asylumaid.org.uk/pages/.html

The report includes information about women’s experiences of seeking asylum in Wales, especially Cardiff. Welsh Refugee Council casework and policy staff have contributed to this paper.

The report looked at a sample of forty-five cases from three UKBA regions and found that:

• The UKBA did not accept the credibility of women’s asylum claims in the vast majority of cases.

•  Women were refused asylum on grounds that were often arbitrary, subjective, and demonstrated limited awareness of the UK’s legal obligations under the Refugee Convention.

•  A disproportionately high number of the asylum refusals issued to women were subsequently overturned on appeal. 42% of the initial refusals in our sample were overturned by an independent immigration judge; this number rose to 50% when including rulings made after the reconsideration of an initial appeal.

•  Case law and Country of Origin Information was used selectively or unrepresentatively.

Responding to the research, UKBA has acknowledged that its own internal figures also show that a disproportionately high number of the refusals issued to women asylum seekers are overturned on appeal and has agreed to analyse this data further.

Asylum Aid will meet with officials in the near future to ensure that the report’s recommendations are taken forward.

To find out more about the work of Asylum Aid, see their website.

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