Action Foundation’s new Chief Executive Duncan McAuley reflects on two of the biggest issues facing asylum seekers in the coming months.

You will have likely seen in the news that The Nationality and Borders Bill has been through its second hearing in Parliament this weekI am aware that given the way it has been presented there will be some widespread misunderstanding about the context. I was shocked to see our asylum application numbers in the context of our peers in Europe.

In the calendar year 2020 (the latest for which we have figures) we had 29,465 applications, that’s less than a third of France, less than a quarter of Germany and about a third of Spain. Judged against population size we’re 17th down the list in Europe for applications. 

To keep things brief I won’t comment on any of the specifics of the bill here, though I’d recommend these two excellent briefing summaries by Refugee Council and JCWIRegardless of the figures or what we think of the rationale, the Home Office is proposing some significant changes to the system, which will undoubtedly have a direct and negative effect on many of those seeking asylum here.

We at Action Foundation will continue to support some of those most vulnerable people in our society in the best way we can. If you’d like to see more or get involved in our fantastic projects click here. 

 Proposed detention centre at Hassockfield

You may also be aware of the proposed Derwentside detention centre on the site that was previously Hassockfield. The Home Office is intending on the completion and launch of a new facility for detaining women that could see 80 women held there  and it’s almost on our doorstep. 

We share concerns with many others about any proposed or actual expansion of the detention system and have recently concluded our ‘Alternative to Detention Pilot’, Action Access, exploring a more humane and effective solution with the Home Office. The final evaluation report for Action Access is due out later this summer and we’ll publish more information at that point about the pilot specifically, though our initial findings were really positive for participant outcomes and especially for their welfare. 

Should Derwentside open as planned later this year I can assure you that we will, alongside others, look for opportunities to support the welfare of those detained there as well as continuing to be involved in the national conversation about alternatives to detention. 

I’d like to take the opportunity to express my thanks to the many of you who continue to support us and in turn enable us to make a difference in the lives of the people we serve. It’s undoubtedly going to be a challenging year ahead for the people we help and we wouldn’t be able to do the valuable work we do without the encouragement, support and partnerships which many of you reading this represent.