Please see below for press releases from NACCOM Network. For all press enquiries please get in touch.
29th November 2016
NATIONAL REPORT HIGHLIGHTS RISING HOMELESSNESS AMONGST REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS IN 2016
The UK Government has failed to meet the most urgent and basic needs of more than 1,300 refugees and asylum seekers in the last year, according to NACCOM, the UK-wide No Accommodation Network, which publishes its annual accommodation report today.
The network, in existence since 2006, is made up of 38 members accommodating and supporting those who become homeless and destitute as a result of government policy. Most commonly, destitution occurs during the process of seeking asylum, but it can also happen at other points, for instance, when refugees are granted status but then face eviction from temporary accommodation within 28 days.
Because destitution is a rising but largely hidden issue with limited national statistics available, NACCOM carries out an annual survey amongst its members to evidence the need. The latest report, shared as part of the Sanctuary in Parliament event taking place in Westminster today, shows that in the last year, more than 1,700 individuals, including 499 refugees and 808 asylum seekers, were accommodated by 36 projects across 25 towns and cities around the UK.
This shows an increase of over 28 per cent in provision across the network in the last year, yet represents only a proportion of the total number facing destitution at any given time. Alongside highlighting the humanitarian response of the charities and voluntary groups within the network, these figures importantly demonstrate a gap in state provision for some of the most vulnerable and marginalised across communities, which NACCOM argues has been routinely ignored and urgently needs to change.
As Dave Smith, the network’s Coordinator, explains; ‘Destitution is the result of government policy that plainly denies both rights and opportunities for those who have risked everything to seek protection here. It destroys lives, not only by forcing people into positions of huge uncertainty and risk which impacts their health and future, but also by preventing those same people from working and using their skills and experiences in positive, productive ways’.
Supported by the stories of individuals with lived experience of destitution, also being shared at today’s Sanctuary in Parliament event, NACCOM is calling for an end to the cruel and ineffective government policy, and for an asylum system where the rights of all who seek sanctuary here are respected and upheld.
Dave Smith is available to interview. To arrange this or for any other press enquiries please contact Lucy Smith on 07795967396 or email [email protected].
To view the latest annual report please visit www.naccom.org.uk/resources.
NACCOM is the UK-wide No Accommodation Network, made up of 38 projects across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. NACCOM seeks to promote best practice in, and support the establishment of, accommodation projects that reduce destitution. The network provides opportunities to encourage, empower and connect with other members, shares knowledge and promotes best practice to provide pathways out of destitution, works with others (including those with lived experience) to raise awareness of destitution and campaign for a just and humane asylum system, and gathers and disseminates data on the scale of destitution and positive outcomes achieved by members.
Dave Smith is the NACCOM Coordinator and has overseen the network since it was established in 2006. Alongside his role resourcing and supporting new and existing projects, Dave continues to work for the Boaz Trust, a charity he set up in 2004 after meeting destitute asylum seekers who had nowhere to turn for help in Manchester.
City of Sanctuary is a network that encourages practical ways for ordinary citizens to demonstrate solidarity with, and support for refugees in their own communities. It promotes a grassroots “culture of hospitality”, through local voluntary music, sports, education, health and arts initiatives. It has grown since it began in Sheffield in 2005, and now has groups established or starting up in almost 80 cities, towns and villages across the UK and beyond.
Sanctuary in Parliament is an annual event to promote the work of the City of Sanctuary movement to remind the public about Britain’s proud history of providing welcome and safety to those fleeing persecution. The event is hosted by Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees and this year’s multi media event has drawn over 150 refugees and their supporters from over 70 City of Sanctuary groups across UK and Ireland.
June 24th 2016
‘IT IS A LONG TIME SINCE I FELT I BELONGED ANYWHERE. NOW I HAVE BEEN WELCOMED’. NATIONAL NETWORK CELEBRATES STORIES OF REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS
In a week that sees international celebration and recognition of refugees, NACCOM, the UK-wide ‘No Accommodation Network’ brings together stories from some of the community groups that make up its membership, showing welcome and support to refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants in need across the nation. Dave Smith, founder and coordinator of the NACCOM Network since 2007, writes; ‘This Refugee Week we want to honour the work of our members in supporting those who seek sanctuary here to rebuild their lives, and celebrate the stories of hope and hospitality told by those who have settled into communities across the UK.’
In the North East, the region with the highest dispersal figures for asylum seekers in 2016, Open Door North East are currently accommodating 100 people, including refugee families and those without recourse to public funds, and are developing a hosting scheme across the Tees Valley. Frances*, a recipient of the charity’s support said; “It is a long time since I felt I belonged anywhere and feel so much better. I can concentrate on my case without worrying about where I will sleep. I feel less tense and more positive about the future. I didn’t realise how lonely and sad I felt without a sense of belonging but now I have been welcomed into a home. The feeling is priceless”.
In Oxfordshire, Paul*, a refugee who arrived in the UK under a lorry last summer, describes how the welcome he received from a local family supported by Host Oxford, helped turn his life around; ‘Now I have job, I have somewhere to stay, I have classes, I have a future here. But it is not just a room, I have a family.’ The family says; ‘For us, hosting is about being able to offer a supportive, caring environment and it’s about mutual respect and understanding. Most of all, it has been enormously enriching and an exceptional privilege’.
A long-standing host family in Bradford, supported by local charity BEACON , echo this sentiment of how hosting has brought benefit to them as well as for their guests, explaining; ‘It is not hard to imagine how much we could need and value hospitality in another culture or context, so we want to offer it to others here. We have been blessed with lots of space in our house, and it has been a joy to share it. We would encourage anyone considering hosting to give it a go.’
In addition to housing and hosting schemes, many NACCOM Members also offer other kinds of support. In Derby, Upbeat Communities runs an innovative ’Welcome Boxes’ scheme, which involves volunteers visiting new arrivals to the city with a box of gifts and information. Befriending and support is offered to enable access to services as arrivals settle into the local area, and community activities and English classes are offered. Cathy* who attends some of these activities explains how they have made a difference; ‘I have learned new words, cooking new food, meeting people from all around the world. Coming here has helped me to be more confident, I am very happy. If I didn’t come here it wouldn’t be possible to meet other people.’
Abdul*, a refugee who benefited from accommodation and English classes through Action Foundation, a NACCOM member based in Tyneside and Sunderland, explains the impact on him; ‘Action Foundation [gave me] the confidence to communicate with British people… Really I found myself and I am so happy and when I can I am just doing the small things to give something back’.
Ahmed* came to Nottingham from Iran in 2011 but like many others, when he was refused asylum, he was forced onto the streets. Local NACCOM member, the Nottingham Arimathea Trust, helped him with housing, healthcare and language lessons. Through this support he was able to challenge the Home Office decision to make him homeless and after several appeals in London he was provided with support from the Home Office. There are still many challenges ahead but Ahmed describes the Nottingham Arimathea Trust as “very helpful and kind”, making a difference at a time when he was in desperate need.
NACCOM exists to end destitution for individuals like Ahmed, who have no recourse to public funds and need practical help. As a national charity, working with other agencies such as Still Human Still Here and Homeless Link, more than 580 refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants were supported by its members in the last year alone. NACCOM has also grown in size, to nearly 40 members in recent months as new projects, predominately hosting services, have been set up. Dave Smith, who has also released a new book entitled Refugee Stories this week, writes; ‘Helping sanctuary seekers feel welcome in British society is something everyone can be a part of, and we hope people use our network as a way of finding out how they can get more involved.’
* Names have been altered to protect identities.
– ENDS –
Information about Refugee Week (20-26th June) can be found here.
Information about Dave Smith’s new book release can be found here.
June 20th 2016
Refugee Stories released on World Refugee Day
On Monday June 20th, World Refugee Day, a new book by Dave Smith entitled Refugee Stories is being released on Amazon. The book follows the amazing stories of seven people from six different countries who fled persecution in their homelands and came to the UK to seek asylum.
The stories are told in the first person, from birth up to the present time: why and how they fled, their journeys to the UK and their treatment here. All are very individual, varied and heart-rending, but all have a common theme – the refugees were all initially refused asylum and made destitute. All are well known to Dave Smith, who founded the Mustard Tree and Boaz Trust charities in Manchester, and through the help of those charities they were able to make a fresh asylum claim. Six of the seven now have refugee status and are making a great contribution to British society. The seventh is still in limbo and not allowed to work or claim benefits despite being a skilled electrician.
Refugee Stories is a timely insight into the realities of the refugee crisis, especially coming out during Refugee Week 2016. It is endorsed by Maurice Wren, CEO of Refugee Council and the Bishop of Manchester, amongst others. It will be available in bookstores on June 24th.
About the author
Dave Smith founded the Mustard Tree charity for the homeless in Manchester with his wife Shona in 1993. He first became involved with asylum seekers in 1999, and set up the Boaz Trust charity in 2004. The Boaz Trust currently accommodates and supports around 50 destitute asylum seekers and 25 refugees.
He was awarded the BEM for services to the community in 2012, but returned it in protest at unjust asylum policies in 2013. In 2014 he wrote the Book of Boaz, an account of the founding and growth of the Boaz Trust. Refugee Stories is his second book.
Dave is also national coordinator of NACCOM, the national charity network of agencies accommodating destitute asylum seekers and refugees. It currently has 38 member groups from Brighton to Glasgow.
Extracts from Refugee Stories:
From Mary’s story:
“They (UKBA officers) took me to Manchester Airport, still in my pyjamas. They did not allow me to get changed, or even to go to the toilet. I said to them, Ok, I am illegal here, but I am not a criminal – I am a human. When I got to the airport and saw the planes, I thought they were going to put me straight on a plane back to Iran. If that happened, I knew I would not even go before a judge – they would just kill me when I got back to Iran. They kept me there at the airport, still in my pyjamas, for two days. I was given food and a bed, but I had no other clothes except a coat with me. Then they gave me a card with the name Yarl’s Wood on it. That’s where they were taking me, to the women’s detention centre.”
From Hanes’ story:
“Then one of the men in our cell was arrested. When they tortured him, he mentioned my name. Three men came for me that night. They didn’t show their ID, and they didn’t have an arrest warrant: my mother tried to stop them, and fought with one of them, but he hit her over the head with his gun. Then they just took me to a local prison, where they tortured me all night. They tied a rope around my neck that had metal inside. They didn’t hang me. Instead they pushed me around, and beat me all over my body. At the end of the night they took me to the hospital, and left me for dead, just like my father – but I didn’t die, thanks to Allah. I was young, and I recovered. They operated on me, and I was in that hospital for 25 days. I still have the scars right round my neck. After that my family sent me to my uncle in Addis Ababa: they were afraid that the authorities would find out that I was not dead, and would come for me again. I stayed with my uncle Omar, who was a teacher, but went to the Kaliti hospital during the day for treatment and medicine. Then the government discovered that I was still alive, and started looking for me. My mother had to flee, because they had started putting pressure on her again. I had been with my uncle for five months, and in May 2002 I began my journey to leave Ethiopia.”
Dave Smith is available for interview from Friday June 17th.
Four of the refugees in the book may also be available on request.