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.
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.
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.
You are most cordially invited to register here. (All registered attendees will receive the zoom link and details in their registration emails).
As the country locked down in March, RAPAR and other organisations started the new Status Now campaign - calling for Leave to Remain for all undocumented, destitute and migrant people in the UK and Ireland, irrespective of their immigration status.
RAPAR believes the call for Status Now is the only way to ensure equal access to health, housing, food and financial support for all in the time of the Covid-19 global pandemic. The Status Now Network is growing by the day and has its official launch on Saturday July 11th.
An Early Day Motion calling for Status Now has been tabled in Parliament. Please ask your MP to support it.
The BBC carried this report about some of our work last week.
At the end of March the Network called on the British Prime Minister and Irish Taoiseach to grant leave to remain, Status Now, to all undocumented, destitute and migrant people in the legal process in both the UK and Ireland, to ensure their and others’ safety during the Covid-19 pandemic. The open letter to the heads of states has received over 65 organisational signatories, the online petition has gained over 3,700 signatories and counting, and an EDM (early day motion) calling for leave to remain has been put down in the UK Parliament.
We can’t #controlthevirus unless we give everyone the same access to healthcare, housing, food and welfare. #StatusNow
Can’t #stayhome if you don’t have one! Grant #StatusNow to all undocumented, destitute migrant people to #savelives
Please encourage others to Join our campaign for welfare, housing and healthcare for all: #HealthAndSafetyForAll
And please add your name to the Open Letter and sign the petition here.
Hashtags: #healthandsafetyforall #StatusNow4all
RE: ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE, HOUSING AND FOOD FOR ALL
cc: UK Home Secretary and UK Health Secretary,
Irish Health Secretary and Irish Minister for Justice and Equality,
All UK MPs,
All Members of the Irish Parliament (the Oireachtas),
All Leaders and CEOs of Local Authorities and Health Services in the UK,
All CEOs of Councils and Health Services in Ireland,
Professor Neil Ferguson, Imperial College, London,
Dr. Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Ireland
Prof Ruairi Brugha, Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology, Ireland
27th March 2020 (Signatory list updated on 3rd August 2020)
RE: ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE, HOUSING AND FOOD FOR ALL
We call upon the British and Irish States to act immediately so that all undocumented, destitute and migrant people in the legal process in both the UK and Ireland are granted Status Now, as in Leave to Remain. In this way every human, irrespective of their nationality or citizenship can access healthcare, housing, food and the same sources of income from the State as everyone else.
Everyone has the right to be in an environment where they can follow the Public Health directives necessary to limit COVID19 viral transmission to the absolute minimum and to care for themselves, their loved ones and their living and working communities.
It is imperative - being in everyone’s best interests - that the basic needs of all are met.
People living in extreme poverty and/or destitution and/or without immigration status in the UK or Ireland and/or without access to the NHS or the Irish Health System:
Please direct your responses, as a matter of urgency obviously, to admin(at)rapar.org.uk
ORGANISATION SIGNATORIES (as at 3rd August 2020)
All African Women’s Group
ATD Fourth World
BASW Cymru - British Association of Social Workers, Cymru
BFAWU - Bakers’, Food & Allied Workers Union
Birmingham Asylum & Refugee Association
Black Women’s Rape Action Project
Boabab Women's Project
CARAG (Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group)
Central England Lipreading Support Trust
Communities For All
Coventry Against Racism
Croydon Refugee & New Communities Forum
Doncaster Conversation Club
DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts
Eagles Wings (Bury)
EHID - End Heathrow Immigration Detention
EYST Wales – Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team, Wales
FAF, GAF, LAFA and Feminist Fightback
Filipino Domestic Workers Association -UK (FDWA-UK)
GDWG - Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group
Highly Skilled Migrants UK
Inini Initiative Ltd
Iran Socialist Alternative (London)
Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
Kanlungan Filipino Consortium,
Labour Campaign for Free Movement
Legal Action for Women
Leicester Quaker Meeting of Sanctuary
Lichfield City of Sanctuary
Lichfield Quaker Meeting
Lichfield Refugee Aid
Manchester City of Sanctuary
MASI – Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland
Medical Professionals in the UK Seeking Registration
Middle East Solidarity Magazine
Migrants at Work
Migrants Rights Network
Migrants Rights Centre Ireland
MOJUK - Miscarriages of Justice UK
MRRC - Manchester Refugee Rights Collective
No-Deportations - Residence Papers for All
No Impunity for the Congolese State - NICS
Payday Men's Network
Positive Action in Housing
Poverty Truth Community
Public Interest Law Centre
QARN - Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network
Race on the Agenda
RADAR - Rochdale Action on Destitution with Asylumseekers and Refugees
RAPAR - Refugee and Asylum seeker Participatory Action Research
Reclaim the Power
South East Asian Centre (London)
Stand Up to Racism
St Nicholas of Tolentino RC Church
The BaRE UK
Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association
Wai Yin Society
Women Against Rape
Women of Colour/Global Women's Strike
You can download a word version of the Open Letter, updated on 3rd August, here
Call for refugee Doctors to be fast-tracked into the NHS- two years after RAPAR launched a similar campaign.
12th April 2020 Update
Our Campaign leader, Professor Esmail was quoted yesterday in the New York Times. Today he tells us:
"The COVID-19 pandemic had laid bare the reliance of the NHS on migrant labour. Nearly 40% of doctors are from BME backgrounds (the majority qualifying abroad). They are currently bearing the brunt of the burden in terms of deaths in the workforce probably because they work in the most deprived and therefore under resourced parts of the NHS. When this emergency is over the sacrifice of these people should be acknowledged and the contribution of all BAME staff to the NHS recognised and rewarded. The NHS represents the best of Britain because it is so international and diverse."
Refugee doctors say:
"LET US WORK TO HELP CORONAVIRUS PATIENTS IN THE UK"
More refugee doctors have come forward to offer their skills to the NHS during the increasingly grim battle with the Coronavirus pandemic.
Two years ago, RAPAR joined refugee doctors to launch a campaign which called for the unrealistically high levels of English language testing to be reviewed and relaxed so that many more highly qualified doctors, nurses and other medical professionals could work in the NHS.
See ITV news item this week which features a Syrian doctor.
The group of medical professionals we have been campaigning with have signed an Open Letter sent by 37 organisations to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Nearly 1,000 individuals, groups and organisations have signed the petition.
Dr Aneez Esmail, Professor of General Practice at Manchester University Medical School, has backed our campaign from the start. Read his article here in the medical magazine Pulse.
"It is deeply disappointing that just as the NHS faces an acute shortage of medics, hundreds of doctors, including potential GPs, are being excluded from joining the workforce because of an arbitrary change in English language proficiency standards.
At a press conference to raise this issue, I spoke to four doctors in the audience all of whom are legally entitled to live and work in the UK because they are refugees or have been given leave to remain.
They are all highly experienced having worked in Sudan, Iraq and the Congo in very difficult situations. They spoke fluent English – conversing easily with me as they explained their background. Yet none are practising as doctors in the UK because they failed the first hurdle in trying to get registration to work as doctors in the UK.
Current regulations require them to score 7.5 in the International Language Testing System (IELTS). All had previously sat the exam and scored 7, but in 2016 the GMC raised the bar for people wanting to register for the next stage of the registration process – which requires doctors seeking UK registration to sit the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Boards (PLAB) test – to 7.5.
The test does not reflect the skills required for good communication in medicine
It might seem an inconsequential change, but this has barred hundreds of doctors seeking registration in the UK. The IELTS test is graded in bands and skills are assessed in speaking, listening, reading and writing. At Band 7 the person’s standard of English is considered ‘Good’ – meaning they would handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning. To give an idea of the standard, students from non-English language speaking countries wishing to study in the UK would be required to have an IELTS score between Bands 6 and 7 by most Russell Group universities.
It is essential that everyone seeking to practice medicine in the UK has excellent communication skills – it’s a central skill in medicine and it is right that language skills are assessed and only those shown to speak English at a high standard should be allowed to register and practice medicine.
But the IELTS is designed for academic study and does not properly reflect the skills required for good communication in medicine. It’s partly in recognition of this that the GMC has recently introduced the Occupational Exam Test (OET), which more accurately reflects the level of English needed to practice medicine.
The OET was developed in Australia (where the IELTS requirement is Band 7) and many doctors believe it will be a better assessment of English required to practice medicine here. However, the exam is prohibitively expensive for doctors in this situation, costing three times as much as the IELTS – which many have already paid to sit.
Interestingly, the UK regulatory bodies for pharmacists and dentists set the level of IELTS at 7 and 6.5 respectively.
In the UK, we face a shortage of doctors in a range of specialties including general practice. We have a group of doctors, the majority of them highly experienced, who have ended up in the UK and who are desperate to contribute their skills and expertise.
Setting the standard at an arbitrary level (there is no evidence that having a score of 7.5 as opposed to 7 makes the doctor any safer or better) is not the best way of determining whether someone is able to practice medicine. This approach subordinates people to policy, denying employment to a group of people who almost certainly have the experience and talent to help us deal with an acute shortage of doctors.
We need to support this group of doctors through tests that we have set – most of them legitimate – so that we can use their skills to contribute to the NHS. We could help by offering dedicated training to learn the conversational skills required for medicine in the OET, offering loans so that they can attend the courses to help them do this. We should also avoid setting arbitrary test scores that don’t test the specific requirement for language skills for the practice of medicine.
This is a waste of talent that we need now. Amongst the many hundreds of doctors caught in this state of limbo, there are doubtless a large number of GPs who with the right help and training could help relieve the acute shortage that we are facing, rather than waiting for the promised 5,000 new GPs in five years’ time."
For more information about the campaign see here.
On 26th March 2020, RAPAR blogged:
As tonight’s call went out for the country to Clap For the NHS, health workers and MPs were clamouring for the Government to fast track the registration of refugee doctors in the UK.
Instead of using their skills to care for people who have been hospitalised because of the Covid-19 pandemic, refugee doctors and other health professionals have been forced to work as taxi drivers and in takeaways because the re-accreditation process in the UK is lengthy, expensive and onerous.
Dr Mohammad Haqmal, a refugee from Afghanistan, told The Guardian newspaper that his background in public health and specifically HIV meant he had a lot to offer in the fight against the pandemic. He works in medical research but did not go through the re-accreditation process as a doctor because of the difficulties and expense. He knows many qualified doctors who are driving taxis and working as shopkeepers when they would rather be treating patients.
Under pressure and with an increasing number of health workers falling ill themselves, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he will look at the proposal to expedite qualified doctors from overseas into the NHS.
Yet just over two years ago, when NHS cuts continued to threaten the lives of patients and the well-being of health workers, RAPAR worked with a group of medical professionals to launch a campaign calling for the registration process to be less complicated, less onerous and less expensive.
Five hundred medical professionals signed up to the campaign and hundreds more signed a petition. Despite coverage in the medical press and widespread lobbying of MPs, the call was ignored – to the frustration of the refugee doctors themselves and leading NHS medical staff.
Dr Aneez Esmail, Professor of General Practice at the University of Manchester’s Medical School, backed the campaign and said at the time: “When the NHS is really desperate for extra staff, it is strange that there is a failure to recognise the contribution that refugee doctors and other medical professionals from outside the UK can make.”
Dr Hiba Alzamzamy, one of the campaign founders, produced research exposing the unrealistically high level of English testing set by the General Medical Council – one of the barriers to re-accreditation. She said: “We are highly skilled people who want to help patients at a time when the NHS is in crisis.”
It has taken a pandemic for the Government to be forced to listen to that plea.
For more information about the campaign see here.
There are 21 voluntary returns surgeries in the community in the UK, according to information sent to a RAPAR volunteer by the Home Office following a Freedom of Information request.
It took 10 months for our volunteer to obtain the information from the Home Office. The Home Office turned down our volunteer's initial Freedom of Information request, he then asked for an internal review but they still refused to send him the information.
He complained to the Information Commissioner's Office and, finally, after the ICO had looked at all the correspondence, the Home Office was directed by the ICO to send the list to our volunteer.
Read the full list of voluntary returns surgeries here
RAPAR's Community Development Lead and actor Maddie Wakeling is in court tomorrow (Monday September 9th) for campaigning against climate change.
Maddie, 22, was one of 16 people arrested on charges of obstructing a main road into Bristol city centre on July 17th as part of an Extinction Rebellion protest to publicise the climate crisis.
The environmentalists deny wilfully obstructing the highway . Although they agree they obstructed the road, they are all pleading Not Guilty because their actions were justified by the climate emergency. Maddie told the initial Bristol court hearing in July: "We have the right to act according to our consciences."
She took an active part in the successful four day Northern Rebellion closure of Deansgate last weekend and was at Manchester's Civil Justice Court to support anti fracking protesters.
Maddie works with RAPAR's Casework and Campaigns sections and, at the Northern Rebellion, she spoke about the growing number of "climate refugees" being driven out of their homes by catastrophic weather changes and the activities of multinational corporations.
In her role as RAPAR's Community Development Lead, Maddie co-ordinates RAPAR's Drama Group who recently performed their play "Through the Walls: An Incredible Weekfor the Banks" at HOME Manchester and The Met, Bury, during Refugee Week. They will be performing it again during Black History Month in October.
Maddie's acting work has included a part in Out of Kilter Theatre's "Small Histories", which toured North West venues recently. Last month, she and a friend took their KahloTheatre production "Life Between Yes And No" to the Edinburgh Fringe where it received a number of excellent reviews.
For more information, please contact:
Dr Rhetta Moran 07776264646
Kath Grant 07758386208
The Frack-Free Three - Katrina Lawrie, Christopher Wilson, and Lee Walsh, protestors from the Frack-Free Lancashire campaign - were back in court for sentencing on Tuesday in a case centred round the right to protest.
All three had locked themselves together in July to delay access to the fracking site in Lancashire run by the company Cuadrilla. Ms Lawrie had also stepped out into the road to stop a lorry in August and, because of the wet roads, the lorry allegedly had to swerve into the path of oncoming traffic. No-one was hurt in the incident.
At a previous hearing, the campaigners had admitted breaching an order related to protests outside the site. They had been found not guilty of any criminal offences so today’s hearing was only about the breach of civil law.
The three were supported outside the court by comrades from a wide variety of environmental and community groups. Yesterday (Monday), people from the nearby Extinction Rebellion occupation in Deansgate marched to the court led by a samba band. A spokesperson said: “We made a democratic decision yesterday to start our march with a show of solidarity with the anti-frackers because they too are fighting big companies that make money without regard to the damage they are doing to our planet.”
A RAPAR spokesperson said fracking was destroying homes and communities around the world and will cause widespread disruption and displacement of people if it is allowed to continue.
“The number of ‘environmental refugees’ is rapidly increasing due to the activities of large companies and multinationals. RAPAR backs all activists protesting against companies like Cuadrilla. We also support the right to protest without the threat of arrest and imprisonment.”
In court, Adam Wagner, on behalf of Ms Lawrie and Mr Walsh, told the judge, Mr JHH Pelling, that his clients had been protesting against the controversial practice of fracking which contributes to global warming. He compared the protests with others, such as Peterloo and the campaign for women’s suffrage.
The latest earthquake at the Cuadrilla fracking site is said to have shaken houses five miles away.
Mr Wagner said all forms of peaceful protest are protected under the European Convention on Human Rights. The case involved a large company using its substantial financial resources to prevent protests by seeking an injunction. Fear of such wide ranging orders could have a “chilling effect” on the right to protest.
Tom Roscoe, for Cuadrilla, spoke of the need to protect his client’s right to access the site. He saw no need for protestors to be walking on the carriageway when there is a footway alongside but the judge pointed out that the court could not insist that people use the pavement.
The judge ruled in favour of some variations to the court order so the new order will allow protestors to walk in the road for the purpose of protest, but not when it is deliberately being done to delay the Cuadrilla lorries.
He sentenced all three to four weeks imprisonment, suspended for two years, on condition that they comply with the amended order. Ms Lawrie also received a two month suspended sentence for the separate incident in August.
The protestors were ordered to pay costs. These were later estimated as approximately £70k. The three people do not have the money to pay but anti fracking campaigners said afterwards that the possibility of protestors having costs awarded against them may well deter homeowners and people with other assets from taking part in future peaceful protests.