On Monday 3rd December 2018 the Home Office announced1 that Action Foundation will be delivering a pilot (called Action Access) over the next two years to provide an ‘alternative to detention’ for female asylum seekers. The project, that will work with up to 21 people at any one time, will provide housing and support to women who are currently detained at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, or who would otherwise be detained there. Action Access will offer participants supported accommodation managed by the charity, as well as a small number in accommodation provided by dispersal contractors, in Tyneside.
What is this project for?
This project is in response to the Home Secretary’s pledge in July to “pilot a scheme to manage vulnerable women in the community who would otherwise be detained at Yarl’s Wood”2 in response to the follow-up report3 by Stephen Shaw into the welfare in detention of vulnerable persons. The aim of the pilot will be to improve voluntary engagement with the immigration system for asylum seekers who would otherwise be detained whilst being supported in the community to resolve their immigration status in a more humane and cost-effective way.
The project will manage single women over the age of 18 years, without dependants, who have no offending history, no imminent removal directions and who have been refused asylum. During their time on the pilot Action Access staff will meet with participants every week to ensure they have access to the support required to reassess their protection needs (asylum claim) and make an informed decision about their future. All participants will be required to continue to report to the Home Office as normal.
The UNHCR has been actively engaged in the discussions about the design of this project and will oversee the monitoring and evaluation of this pilot and others that the Home Office plan to start over the next few months in other parts of the UK.
Action Foundation endorse the principles of an ‘Alternative to Detention’ (AtD)4 in placing clients, who would otherwise be detained, in locally managed accommodation. Engaging in this work is in line with our philosophy of working with destitute people seeking asylum (who have no recourse to public funds) whilst in the community, assisting them to maintain contact with the UKVI, access legal, health and other services necessary to build sufficient trust to generate outcomes which satisfy all stakeholders in resolving client’s immigration status.
4As outlined by the International Detention Coalition in their publication ‘There are Alternatives’ 2015
“It was the best opportunity for me to come to the English classes and the teacher was very friendly and I am meeting new people. I think that I am improving my English and my normal life. I think it’s very different because before I started coming to the English class I was very frustrated because I don’t have nothing to do at all. Nothing! So when I started coming I started to feel more happy and more smiling, yes. It was a very good improvement.”