CTBI’s Churches’ Refugee Network meets

CTBI’s Churches’ Refugee Network met again this afternoon in London. Individuals involved in supporting and improving the asylum process as well as representatives from a wide range of (mostly) faith-based NGOs working in the refugee sector.

Attendees heard an update from Refugee Action‘s CEO Stephen Hale about the organisation’s plan for a three year campaign around a fair and effective asylum system that will launch in March 2018, with an initial focus on improving the current asylum decision-making process.

The group also heard about a separate campaign that will shortly launch on the issue of refugee family reunion organised through a coalition of Oxfam, Amnesty International UK, British Red Cross, British Refugee Council and UNHCR. The campaign seeks a change of Home Office rules to allow child refugees to allow child refugees to sponsor their parents and siblings; to expand the range of family members entitled to join family members in the UK; and the reintroduction of Legal aid for family reunion cases.

The Irish Council of Churches‘ Damian Jackson updated the CRN meeting about the situation on the island of Ireland. A significant Irish Supreme Court decision upholding asylum seekers’ right to work (and overturning a previous ban) has been followed up with a recent disappointing government briefing note which suggests that a large number of ideal employment sectors will be excluded and salaries received must be over €30,000 (the average Irish wage stands at €36,919). He also highlighted the housing bottleneck that is holding up the Republic of Ireland’s refugee resettlement programme, steps being taken to introduce a community sponsorship programme (that unlike the UK will be additional to existing government promises), and the lack of a working community sponsorship programmes in NI due to the NI Executive not functioning.

Fleur Houston briefed the group about a training day in Newcastle, England around “Welcoming Iranian Christians” structured around themes of hospitality and supporting people seeking asylum through their tribunal. The re-emergence of Biblical trivia being used at recent at recent tribunals was highlighted – this is counter to Home Office guidance – along with CTBI-hosted guidance for ministers called to give evidence in support of asylum applications.

Attendees were reminded about the upcoming CTBI Churches’ Refugee Network conference in London on 5 February that will focus on Christian Aid’s campaign around Internally Displaced People and the rollout of Churches of Sanctuary.

The Joint Public Issues Team’s conference on Brave New World: Faithful Living in a Time of Change in Manchester on Saturday 17 March was highlighted along with an upcoming Scottish Faiths Action For Refugees conference on Saturday 28 April along with other partners that will be announced shortly.

The Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission are hosting an online interactive summit on 29 and 30 January 2018. The Global Interactive Summit on Refugees and Displaced People aims to mobilise people of faith to engage with issues and to celebrate what has been achieved while also reflecting on lessons learnt to guide future action. (Streaming and participation details.)