Nestor came safely out of Dallas Court Home Office Reporting Centre today. He has to report again next month.
Many thanks to Manchester Quakers, Manchester City of Sanctuary and other friends and supporters who came to Dallas Court to stand shoulder to shoulder with Nestor. Nestor is under threat of detention and removal from the UK despite the fact that he has lived in Manchester for 12 years. His case has been described as being caught up in a "whirlpool" of Home Office bureaucracy. Read more about Nestor's campaign here Thank you to everyone who has signed the petition and left supportive comments. They are greatly appreciated.
You can follow updates on Nestor's campaign and find out how you can help by visiting his campaign page.
LGBTIQ refugee conference calls for end to sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of LGBTIQ refugees and high standard of proof sexuality policy
Rhetta Moran from RAPAR attended the African Rainbow Family's annual conference in Manchester on August 11th.
Read their press release calling for an end to sexual exploitation of LGBTIQ refugees and an end to the Home Office's policy of demanding a high standard of proof of sexuality.
Manchester will host again, the second LGBTIQ people seeking asylum and refugee conference today [11th August], shining the light on the extent of active and subtle sexual and domestic abuse, sexual exploitation, modern day slavery and trafficking that exists in the LGBTIQ people seeking asylum's community in the UK. Mostly perpetrated by people who owe them duty of care.
The conference will, following the #METOO movement, feature LGBTIQ refugee speakers telling their personal experiences of abuse, exploring how the hostile environment which seeks to deport as many people as possible in order to meet Home Office's set targets, such as in the Windrush Generation; has reinforced a high standard of proof sexuality policy in the Home Office leading to many LGBTIQs being refused asylum and highlighting the plight still faced by LGBTIQ people seeking asylum today.
In many countries, particularly in Africa, homosexuality remains illegal and violent attacks on LGBTIQ people are common. Many are forced to flee, some to the UK, after being publicly ‘outed’.
Gay people seeking asylum coming to the UK face significant barriers. The Home Office culture of disbelief has meant that it refuses to accept that any LGBTIQ seeking asylum are homosexual unless they provide ‘proof of sexuality’. This position is an extremely toxic shift towards high number of deportation following the ruling in 2010 which prohibits the Home Office from deporting LGBTIQ people seeking asylum on the grounds that they could ‘be discreet’ about their sexuality in their home country to avoid harm.
We know that the Home Office has and continues to illegally and forcibly deport many LGBTIQ people seeking asylum through its brutal charter flight methods.
'Experimental' data released by the Home Office in November 2017 for LGBT+ asylum cases (01/07/15 - 31/03/17) shows that over two third of 3,535 asylum applications made partly as LGBT+ were rejected.
2,379 clear LGBT+ claims were rejected, with only 838 approved.
The conference is being organised by African Rainbow Family (ARF), a charitable group that supports LGBTIQ people of African heritage and wider BAME in the UK. ARF works with the growing African LGBTIQ people seeking asylum and refugee communities including wider BAME who face harassment, hate crimes and discrimination.
It will see a call on the Home Office to abandon its ‘high standard of proof sexuality policy, which ARF says is demeaning, humiliating, dehumanising, cruel and a driver of the culture of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation in their community.
Speakers will include:
Aderonke Apata, Founder of the ARF and a long-term campaigner on LGBTIQ asylum, who is also speaking at the conference, said:
"We are starting a cultural revolution which forms a platform to inspire LGBTIQ people seeking asylum to come forward, tell their experiences of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation and let their voices to be heard in order for us to see consequences in terms of their perpetrators who owe them a duty of care to be brought to justice.
"The Home Office's high standard of proof policy drives a culture of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, modern day slavery and all forms of emotional, psychological and mental problems in the LGBTIQ people seeking asylum's community
"I ask that the Home Office drops their high standard of proof in sexuality policy as well as the wider asylum applications."
CALL TO SOLIDARITY VIGIL
between 9 and 10am tomorrow morning,
19th July 2018
Outside Dallas Court
SALFORD, M50 2GF
The Home Office have rejected Nestor's application and told him to present at Dallas Court tomorrow morning. David and Branwen McHugh, longstanding members of the Central Manchester Quaker Meeting who worked with Nestor for several years on the boaz trust winter nightshelter project for destitute men write as follows:
"When Nestor first came to this country 11 years ago, there was an expectation that asylum seekers would show a commitment to their community, which he has obviously accepted and demonstrated. Such involvement inevitably leads to social and emotional attachments being formed. It seems that during this time he also had grounds for believing that his asylum claim might be successful and he would be allowed to stay here permanently, as he tells us that at one stage he was entitled to obtain a Visa, when historical applications or excepted for a limited period, but unfortunately the solicitor acting for him missed the deadline. A subsequent appeal appeal against the decision was then considered separately from his 'legacy papers' and refused. We feel strongly that after this length of time not only should Nestor be allowed to continue with the life he has established here but that he has proved that he would be an asset as a resident of the UK."
Please come and show your solidarity with Nestor. Please send messages of support to admin(a)rapar.org.uk
A Guinean man who has made his home in Manchester for the last 12 years has been caught up in a Home Office "whirlpool" of bureaucracy.
Nestor Sylla, who is vice-chair of RAPAR and is involved with other charitable organisations in the city, came to Europe at the age of 26 looking for his mother after the death of his father and the murder of his sister in Guinea.
Nestor did not find his mother but discovered new friends in Manchester who are now his family. He met Quaker Elizabeth Coleman through a hosting scheme for people who have come to the UK seeking asylum and have ended up destitute and homeless. Later, he helped Elizabeth and others run the Boaz Trust winter night shelter based at the Friends' Meeting House in Manchester.
Elizabeth, who is retired, said: “Nestor's home is England. He is like a son to me and has a lot to contribute to our society.” When Elizabeth was ill, Nestor visited her in hospital and was a vital carer for her when she was discharged.
Nestor also supports another friend and her five children, helping with homework, taking them to school and the dentist, and attending parents' evenings. He says: “All these people are now my only family.”
Nestor arrived in Europe looking for his mother, a French citizen who left the family home after the death of his father. His travel was paid for by a woman who said she was a friend of his mother's and a passport for him was arranged.
When he came to the UK, Nestor went to the job centre to find work and showed them his passport. He was accused of having a false travel document and was arrested and imprisoned in Strangeways but was cleared of the charge and released.
Nestor was advised to apply for asylum and his case was being considered under the old Legacy system but his immigration solicitor missed a Home Office deadline. His complaint against the solicitor was upheld.
Last year, Nestor was unlawfully detained at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre at Gatwick Airport – which featured in a BBC Panorama investigation and led to 10 members of staff being suspended.
He was detained despite having submitted a Further Leave to Remain application and having proof of postage and delivery. When his solicitor applied for bail, the Home Office misled the judge saying a decision would be made on the case by July 21st 2017 and, because of this assurance, Nestor remained in detention at Brook House. He was finally released the following month after it became apparent that the Home Office had not even looked at the application.
Earlier this year, the Home Office wrote to Nestor rejecting his application because they said he had used the wrong form. He enlisted the support of his MP Lucy Powell to show that the correct form had been used. The Home Office then claimed they had not received an application, despite the fact that they had also written to Nestor advising him that his fee waiver application, which is included in the Leave to Remain application, had been accepted. RAPAR asked how the Home Office had rejected a Leave to Remain application and accepted a fee waiver request on a document they claimed not to have received.
One solicitor has described the Home Office as having Nestor in a “whirlpool” of bureaucracy. RAPAR believes there are many queries over this case which have not been answered satisfactorily. Last week, the Home Office rejected Nestor's Leave to Remain application and have said he must now leave the UK or risk detention and removal.
“Nestor has been unjustly treated and unlawfully detained. The Home Office has made numerous errors and is not answering an important request for information,” Elizabeth says.
A RAPAR spokesperson said: “Nestor is a refugee who came to this country when his life had been threatened and he had lost his immediate family. On arrival in the UK, he was wrongfully criminalised and remanded in prison for several months. Yet, despite all this, he has led an exemplary life volunteering for organisations like the Red Cross and Mustard Tree, as well as RAPAR and the Boaz night shelter. He has helped care for Elizabeth and the children of his friend Marie and all these people are now his family.
“In their refusal letter, the Home Office says Nestor can go back to Guinea – where his life was at risk and his sister was murdered – and suggests that people whose immigration status is 'precarious' should not be making close personal relationships in the UK.
“Is it the Home Office's position that people who have fled death threats, torture and persecution should be making preparations to return to their home country while they are seeking asylum and safety in the UK? That I have cared for people while living here? Does the Home Office expect that a person can spend 12 years in a country and not form attachments to others and they form attachments to me?”
Video by Mark Krantz for Stand Up To Racism
Yesterday, demonstrations were held in cities up and down the country in protest against Donald Trump's visit to the UK.
At the Manchester rally, RAPAR's Rhetta Moran spoke out against Trump and his policies.
Moran highlighted the systematic abuse faced by migrants in the UK.
THE METRO - Rebecca Yeo: "Before he was murdered, here is what a disabled asylum seeker had to say about Britain’s ‘hostile environment’" >>>
THE GUARDIAN - Steven Morris : "Memorial to murdered refugees unveiled in Bristol " >>>
Human rights campaigners in Bristol pay tribute to Kamil Ahmad who was brutally murdered after suffering racist abuse.
Ahmad was one of the participants of the Disability Mural that brought to light the struggles faced by disabled asylum seekers, amongst them, RAPAR members Manjeet Kaur and Mary Adenugba.
Now the mural will grace the walls of Bristol City Hall in remembrance of both Kamil Ahmad and Bijan Ebrahimi who were both murdered in brutal racist attacks.
“By putting the artwork on the walls of City Hall I hope it sends a message that their lives mattered.” - Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bistol
Both the case of Ahmad and Ebrahimi showed that though both had been the victims of serious racist abuse, deep systematic failings and institutional racism meant that the authorities failed to protect both Kamil and Bijan resulting in their murders.
Learn about the Bristol Disability Mural here >>>
Anna Maria Miwanda Bagenda was a mighty woman.
The first time she spoke for RAPAR it was at a Home Office organised conference about Refugees held at the newly completed Radisson Hotel at Manchester Airport in 2002. The stage was raised and Home Office officials were looking down upon us when Miwanda began to walk towards them from the back of the hall. She raised her hands as she approached, speaking out in a clear and utterly uncompromising tone: “We are here because you were there.” The hall became silent as she went on to explain to the assembled, in her own inimitably charming and humorous way, how all Refugees are part of the solution. Miwanda was always part of the solution.
During the three years that she lived with us here in Britain, many people felt her curious combination of indomitable will and deep empathy. ‘Superglue’ was how Bagenda affectionately nicknamed one early RAPAR member, a young Bengali mum of three young children. Like many others, she loved to be around Anna Maria because, no matter how anxious or traumatised an individual may be, Miwanda could inspire a sense of security and a feeling of love.
In late 2003, RAPAR became aware of the systemic racism being demonstrated by some bus drivers working along The Crescent in Salford who were refusing to stop for Muslim women who were covered. Bagenda strode into a University of Salford public meeting that was being addressed by then Home Secretary Hazel Blears and, during question time, extracted a public commitment from Hazel to take the matter up.
Of the many people who knew Miwanda, here are some memories:
“Anna Maria was larger than life, fearless and inspiring. I never forget what she said about what attitude we should have to the police: ‘They should stay in the station and not leave. If we need them we will call’." (Mark Krantz, anti-racist campaigner)
"She was a kind hearted, very firm, and dedicated activist. As an Exiled Journalist Network pioneer member, when she seconded my Committee Member nomination I got 23 out of 25 votes. As a pioneer member of RAPAR, she made a true struggle to help other people. She made a lot of difference in the lives of displaced, desperate people from all over the world and refugees seeking safety in the UK. Rest In Peace my Friend. " (Mansoor Hassan, RAPAR member and former Chair, NUJ member and editor www.saraikistan.com)
“I first met Miwanda in 2004 at the National Union of Journalists’ office in Manchester. I was a Union accompaniment representative and she was the Lead Development Worker at the Salford RAPAR SRB5 project. It was through this work that I came to know this African woman of short stature and great presence. I liked her sincerity and her humanity. She was, without doubt, principled and courageous. Miwanda was also a Roman Catholic and she lived her faith. I kept in sporadic touch with her when she returned to Africa and she always enquired after my grandchildren. When my second grandson was born she knitted him a blanket for his cot. I am very saddened to hear of her passing.” (Bob Pounder, Minister at the Unitarian Chapel, Oldham)
“I am deeply saddened by the news of her death. She was a kind, caring, person who always seemed to make time for others regardless of her own personal circumstances. She had first-hand experience of the cruelty of the UK’s asylum process but her resistance for herself and for others was formidable. She was intelligent, engaging and strong willed - an asset for humanity. My memory of her, as I am sure with many others, will live on. (Ameen Hadi, Treasurer, Salford City UNISON)
“This is very sad news. Anna Maria made a real impression on me when I first became involved with RAPAR. She was also a lovely, gracious client, despite the difficulties she had to face from the Home Office.” (Gary McIndoe, RAPAR Patron and Director of Latitude Law)
“I was proud to know and call Miwanda my friend. Her smile, her ability to laugh at the absurd, her genuine solidarity with all for social justice, and her fierce articulation when speaking truth to power: losing her is a huge loss but she helped, influenced and strengthened so many people to live on.
Sadly, Miwanda’s leaving of the UK more than a decade ago was grim, and an example that a ‘Hostile Environment’ has existed in the UK long before this current Government. That she left on her own terms, and to support her family and others, reminded all around her about what, ultimately, is important. I am glad we stayed in touch over the years. When my Mom died she was among the first to call. She shared this Mandela quote with me some years ago. ‘As the years progress one increasingly realises the importance of friendship and human solidarity. And if a 90-year-old may offer some unsolicited advice on this occasion, it would be that you, irrespective of your age, should place human solidarity, the concern for the other, at the centre of the values by which you live.’ She always encouraged, supported and loved as a Mama, Sister and Friend.” (Jason Bergen)
“We were all shocked and saddened to hear of your mother’s passing. Our thoughts are with you. It is not easy to express how we shall miss her. Your mother was a fighter for justice and equality and that is something that cannot be forgotten easily. I know how wonderful and supportive she was to you all, and I can imagine the emptiness that you are all feeling without her, but I hope you can find solace in the memory of who your mother was. May her soul rest in peace.” (Zeinab Mohammed, RAPAR Matron)
Some words now from Anna Maria Miwanda Bagenda’s Children, Nantalaga, Juliet Ssanyu and James:
“We thank the almighty God for the gift of our mother, for the time we spent with her. We called her Lixa. She was a loving mother who taught us to be independent early on in life. From her we learned to treasure friends and to love God. We are proud of all she achieved and, even when the storms came, she always remained true to herself. She made friends faster than anyone we know. We are grateful for the time we spent with her; in her moments of illness, we are glad we were there. She remained herself even when we suspected what was coming. We thank God that he chose to cut short her pain. Lixa, May the Good Lord give you peace in His Kingdom. When God took you back He said, ‘'Hallelujah, you're home’ (Ed Sheehan).”
Miwanda’s last communication as Matron of RAPAR was in February of this year. In it she discussed the ‘Voluntary’ Returns in The Community that the Home Office is currently trying to roll out across the UK:
“I am glad that something is still going on raising such major issues in the lives of the affected people. ‘Voluntary’ can mean different things, the way I see it, but to return to a country where one escaped death, imprisonment etc. in the first place!!!!! Well, we know what I know, what I have gone through in order to remain alive. I also know what the word ‘Voluntary’ means, in the case of people seeking asylum. It is mockery of justice to force them to accept to return voluntarily to their home countries or even the third country. Love to you all, Friends, and thanks for ringing the bell.”
In Lusaana, in the District of Kalungu, sixty kilometres from Kampala, the capital of Uganda, Anna Maria’s Children buried their Mother in the ground of her Father’s ancestral home.
Her smile, her drive, her fearlessness and her generosity of spirit live on.
Dr Rhetta Moran, for RAPAR, 13th June 2018.
"Former refugee Farheen Raja got the biggest cheer at the Stand Up To Racism Summit in Manchester."
RAPAR member, Farheen, who has just recently won her right to remain in the UK spoke out against racism and Trump's policy of family separation in the USA.
Hello there, I am Farheen Raja the Mancunian. originally from Pakistan. Here today representing the human rights organisation RAPAR where I have been a member for 10 years.
Three weeks ago , after fighting for my very survival in this country for those 10 years, I secured 5 years leave to remain - the government said I can live here for the next five years.
Today we all are gathered here against racism which is continuously spreading everywhere around the world specially against Migrants.
I had tears of rage when I heard about Trump's recent action in separating children from their parents. That happened in USA But unfortunately the same thing has been happening here in Britain. Trump does these brutal acts openly whereas In Britain they do it undercover.
The Government treat Migrants worse than Criminals. They treat them like they have no right to be on earth! for Migrants they have a life but they are in an open prison, faceless dying slowly slowly & this is completely unacceptable! If you don't feel that pain, that hate, that hurt, imagine being in a situation where you live but die everyday. There's nothing in this world more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscious stupidity.
And but I’m glad that we have here this incredible opportunity where we have been taught that it does not matter where you're from, it does not matter your color. your race or your religion. it's about the content of your character. it's about your values. we should do something that unites people rather than that divides us.
I'm here speaking behalf of so many young people who are suffering. Their rights have been taken away from them. it's their life but they have no rights in their own lives. Moreover, it's very easy for us to say that we live in multicultural society and so called everyone has equal opportunities but no. A poor migrant is a migrant that's how the government discriminate people & show the innocents that they are inferior.
Listen everyone, it's not just enough to make legislation and lean back against racism, we have to fight against racism everyday, in practice. We have to tackle and expose the racists until we secure peace. Until then, this struggle won’t stop.
We all must continue to do things that help people who are surviving racism everyday to fight together foster in comprehensive ways and that is only possible by achieving economic equality, education and creating understanding that we do not need to fear differences but to embrace them to teach the people here to love each other and have empathy. We should celebrate diversity instead to ignore it.
This only comes when you and I engage with people at both a social and community level. It will only come when u and I raise a voice with young people who put their faith in you. Remember we could save generations and generations because how we act teaches our new generation our lessons. It's time to stand up with all those innocents in the river in which they cried we need to take a ladder and build up a bridge to climb out and away from that river of tears.
Finally no matter where we are from, no matter we are Asian black or white We are all here - this is our home we have to save it.
We are all one.
Farheen finished her address with one of her poems written during her time in the asylum system.
See the full video below.
English language tests preventing medical professionals from practising in the UK as NHS struggles to survive
Launch of research at 12pm on Wednesday 16th May at Rusholme Health Centre, Walmer Street, Manchester, M14 5NP.
Hundreds of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and laboratory technicians are being prevented from working in a struggling NHS because of the current English language tests set by the General Medical Council (GMC) and other professional bodies.
A campaign launched through RAPAR - Medical Professionals in the UK Seeking Registration - is growing by the day with over 500 medical professionals already signed up to it. There is also increasing support from the wider general public and a 38 Degrees Petition has been put together.
One of the campaign founders, Dr Hiba Alzamzamy, spoke at a national demonstration in support of the NHS last month. Research about the English language tests put together by her campaign group will be launched at Rusholme Health Centre in Manchester on May 16th - the day before an NHS Skills, Retention and Recruitment conference in the city.
The campaign is backed by Dr Aneez Esmail, Professor of General Practice at the University of Manchester's Medical School, who says:” At a time when the NHS is really desperate for extra staff it is strange that there is a failure to recognise the contribution that refugees and other medical professionals from outside the UK can make.
“”These are highly skilled professionals and we need to help them to start their lives again – this will in turn help the NHS at a time of great need.”
The campaign is calling on the GMC and other bodies to return to more realistic and appropriate English language tests. Doctors who passed the previous language test are currently working successfully in the NHS. But now highly qualified doctors – many of whom have been forced to flee their home countries for humanitarian reasons – are being stopped from using their skills and expertise.
Four years ago, the GMC raised its already high score for doctors in the International English Language Examination Testing System (IELTS) even further and they are now considering whether to raise it yet again.. The exam tests general knowledge of English language and includes topics such as archaeology, jam making and current affairs – much of it irrelevant to the kind of terminology used by medical professionals. In response to concerns, the GMC has now introduced an Occupational English Test (OET) in addition to the IELTS.
There is little information about the new OET which originates from Australia and is almost triple the cost of the IELTS. The new test is still in its early stages in the UK and it is not yet known if it will be fit for purpose. In addition, there is still the problem of the unrealistically high barrier of the IELTS.
Nurses, dentists, pharmacists and other medical professionals are having similar problems with the levels being set by their own professional councils for the English language tests.
Dr Alzamzamy explains: “Most of the professionals in our campaign have studied and gained their qualifications overseas on courses which have been delivered primarily in English. We are highly skilled people who want to help patients at a time when the NHS is in crisis. We acknowledge that communication is an essential element in securing patients' safety but the new test level is not a bar to ensure safety, it is a barrier preventing us from practising our profession.
“The English language test level now set by the GMC is unrealistic and very demoralising. Years of study and sheer hard work are going to waste.”
For more information please contact: Dr Hiba Alzamzamy at medicalprofessionalsuk(a)gmail.com
RAPAR raises concerns about new Immigration and Voluntary Returns “surgeries in the community”
RAPAR is querying the Home Office's new policy of introducing immigration and voluntary returns surgeries into the community.
We are currently gathering questions about voluntary returns to send to the Home Office. Questions already put forward, most of them from refugees and people seeking asylum, cover a range of concerns about voluntary returns – including asking how the Government can be sure that people being encouraged to “go home” can be truly safe.
The Home Office claims there are now 30 voluntary returns surgeries in the community including one in Manchester which is running twice monthly sessions at the Transformation Community Resource Centre in Longsight.
One of the aims of this initiative is to persuade refugees to return to their home countries under a Government scheme which offers up to £2,000 for people to “voluntarily” return.
Julie Ward, North West MEP, has added her voice to questions being raised by RAPAR about the surgeries which are also operating in London, Birmingham and Slough.
“This new development is very worrying and comes hot on the heels of an insidious government policy that used homelessness charities as a means to identify and deport EU migrants before Christmas. The Home Office has a duty to uphold international norms regarding the treatment of vulnerable people such as refugees and asylum seekers. This should mean ensuring adequate and tailored support for a range of options. By locating voluntary returns surgeries in community spaces government policy may appear to be more benign than it is.
“I am very concerned that taxpayers' money is being used in a targeted and unbalanced way, with an emphasis on persuading vulnerable people to return to the very places that they were forced to flee for good reason. We need to question why this is happening in an increasingly hostile and xenophobic environment with a Conservative government that has failed in its basic duty regarding unaccompanied child refugees, let alone wider issues appertaining to the asylum process.”
People seeking asylum have pointed out to RAPAR that the Home Office's voluntary returns service is already easily accessible and, if people want to take advantage of it, they can. There is no need for “community surgeries”.
Sanctuary seekers in the UK have been forced to flee their home countries because their lives were at risk and they are among the most vulnerable, impoverished and traumatised groups in our society. They should not be pressured into returning to a situation where their safety cannot be guaranteed.
Dr Rhetta Moran, from RAPAR, said: “People seeking asylum - and those who have decided to stay in the UK undocumented after their cases have been failed by the Home Office - are here because they feel they are still in danger. Completing a 'voluntary' return form in a 'community' setting does not alter that danger.
“We have asked the Home Office to explain how they can ensure people's safety if they return. The Home Office knows it cannot do this. Community immigration surgeries are not offering people a real and free choice. There is nothing 'voluntary' about 'voluntary' returns.”
RAPAR also questions how impartial and non directive advice about voluntary returns can be given by Home Office staff in community surgeries when they are employed by a Government department which has been charged with driving down net migration.
On Wednesday 28th February 2018, at 1pm, we will be outside the Transformation Community Resource Centre, Richmond House, 11 Richmond Grove, Ardwick, Manchester, M13 0LN to communicate to people who may use the surgery why there is no such thing as a ‘Voluntary’ Return.