Monday 28th March 2022
Human rights charity RAPAR is calling on Manchester city council to explain why children seeking safety have not yet been allocated places in local schools.
RAPAR is demanding that the city council introduce a systematic approach with an accurate count of all the children of refugees living in hotels in the city, along with their ages, whether they have applied for schooling or not, and how long ago.
Dr Rhetta Moran, of RAPAR, said: "This should be happening In Manchester - and everywhere else too. It is a statutory responsibility, not an action to be undertaken by volunteers."
The children and their families are claiming asylum in the UK after escaping war and persecution - but they are stuck in temporary hotel accommodation because of inhumane and lengthy delays in the UK asylum and immigration system.
The city council is responsible for the education of children living in the Manchester hotels but many of them have already spent months out of school. The local authority is only now starting to respond to volunteers' deep concerns that children are missing their right to an education. It has been difficult for volunteers to establish how many children are living in the hotels and are not in school. But anecdotally it seems that many have been denied education for a long time.
The families are living in poverty so their children are confined to the hotel premises for most of the time. They have even set up their own classroom in a hotel car park, chalking images of trees, flowers and freedom on the ground.
Currently, the UK government is attempting to cut Britain adrift from the refugee convention that was created after World War II. The Nationality and Borders Bill, due to become law in the next few months, attacks established refugee protections and practices by criminalising people who have yet to attempt to reach the UK.
Dr Moran added: "It is not criminal to seek safety. It IS criminal to leave any child bereft of their schooling. Neither the government nor Manchester City Council can justify their failure to educate these children or their failure to publicly inform the people of both this country and this city that there are indigenous and refugee children waiting for school places in number. We want to know now how many children - both British and refugee - are being denied their human right to education so that we can be directly involved in ending this travesty of children's rights."
The children's physical and mental health is also affected because they have little opportunity to use their creative and physical energies. RAPAR is insisting that the city council, as the education authority responsible, must clarify how many children have been failed in this way, why it is happening and when they will all be allocated school places.
Parents became so concerned about the lack of help in finding schools for their children that they obtained and completed school admission forms with the assistance of supporters. These forms are now with the city council.
Chris Thomas, Founder and President of Football For Humanity, has welcomed children and parents to the weekly football sessions he has organised at a Manchester sports centre.
He said: "Play and education are every child's right. It is a fundamental part of their childhood where memories are made. We must do all we can to ensure children's rights are promoted and defended. While the children wait for their rights to be respected, Football for Humanity and RAPAR have created a safe space where children and families can play football, learn and grow together."
RAPAR and Status Now Network members speaking and marching at the Climate Justice rally in Manchester on Saturday November 6th.
It was part of a global day of action with people taking to the streets in the UK and around the world, protesting during the COP26 conference in Glasgow, where RAPAR members from Zimbabwe also took part in demonstrations.
“When people are driven from their homes in the most desperate of circumstances, we must always stand with them and provide sanctuary.” - Afzal Khan, MP for Manchester Gorton, Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons
“The threat to force boats in the English Channel to turn back puts already vulnerable people at even greater risk… The whole idea smacks of political posturing.” - Tony Lloyd, MP for Rochdale and one of the first Parliamentarians amplifying the calls for #StatusNow4All
RAPAR began when young Afghan men were dispersed to Greater Manchester in 2001. Twenty years later, and the scenes from Afghanistan and from the boats in the English Channel carrying people from there, alongside other countries, tell us that there are many, many lessons that remain unlearned.
The racist xenophobia underpinning all, including the latest, refugee-rejection manoeuvre by the Home Office - this time declaring that they will use governments powers to command workers to turn back boats carrying refugee people - is always, and only, about attempting to ferment division, and thereby rule, everyone on this side of the English Channel.
In response to this latest government announcement Afzal Khan, MP for Manchester Gorton, Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons and supporter of RAPAR’s work over many years says:
“This country has a long and proud history of welcoming those fleeing conflict and persecution. Our rich and diverse society would be considerably poorer were it not for the contribution of refugees and immigrants.
However, this Government appears intent on pursuing a deeply hostile and unpleasant attack on refugees and asylum seekers who have fled their home and sought safety on our shores. When people are driven from their homes in the most desperate of circumstances, we must always stand with them and provide sanctuary. I'm appalled at this new policy which puts the lives of migrants and refugees at risk and hope it is urgently reconsidered."
This sentiment is echoed by the Immigration Services Union (ISU) who immediately rejected the government proposal, which Free Movement has quickly specified would:
‘replace binding international legal obligations with a small, bespoke, national scheme that gives preference to refugees from one country over others and where selection is based on connection to the host country rather than vulnerability. Like the international aid target, it could be scrapped on a whim.'
Only collective action that becomes international in character and composition will stop the human rights violations that are being conducted in the name of the people of the UK. This is why RAPAR is part of a wider campaigns across the UK and Ireland, including StatusNow4All which is dedicated to securing the safety of everyone currently on British soil, including those who have followed in the footsteps of Abdullah making deeply treacherous journeys over so many years in their bid to reach safety.
This afternoon Tony Lloyd, MP for Rochdale and one of the first Parliamentarians amplifying the calls for #StatusNow4All of which RAPAR is a founding signatory, observes:
“We should all work to put a stop to the work of the people traffickers who have no conscience in putting lives at risk. But the threat to force boats in the English Channel to turn back puts already vulnerable people at even greater risk. In practice, it would place a heavy burden on the captains of the British vessels involved to make potentially life-threatening decisions. The whole idea smacks of political posturing when what is needed is building cooperation with the French authorities to weaken the traffickers as well as making available safe routes so that desperate people aren’t thrown into the traffickers’ hands.”
 XENOPHOBIA | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary
 Channel crossings: Migrant boats could be turned back in new UK move - BBC News
 Patel’s plans to send migrant boats back to France ‘dead in water’, union says | Immigration and asylum | The Guardian
 Even as Afghans are resettled, refugee protection is under attack - Free Movement
 Status Now 4 All - 'Indefinite Leave To Remain' for people who are undocumented, destitute, and those in the legal process #HealthAndSafetyForAll
RAPAR and Football For Humanity have teamed up with other partners to start a football programme which provides a safe place to play for refugees and people seeking asylum. This week, there was a record turn-out at the University of Manchester where participants meet every Tuesday to practise their soccer skills.
At the beginning of each session, RAPAR members and others stand in solidarity with people being targeted for the Government’s deportation flights, They are saying to the Government and airline companies #StopthePlane and #StatusNow4All
Two more deportation flights are planned for Zimbabwe and Jamaica before the end of August.
RAPAR and Football For Humanity have been working with their partners, the University of Manchester, Manchester FA and No Borders Manchester, to devise a football programme which will enable refugees and people seeking asylum to improve their physical and mental health. The programme also promotes human rights and facilitates discussions around immigration, deportations, racism and homelessness.
A statement from the football group says: “We stand together in solidarity in the fight for social justice.”
Members of the group are hoping to take to the pitch for their first match with another team very soon. More details to come!
We have not brought you a RAPAR update for a little while now, but we continue to be very busy doing what RAPAR does best: challenging the State and the State’s institutions on human rights violations and humanity-denying actions, and campaigning for human rights for all.
The #StatusNow4All campaign and the Status Now Network (SNN) initiated by RAPAR continues to grow and the call for Status Now for everyone has been signed by over 125 organisations and counting, and the online petition is nearing 5000 signatures from individuals. Check the SNN website for more detail and follow us on twitter and facebook.
Inside of RAPAR, our mental health, housing, women’s, and men’s campaigning groups are meeting frequently and instigating their own awareness-raising and change-making campaigns as we speak. RAPAR’s research now includes two European Union funded, Erasmus+ youth projects, the just finished Big Lottery funded Building Resilience project (see below), and ongoing research with the women’s group.
Cats on the Run
This week saw the much-anticipated launch of RAPAR’s Cats on the Run, a project that aimed to highlight the struggle that displaced, undocumented people face during the pandemic. The idea was conceived by RAPAR and created by Sheba Arts, a women-led arts collective in Manchester, and funded by the Lankelly Chase Foundation.
After numerous accounts of the atrocities that displaced people face upon their migration, particularly at the hands of human traffickers, it tells of the destitution, street homelessness, lack of access to healthcare, and other deplorable situations that displaced people find themselves in once they arrive in the UK. One participant, who had been street homeless throughout the winter, tells of the difficulties he had accessing healthcare at a hospital because he had no ID card or legal status in the UK. Another participant asks the poignant question: “If this pandemic has been hard for those with access to everything, imagine how hard it has been for me”.
Cats on the Run launched on Wednesday the 9th of June with attendees from multiple charities and locations, and several speeches. RAPAR’s own Rhetta Moran gave a speech in which she celebrated the ‘terrible beauty’ of what had been created, criticising the situation which makes it easy for RAPAR to find 22 people (including two babies) in destitution in the UK. She said:
When I thought about talking today about this project Cats on the Run, a phrase kept on coming into my mind. It’s an ambiguous phrase that was composed by the poet WB Yeats when he wrote the poem ‘Easter 1916’, about the revolutionary uprising against British imperialism that began in Dublin on the Easter Sunday of 1916. The refrain of his poem is “a terrible beauty is born.” “A terrible beauty is born.”
This film that we have all just watched – what I see is terrible beauty. Terrible, because no one, not in Manchester, not in the UK, not anywhere in the world, should be experiencing what the two men in our film have just revealed to us. (Rhetta Moran)
Rhetta also noted the collective spirit that had arisen to produce this powerful piece of documentary, and closed with a profound quote from Shade Alonge that highlighted the quite unnoticed fact that the people who donated so much of their time, effort and resources to those left behind by the pandemic are now themselves facing destitution.
When COVID first began, the people who came forward to feed and shelter undocumented women and their children, now some of them are running out of food and money for themselves, as well as for the people who they are helping. It is becoming very desperate and evicting people onto the street does nothing, apart from create more illnesses, more miseries and more risks of death. It has to stop. (Shade Alonge)
These people should not go unnoticed or unhelped.
Building networks of resilience
This week also saw the publication of the Building Resilience project report, written by Grainne McMahon, Rhetta Moran and Sunitha Dwarakanath (McMahon et al, 2021). The work, a collaboration between RAPAR, Migrant Voice and Kanlungan Filipino Consortium, aimed to understand, quantitatively and qualitatively, the effect of Covid 19 and lockdowns on marginalised communities in the UK. The report, which was recently referenced on iNews and Sky News, sets out the learnings from a survey and interviews, and an evaluation of building community networks of resilience, to explore and understand how resilience is released and developed, and inhibited because of the UK’s hostile environment, within the communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic.
Both of these projects illustrate that RAPAR continues to be at the forefront of insightful, practical research as well as explorative, creative campaigns around human rights, and we are extremely grateful that we participate in such a strong and passionate community of like-minded organisations and individuals.
Walking is a new habit that I picked during lockdown. It helps me to clear my mind and stay active at the same time. Experts say you should at least walk daily for 30min and I must say I totally agree with them.
One of my favourite place to go for a walk is the canal, which is 15 minute walk from my home. It has a nice walkways and fields.
At the end of the canal you will find the Elton reservoir. You can see the small lake, the swans and the seagulls. It is just a refreshing place to visit especially now and as nature has a calming effect while we go through this unprecedented time.
Today's walk was extra especial as I was able to capture the below picture.
This reminds me that even though things look and feel difficult at times, we need to find a way to keep ourselves positive and see the different aspects of life.
"The syndemic nature of the threat we face demands that we not only treat each affliction, but also urgently address the underlying social inequalities that shape them— poverty, housing, education, and race, which are all powerful determinants of health.”
Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet (13th November 2020)
It’s Friday 13th March 2020. I watch the woman, around 60 like me, reach for a clear plastic bag of five tomatoes. Just moments before, my bare right hand placed it on the conveyor belt and now, her bare left hand lifts it towards the scales at her workstation. Tapping in her record of its value, she picks the bag up again, bare right hand this time, and sets it down before me.
Suddenly, back with a vengeance, an unnameable feeling that first coursed through me last night as I listened to the Prime Minister on TV, now joined by the sound of a sample from a February 2020 radio broadcast that’s starting up inside my head: “There’s been a sudden global stock market crash”, spoken in received pronunciation. It goes on repeat: “the global stock market crash… the global stock market crash”, the soundtrack of a flickering, mind’s eye film starring the hand shadows of every person from every stage of every process that created this bag of tomatoes. Zooming in and out, one after the other, all those hands before ours, the hands of we two women on either side of this counter. What was it he said last night? “It is still vital, perhaps more vital than ever – that we remember to wash our hands.”
I shiver, refocus my eyes to see hers, smile, extend my hand towards the bag and mouth ‘Thank you’. My Covid19 matrix has begun.
Walking in the front door with the shopping and, like me, my 20-something son who’s living back at home and just starting a new, very short term, contract, is thinking about last night’s TV broadcast: “Should I meet some mates? A pint and a game of pool after this shift?”
“Wear gloves,” is the best I can offer.
Fast forward seven months to last Friday, 13th November 2020. The Lancet published a study by Global Burden of Disease(GBD) explaining why Covid19 is a syn- not a pan-demic: that is, it’s an interaction between coronavirus infection and a number of non-communicable diseases like heart attacks and stroke, cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and diabetes. The critical fact though, is that more than three quarters of deaths from these diseases, 32 million deaths globally, occur where there is poverty and inequality, i.e. in low- and middle-income countries. As the Lancet Editorial made crystal clear, communities will not be protected from future infectious outbreaks and population health will not achieve gains unless deep, structural inequalities are tackled.
GBD’s scientific study confirms what the Economic Policy Unit first argued on June 1st: THIS IS A SYNDEMIC. On the 4th October 2020, when Prime Minister Johnson claimed our obesity is very important for explaining Covid rates he missed out the most important bit, most simply put by the editor-in-chief of The Lancet: “The syndemic nature of the threat we face demands that we not only treat each affliction, but also urgently address the underlying social inequalities that shape them—poverty, housing, education, and race, which are all powerful determinants of health.”
On 27th March 2020, 14 days after the Prime Minister told us to wash our hands, organisations representing people without status and their allies - including the BFAWU – began the Status Now For All Network calling for access to health, housing and food for ALL. As soon as the first lockdown was announced , our knowledge compelled us to begin to become visible so that Network members can communicate safely. This is people like Mercy Baguma, with barely enough money to eat, homeless or living in very overcrowded accommodation, not accessing medical help for fear of detention or deportation and working jobs under the radar, without any protection, even without wages, or basic health and safety.
Through Solidarity, all of us become part of the solution: moving forward so that EVERYONE can become safe and able to look after each other.
Last Friday, Kamran Abbasi of the British Medical Journal summed it up: “the medical-political complex can be manipulated in an emergency”.
By Rhetta Moran
 Syndemic: A blend of the words Synergy, from Ancient Greek συνεργία (sunergía, “cooperation”), from σύν (sún, “with, together”) + ἔργον (érgon, “work”) and demic, from the Greek word demos, or “people”..[https://www.wiley.com/en-gb/Introduction+to+Syndemics:+A+Critical+Systems+Approach+to+Public+and+Community+Health-p-9780470472033]
 Matrix: the set of conditions that provides a system in which something grows or develops https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/matrix
“… evicting people onto the street does nothing,
apart from create more illnesses, more miseries and more risks of death.
It has to stop.”
Shade Alonge, for DeButterfly CIC and Mama Health and Poverty Partnership,
On 19th November, two members of the human rights organisation RAPAR, both of whom live in the city of Manchester, both of whom fled from persecution in their home countries and both of whom have been awarded Refugee Status, received letters from SERCO telling them that they are to be evicted from their homes on 29th November and 17th December respectively.
The private company SERCO, whose Chief Executive Officer is Rupert Soames the brother of ex-MP for the Conservative Party, Sir Nicholas, is contracted by the Home Office to accommodate people seeking asylum in the North West. Under non-COVID conditions, there are two points in time at which SERCO are entitled, legally, to tell Refugee People that they intend to evict them from their homes:
On 27th October, Chris Philp MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Immigration Compliance and the Courts wrote to Charity Chief Executives about the: “necessary decision of 27 March to suspend cessations [that’s stop evicting people seeking asylum and refugees into destitution]… due to the impact of Covid, [has meant] there has been a lack of flow through the asylum support system; this has resulted in many individuals remaining in these facilities for longer periods. We have now resumed cessations where appropriate…”
Then, on 31st October, Prime Minister Johnson announced a second lockdown to begin on 5th November. The restrictions include the following “People are being told to stay at home unless they have a specific reason to leave, such as work which cannot be done from home and education.”
On 13th November, the International Observatory for Human Rights reported: “UK homeless charities are calling on the government to suspend evictions of asylum seekers, as more and more are being made destitute this winter. During the first lockdown, the government’s “everyone in” scheme provided temporary accommodation and testing for COVID-19, but this stopped in September. The Home Office then restarted evictions, leaving many in a vulnerable situation and heightened risk of contracting COVID-19.” 
Two days before receiving these eviction letters, secondary legislation was introduced banning evictions in England until January.
Commenting on this particular attempt by SERCO to evict Refugees during lockdown, Shade Alonge, Founder and Lead Counsellor for DeButterfly CIC, who recently joined the call for StatusNow4All, and who speaks here on behalf of Mama Health and Poverty Partnership of Greater Manchester also says:
" When COVID first began, the people who came forward to feed and shelter undocumented women and their children, now some of them are running out of food and money for themselves, as well as for the people who they are helping. It is becoming very desperate and evicting people onto the street does nothing, apart from create more illnesses, more miseries and more risks of death. It has to stop."
And a RAPAR spokesperson, analysing the timings relating to the 17th December notice observes: “The notice date is for 17th December. If lockdown is lifted countrywide for five days at Christmas SERCO, as a part of their contract with the Home Office, could start the eviction process then. A very cynical move.”
 Serco lands another £45m for ‘failing’ COVID Test and Trace scheme | openDemocracy
 Government bans evictions until January | News | Law Gazette
 Status Now 4 All - 'Leave To Remain' for people who are undocumented, destitute, and those in the legal process #HealthAndSafetyForAll
RAPAR members joined the 'Status Now 4 All' campaign in a national day of action in solidarity with Regularise on 19th September.
Standing against the reopening of reporting centres such as Dallas Court in Salford Quays, members held a demonstration outside the Manchester Asylum and Immigration Tribunal Office.
The Meteor reported on the rally, saying; "Protesters in Manchester demanded an immediate reversal of the government’s decision to resume registration of undocumented migrants at the Immigration Registration Centres in England, which had been paused this year due to Covid-19. The event leaflet also called for the end of Britain First’s sustained harassment of refugees who have been placed in hotels during the pandemic.
"James, a social worker from Stockport working with RAPAR, described the decision to re-open Immigration Registration Centres as a “rushed” and “callous way to treat some of the most vulnerable people in society, and irresponsible in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Join RAPAR members and StatusNow4All signatories In a peaceful demonstration outside the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal Office in Manchester on Saturday, 19th September, between 1pm and 2.30pm.
This will be part of a national day of action in solidarity with 'Status Now' signatory Regularise which campaigns for the rights of undocumented migrants.
Regularise is holding a protest outside 10 Downing Street in London on the same day and at the same time as the Manchester demonstration.
The protest in Manchester will focus on the re-opening of Immigration Reporting Centres in the UK and Britain First's harassment of refugees who have been placed in hotels. It will be held at the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal Office on Saturday 19th September, 1pm-2.30pm, Piccadilly Exchange, 2 Piccadilly Plaza, Mosley Street, Manchester M1 4AH.