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7 ways climate change affects refugees

 

1. Almost every second, someone is displaced by the effects of climate change or natural disaster.

 

41 people a minute are forced from their homes by extreme weather events. Floods, storms, heatwaves and drought will continue to worsen as temperatures rise, affecting people all over the world.

 

2. By 2050, there could be as many as one billion people displaced by rising temperatures.

 

 

Chris Madden climate change refugees

 

3. People fleeing climate change do not have the same legal rights as people fleeing war or persecution.

 

There is not currently adequate protection in international law for people fleeing the effects of climate change. They are “climate refugees”, but the refugee protection regime hasn’t yet been extended to cover them.

 

4. Those already displaced by violence, conflict or poverty are more vulnerable to secondary displacement as a result of climate change.

 

These people, who already have little choice over where they end up living, often reside in climate change ‘hotspots’ which expose them to secondary displacement.

 

 

 

 

5. By 2100, melting ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica could lead to a rise in sea level of almost two metres.

 

This would affect lower-lying cities in the US such as New York, flooding people’s homes and forcing them to move elsewhere.

 

6. Also by 2100, sea levels in Bangladesh’s coastal region are predicted to rise by as much as a metre.

 

This alone would displace 31.5 million people.

 

7. Rising temperatures could make places like Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Qatar uninhabitable by 2071, leaving thousands of people with no choice but to flee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climate change is the most urgent threat of our time. People shouldn’t be forced to flee their homes because we are failing to stop its effects, but they are. We are the last generation that can act to prevent this.

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Applications for Duty Manager in Calais now closed

UPDATE MAY 11th 2019: applications for this role are now closed!

Help Refugees is recruiting a Duty Manager in Calais. Alongside our partners, Help Refugees runs the biggest aid operation in northern France.

We’re currently in a transition period in our Calais operations. In hoping to improve our support of the current population of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in Calais and Grande-Synthe, we aim to restructure over the next 6-9 months into a more sustainable, effective model.

There are still 1,000 people - including 200+ unaccompanied minors - sleeping on the streets and in the forests of Northern France

There are still 1,000 people – including 200+ unaccompanied minors – sleeping on the streets and in the forests of Northern France

To do this, we need to increase our capacity to coordinate volunteers and ensure that vital services are still available to the up to 1000 people we are currently the main aid distributor for. We are creating a number of temporary roles to support our present activities, help in this transition, and be part of designing and building the next phase of the civil society response to Britain and France’s refugee crisis at the border.

You will be working from our Calais warehouse, alongside our partners L’Auberge des Migrants, Refugee Youth Service, Refugee Community Kitchen, Utopia56 and Refugee Info Bus, Refugee Women and Children’s Centre and School Bus Project.

Despite the eviction of the Calais ‘Jungle’ in October 2016 and the Dunkirk/Grande Synthe camp burning down in April 2017, there are still around 1,000 refugees sleeping rough in the forests in northern France. The youngest unaccompanied minor in Calais is currently just nine years old.

We welcome applications from all persons regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, belief, or age. But, as members of ethnic minority groups, refugee backgrounds and disabled people are currently under-represented in this sector, we would encourage applicants from members of these groups. Interviews and role offers will be based on merit alone.

Please note! Applications for this role are now closed.


Help Refugees is also recruiting volunteers to fill crucial roles for our operation in Calais. More information about those roles can be found here.

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Home Office profits £2 million a month from child citizenship fees

It has been revealed that the Home Office is charging fees so expensive for child citizenship applications that parents are being driven in to debt as they try to gather the funds to cover the costs.

 

The findings of a Freedom of Information request by charity Citizens UK show that the Home Office makes £2 million a month from these fees, amounting to £24 million a year (or £71,429 a day). It is estimated that 40,000 children in the UK are affected.

 

According to The Independent, the cost of a citizenship application for a child is £1,012. The cost of processing an application is £372. This means the Home Office is making a profit of roughly £640 per child application it receives. All the fees are non-refundable, so are not returned if an application fails.  

 

It’s incredibly difficult for many families in the UK to afford these prices without having to cut costs on other things. Some parents are being driven in to debt or overwork, and others are even being forced to skip meals to save money.

 

Also this week David Bolt, the UK’s Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, released a report on the Home Office’s mechanisms for charging for services in relation to asylum and immigration.

 

Bolt recommended that the Home Office take a closer look at the effects of such high fees on “vulnerable individuals, including children”, and “demonstrate that it has fully considered these effects in determining fee levels, annual increases, the availability of waivers, and refunds”. He reported that “a number of people [he spoke to within his research] were clearly distressed by the effect the fees had had on them or their family or friends”.

 

Without proper, legal documentation such as a passport, many children who have grown up in the UK are unable to progress to university should they want to, or even to secure full-time work. This will have an incredibly negative impact on them in later life, making it difficult for them to fulfill their potential and contribute to society in the ways in which they’d like to. Through these fees the Home Office is excluding thousands of children from society on the basis that their parents do not earn a high enough income.

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Is the EU funding forced labour in Eritrea?

The EU has denied claims from Eritrean human rights activists that it is funding a scheme in Eritrea which uses forced labour.

 

It has pledged to spend £17m in Eritrea as part of its Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, a scheme which aims to curb “irregular migration” by supporting programmes creating jobs in various African countries. This £17m will be spent on improving Eritrea’s road network.

 

The problem with these road network improvements, though, is that National Service recruits will be used. At present there is an official requirement in Eritrea for people – once they reach the age of 18 and before they turn 40 – to carry out national service. This used to be for a period of 18 months per person, but since the end of the country’s civil war with Ethiopia in 2000 the period has been extended indefinitely.

 

According to Human Rights Watch, the majority of able-bodied adult Eritreans are currently partaking in “indefinite, compulsory” active national service. A fact-finding mission report published in 2008 by the European Parliament Committee on Development similarly indicated that military service “often extends over decades”. People have compared it to modern day slavery, reporting torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary arrest, a lack of basic sanitation and hygiene provisions and forced labour on farms, in mines or on construction sites for less than US$60 a month.

 

Because of this, thousands of people – particularly those in their final year of high school – have fled Eritrea in the past few years to claim asylum elsewhere. According to Amnesty International, forced conscription has “robbed the country’s youth of their dreams, creating a generation of refugees… Eritrean youth have only two life options: undertake the compulsory, indefinite national service in conditions that amount to forced labour, or flee the country, risking their lives in search of a better life overseas.” 

 

Last year in the UK alone, 2,158 people from Eritrea submitted applications for asylum. In 2017, Eritrea was the top country of origin for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in the UK. 

 

A spokesperson for the EU said in an email to the BBC that the EU does not support indefinite national service in Eritrea. If it goes ahead with plans to fund this road network improvement programme, though, it will be doing just that. As demonstrated, to support indefinite national service in Eritrea is to support forced labour in Eritrea.

 

FHRE is threatening to sue the EU, warning in a letter that it will take the organisation to court for violating its own Charter of Fundamental Rights if it does not withdraw from the road-building project.

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Out in the cold: How the UK fails those who seek safety from abroad

Emma Taylor, IAS, writes about the hardships faced by those attempting to claim asylum in the UK.

 

Virtually all countries agree that it is a universal human right to seek asylum across international borders if we feel unsafe to remain in – or return to – our home country. Persecution, war and conflict are just some of the reasons men, women and children are forced to appeal to another country for their safety. The UK government has a duty within international law to protect people who are too afraid to leave the country under a range of circumstances. For many, though, it is a struggle to secure this protection.

 

Those who claim asylum in the UK are allowed leave to remain here while they make a case of evidence to the Home Office about their worries and fears. The majority of claimants, who would be homeless and without recourse to funds otherwise, are housed and provided with a minimal income of just £37.75 a week. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work or access other benefits while their claim is considered. However, they are able to access the NHS and children are able to enrol in education.

 

Some claimants are eligible to work after 12 months, although they are restricted to take a position listed on the UK Shortage Occupation List which numbers specialist surgeons, ballet dancers and neuroscientists among many, many other highly specialised and diverse vocations. This essentially bars the vast majority of asylum seekers from working, resulting in many living in limbo while their stories are heard and their claim is processed. Often struggling, asylum seekers are ‘othered’ and marginalised within UK communities.

 

Asylum seekers fortunate enough to be granted Refugee Status by the Home Office will go through a life-changing process – although not without stress. Asylum seekers may have fled war, societal threats, political turmoil or perhaps even persecution from their own families. While in the UK, they are in an unfamiliar country, attempting to communicate in an unacquainted language and are ready to restart their lives again.

 

Yet the process of securing a National Insurance Number, a bank account, finding a permanent home and accessing employment is far from easy – especially in such a tight turnaround: the weekly allowance the Government provides ends after 28 days once leave has been granted. Those who cannot rapidly bound back fall through the cracks. It is evident that the increasingly high hurdles asylum seekers face would put the mental health and resilience of any individual to the test.

 

For others, however, they do not get such a ‘straightforward’ outcome. If their claim is initially

rejected, the asylum seeker either loses their right to remain or may appeal to the tribunal hearing. To do so, they must provide evidence that the Home Office did not understand or acknowledge their claim fully. Tribunals act independently to either reinforce or overturn the Home Office’s decision. Fortunately, asylum seekers’ rejected claims are increasingly becoming challenged with higher success rates: 75% of Home Office initial decisions were rejected by independent judges in 2018, which is a rise from the 52% in 2017. Although this shows appeal by Tribunal is improving for asylum seekers, the Government ought to be getting it right the first time. The data is clear: the ‘hostile environment’ the Government designed to deter migrants from coming to the UK is leading to many genuine claims being rejected.

 

The process to claim asylum is complex – for many, it results in homelessness if they are not properly safeguarded. The Government must receive the appeal decision from a rejected person within 14 days. Unless there are dependent children involved, a new application for weekly allowance and temporary housing must then be made by the rejected applicant while their tribunal is awaited.

 

If this complicated process is misunderstood, or delayed; or if grounds for appeal are not evidenced to satisfaction within the strict timescale, then many genuine claimants become unable to access the support they are entitled to. Many have become homeless, falling farther away from the means to scramble back to stability and entering a newly desperate state of destitution – all because they missed the 14-day turnaround.

 

International human rights law protects those who are genuinely in fear for their lives, and it is also right that checks and balances exist to make sure this right is not exploited. The Home Office does have a difficult and sensitive task to do.

 

Yet the numbers simply do not add up – the UK is clearly falling short in its duty of care to people who seek our help in good faith. No asylum seeker should fall homeless or destitute because of unfairly bureaucratic procedures, a ‘go home’ culture or a lack of support for individuals to understand the labyrinthine experience of claiming their right to safety.

 

The cost of human misery, mental and emotional turmoil for asylum seekers is high enough. We must ask ourselves if a more compassionate approach is possible, and will certainly find, without having to look much further than our city streets, that the UK’s commitment towards protecting fellow human beings is sadly, woefully inadequate.

 

Emma is a content writer for the UK’s leading Immigration Advice Service (IAS). IAS is an organisation of immigration solicitors offering free legal advice asylum seekers and to victims of domestic abuse and human trafficking. https://iasservices.org.uk/ & @IASimmigration

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