Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Bristol Councillors across all major political parties vote YES

Tonight, Bristol City Council voted YES to support the first aim of our campaign - to end Signing at Patchway. They will join us in putting pressure on the Home Office. 

Listen to Janet and Claire speak about the challenges for migrants to sign at Patchway.
Here is what the Councillors said in the debate.

Cllr Ron Stone (who presented the motion)
"It is hard enough for most of us to drive to patchway. even more difficult to work out a route that makes sense on public transport. Imagine yourself someone in this country, fear of life back home, maybe limited english, restricted financial support and legally required to sign at a police station in this city and your only option is to walk.

We claim to be a city of sanctuary. We have plaques that we have congratulated ourselves, of being supportive, of being humanitarian and understanding, yet this is a nonsense. What we should do to deserve this plaque, all of us in the council chamber tonight is to recognise the difficulty of that lady who spoke earlier, to give her 100% support. We need to lobby the Home Office and get better, more flexible, signing for people who are here trying to get legal application to become british citizens. I ask you seriously tonight to support this motion, across the political divide

Cllr Hopkins
"Last week i took opportunity to meet with the Police and Crime Commissioner to raise this matter, and we have their full support. There will be a police presence within the Lawrence hill area, it will be sufficient to allow the service to be provided from that area. We are pushing at an open door. It is also right that we get the Mayor to put energy into this matter and solve this very important problem.

Cllr Bolton
"There are times when it is difficult to understand how such crass decision are made. One can only hope the decision was an act of stupidity. If it is deliberate then it is quite a deliberate act of malice against some of the most vulnerable people in our city. Either way, it has no place in a caring city and the decision should be reversed.

Cllr Melais
"Cllr Ron clearly feels very passionate. Our group fully supports this. UK has long and honourable respectable reputation for assisting those who seek refuge on our shores. I have no intention of widening this debate in to the rights and wrong of national policy on the subject. All too often these arguments get reduced to different views over how asylum applications are handled and resolved.  As far as this resolution is concerned, as Ron explained, since 1st October of this year there is a requirement for many migrants to travel out to report at Patchway police station. I'm sure most members here will agree given our less than perfect transport system this is an unreasonable task and less than sensible arrangement. Bristol Refugee Rights website also advise us that the policy is to be reviewed in 2015. No doubt our Police and Crime Commissioner will be as interested as us in finding an alternative sensible location where the signing can take place. Of course no harm calling our Mayor to work with Sue Mountstevens and do what he can. We support the motion.

Mayor Ferguson
"I thank the petitioners and Ron for bringing this to our attention. I will absolutely work with Police and Crime Commissioner to lobby the Home Office to see if we can get a much more satisfactory arrangement.

Cllr Khan
"I know we have lots of issue around this asylum seeker. I have to mention the abuse that has been done to asylum seekers, such as introducing a van going round,and when they go to sign and they are detained for no reason, and now they have to travel to Patchway to sign. Underlining all of the good things that people do in this country, they are always on the spotlight for no reason. Again they are on the spotlight, lack of funds and physical illness are causing too much stress. I as well also ask the Mayor and Police Commissioner to do everything possible to bring a signing in the city so that these people can be left alone and abide the law and do their everyday business."

Cllr Jama
"As someone who was a former refugee and asylum seekers, and a big supporter of Bristol City of Sanctuary status, it makes me angry and galls me, that our city leaders, whether in the police or in the council, that in terms of this City of Sanctuary status, it is about celebrating this status. It is about being proactive, embedding in the actions we take, making sure that these poor vulnerable people who live in everyone of our wards, are safeguarded and not further hurt by some indirect action the border agency has taken.
I raised this issue with the Police Crime Commissioner over 3 months ago and with Senior Offices within the Council and I am really embarrassed and angry that it has come to to. We knew this was going to happen. We knew the signing was going to change from Trinity Road police station and it was going to now happen at Patchway. The asylum seeker and refugee community, with Labour party raised this issue. Why has the council and the police, with all its mights and personnel and resources not managed to be proactive about this and stop the signing changing from one location to another?

We have heard that this feels like a punishment to this community, some of these people have been persecuted in their country. They are hear looking for a safe haven. I am really disappointed in the council and in the police and I hope George Ferguson the Mayor and the Council will work with us to ensure this catastrophe is bought a very quick end and also that the learning from this, that  when decisions are made that we are know are going to impact negatively on a poor community, that we stop them before it actually happens."

Cllr Hance,
"All kinds of ghastly indignities inflicted to asylum seekers across the country. I am quite proud that in this city we have caught the, we have cross party agreement, we noticed and we are going to try and do something about it. That is quite unusual."

Everyone except the UKIP councillor voted in favour. He did not speak against it. 

Press Release -Council debate whether to support campaign and bus stop solidarity demonstration

Council debate whether to support campaign and bus stop solidarity demonstration
Tomorrow morning, Wednesday 17th, a group of refugees, migrants and allies will be holding a city centre bus stop solidarity protest with all people who have to report with the Home Office at Patchway.

Over 500 migrants in Bristol are required by the Home Office to sign in regularly. Until recently, people reported at Trinity Police Station. Since 1st October 2014, they have to travel to Patchway police centre, a 14 mile round trip from the centre.

Over half of the people signing are asylum seekers, having fled their country due to war or persecution. The group will be holding their protest near the bus stops by Primark, holding images of bombed out Broadmead to make the link between war and people seeking safety here in the UK.

Asylum applicants are already struggling with anxiety and depression - finding solicitors, gathering evidence, facing cultures of disbelief in the Home Office, not being allowed to work, being made destitute. Reporting at Patchway is making this situation even more unbearable. 

The protest is part of a Campaign to end signing at patchway and reduce signing frequency. The Dignity group, with the support of Bristol Refugee Rights and Bristol Defend Asylum Seekers have already collected over 800 signatures in support of their campaign goals. They will be asking more people to sign in support of dignity and freedom.

"It is all too common for people claiming asylum to have to wait years for their case to be resolved. The majority who are initially refused go on to win their leave to remain in the UK.  During this long wait, people have to keep signing every week. Each time they go, there is the chance they will be detained, taken to a detention centre and deported. Signing is a stressful experience for all, traumatic for some." said Claire, from East Bristol and Dignity member

On Tuesday evening, the council will be debating a motion tabled by Cllr Ron Stone, and will vote as to whether to lobby the Home Office to end signing at Patchway.

"I have a daughter aged 3 and she goes to school in Soundwell from 9am till 12. On my signing day, Tuesday, she misses school, because I have to be at Patchway between 10.30 and 11.30. From Easton it takes 1 hour30 minutes each way. It is not possible for me to take her to school in Soundwell, then go to Patchway and return in time to pick her up at 12. So she misses school. When I signed at Trinity Road she didn't miss school, because the journey was not so long." S, Bangladesh

The protest will take place by the bus stop from where the buses to Patchway leave to offer solidarity to those going to sign. However, not all can afford the bus. Only those in receipt of support from the Home Office are entitled to travel costs. Destitute asylum seekers either have to walk all the way or beg lifts or bus fares. Parents have to take children out of nursery, students are forced to miss college classes, disabled people find it even more difficult to travel to Patchway.

"I see no reason why people should be signing so often. Two to three days before signing you can't eat. After signing you are happy, then after 3 days you start to worry again. I feel so worried for those still signing weekly. Nothing guarantees you will sign and go back home. It is very sad. It dominates lives. We must end signing" M, West Africa and Dignity member

The Home Office have committed to a 3 month review of the decision to move signing to Patchway.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Will your councillor vote to support the campaign?

Tomorrow, Tuesday 16th December, Bristol City Council will debate whether to support our campaign to end signing at Patchway and reduce signing frequency?

Can you ask your councillor if they plan to vote in support of the campaign?

Councillor Finder

We will be outside from 5.30 - 6.15 to draw councillors attention to the campaign and to show support for people going in to speak about their experiences of signing. Do come and join us if you can.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Listen to speakers from BRR Detention Inquiry Public Meeting

"We are humans. We flee war. We can't go in the sky. we can't go under the ground. We just have this one world"

On Wednesday 17th December hundreds of people packed out the Malcolm X Centre in Bristol, home to the Bristol Refugee Rights (BRR) Welcome Centre to hear and learn from a panel of well informed and passionate people.
  • Beth Cooper, BRR - Introduction to the night and speakers, "Human Rights Day 365"   listen 
  • Alice Cutler, BRR - Introduction to the Speakers, Campaign goals and action ideas  Listen 
  • JP - he takes us on a moving guided storytelling tour of the detention system from waking up at home in the morning, to finding yourself in a cell. Listen 
  • Melanie Griffiths, Asylum Welcome- A History of the Immigration Prison Complex and Expansion Plans  Listen 
  • Bashir, BRR - 26 months in detention Listen 
  • BRR 1st Recommendation listen 
  • Eiri Ohtani, Detention Forum listen 
  • BRR 2nd Recommendation listen 
  • Abdul, BRR - detained despite  being a victim of torture listen  
  • BRR 3rd Recommendation listen 
  • BRR 4th Recommendation listen 
  • Signing Support, Visitors Group and Long Walk to Patchway Campaign listen 
  • Questions to Panel  listen

Please sign the petition and share these powerful stories with friends.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Two to three days before signing you can't eat

Long Walk to Patchway.....Long Walk to Freedom

We had a great campaign launch night last week. 45 people came and heard people speak about their experiences of signing.

"I see no reason why people should be signing weekly. Two to three days before signing you can't eat. After signing you are happy, then after 3 days you start to worry again. I feel so worried for those still signing weekly. Nothing guarantees you will sign and go back home. It is very sad"

"Whatever we can do to stop weekly signing is good. It can kill you. You are the only one who know how you feel."

We watched a film about Oraisha, from Leeds speak about his experience of signing, detention and the asylum system. We felt sad and worried for him and many others, people can feel so overwhelmed. Yet at the same time Oraisha and many more people are speaking out and coming together.

E, from Ivory Coast, spoke about having to walk to patchway, how long the journey is, how he has been waiting months now for his support (eg a room in a hostel type accomodation and 35 quid a week) to come through but still waiting. He has to beg money from friends.

We talked together about our ideas for the campaign and ended the evening with dancing and drumming together.

Since then over 600 people have signed our online petition and we are busy organising a protest for Wednesday 17th December, 9.30 -1pm near Primark, Broadmead, opposite the bus stop where people who have to sign and have bus money, get the bus to Patchway. 

Monday, 1 December 2014

Solidarity, Struggle and Resistance in Campsfield

On Saturday 29th November we joined campaigners outside Campsfield House to demonstrate for the closure of the Detention Centre. Over 50 people from local, national and international groups congregated in Kidlington to march to Campsfield. 
 We brought banners, horns, drums and voices to make a noise and show our solidarity with the people inside. Some of us scrambled up trees while others shook the fence. We walked through muddy fields to get to the back of the detention centre, where the detainees could hear us more clearly: “DETAINEES – FREE THEM NOW”. Over the megaphone we read out phone numbers that could be called by people who needed legal advice or a friendly person to talk to. We felt a deep solidarity with the detainees as we chanted together over the 16ft fence. 

We had to leave at 2o’clock as in the past visitors to detainees have only been allowed in when all campaigners have left the premises. We had been talking to some members of Movement for Justice who told us that, even though it is difficult to make visible, it is resistance from inside centres like Campsfield that is key to ending detention. 
They said that in fact this kind of resistance is happening in detention centres across the country and see our role as supporting their struggles. That is how it felt as we were leaving when a loud and powerful voice came from a group of about 40 people in the courtyard. “FREEDOM!” one man called and the group responded, “FREEDOM!” It was exhilarating to feel their strength, but we were also scared about how the authorities would contain that power.
Two hours after we left a detainee with mental health issues was seriously assaulted. Detainees reported that he was left in a critical condition after being beaten up by Mitie security guards. Between 60 and 100 detainees occupied the courtyard to protest against his brutal and unlawful treatment and the inhuman conditions people suffer during detention. Two other detainees were hurt by guards in the ensuing struggle and sustained minor injuries. At least three others were forced into solitary confinement.
One detainee said, “All they are trying to do right now is not let the news get out of this centre. I would like to say if there is anyone who has any feelings please, please speak for us.” We must not let the noise of the resistance be dampened in a remote field outside of Oxford.
The demands of the 60-100 protesting detainees are:
  • Permission to see their friend in order to see what happened to him
  • Release of the (at least 3-4) people forced into solitary confinement
  • Punishment for the guards who beat up the detainee
  • End to inhuman treatment, deprivation of freedom and separation from families

See video footage: https://vimeo.com/113244678