We were excited to welcome Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, UK Representative for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on a recent visit to Action Foundation to get an insight into Action Access – the pioneering two year pilot project providing an ‘alternative to detention’ for female asylum seekers.

The project provides housing and support to women who are currently detained at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, or who would otherwise have been detained there. It aims 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 UNHCR has been actively engaged in discussions with Action Foundation and the Home Office about the design of Action Access, and are overseeing the monitoring and evaluation of this pilot and others that the Home Office are commissioning around the UK.

‘Huge difference’

Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor who has over 30 years of experience in refugee and humanitarian work was really impressed with the project and said, “I want to commend Action Foundation for this fantastic pilot. This is a really groundbreaking project that we hope will make a huge difference in the life of people.”

Ms Sarah Elliott, who is UNHCR UK’s Legal Officer joined Ms Pagliuchi-Lor for the visit, along with a senior team from the Home Office with Tyson Hepple (acting Director General Immigration Enforcement), Shona Dunn (HO Second Permanent Secretary), and Paul Chandwani (Chief of Staff) all in attendance.

Action Foundation staff gave an update on how the Action Access pilot is progressing, the opportunity to discuss how case management is approached along with the outcomes achieved so far. In the afternoon there was the chance to meet a couple of the residents themselves to hear their thoughts directly as well as the opportunity to visit a property to see the accommodation first hand.

Humane approach

So far 11 women have been supported by Action Access and are visibly relieved to be out of detention and regaining their independence. Little things we take for granted like a good night’s sleep have made a huge difference to these women – some commenting that that they’re sleeping the best they have in months.

Action Foundation’s CEO Julian Prior said: “It’s an exciting but challenging project, so it was very useful to be able to get together with senior people from UNHCR and the Home Office to talk about our early learning and thoughts on how we can work together to resolve clients’ immigration status in a timely manner.

“It’s encouraging that there’s so much interest in this pilot at the highest level, in exploring more humane ways of working with vulnerable asylum seekers.”

Find out more about Action Access