UN member states adopt global migration pact

In a historic turn of events, a global migration deal – the very first international deal pertaining to the recent migration crisis – aiming to “prevent suffering and chaos” for migrants was agreed upon on Monday at an intergovernmental conference in Morocco.  

Leaders from 164 UN countries signed the non-legally binding agreement, which looks to better coordinate migration issues at local, national, regional and global levels. This will include increased focus on tackling the dangers refugees and migrants are faced with while on the move.

According to IOM more than 3,300 people have died in the process of migrating towards an international destination in 2018. Since the year 2000, this number amounts to more than 60,000 people. It is hoped that if upheld the global migration compact will go a long way towards reducing these numbers by encouraging policies for safe, legal migration. It serves to reinforce the fundamental principle of the right to fair and dignified movement across borders for all people.

Antonio Guterres, UN secretary-general, said at the conference that “migration has always been with us. But in a world where it is ever more inevitable and necessary, it should be well managed and safe, not irregular and dangerous. National policies are far more likely to succeed with international cooperation.”

The USA has refused to sign the deal, along with Australia, Austria, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Chile and the Dominican Republic. Switzerland, Israel and Italy have yet to decide whether or not they too will back out of the agreement. Despite Donald Trump’s lack of support, the UN General Assembly is expected to meet in New York on 19th December to formally adopt a resolution endorsing the deal.

You can read the final draft of the compact here, and the UN’s own coverage of the meeting here.

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Search and rescue ship Aquarius ends operations in the Mediterranean Sea

We are saddened by the news that the last civilian search and rescue vessel operating off the coast of Libya has this week ended its operations. Over the past few years the Aquarius ship, run by SOS Méditerranée and MSF, has saved the lives of tens of thousands of people attempting the dangerous sea crossing to Europe whilst fleeing their homes as a result of conflict, persecution and poverty.

This final closure comes at the end of what MSF and SOS Méditerranée have described as a “a relentless ongoing political, judicial and administrative campaign” by European governments, involving efforts to sabotage the saving of lives and criminalise humanitarian rescue missions. In September Italian courts accused the ship’s crew of illegally dumping potentially dangerous medical waste among ordinary rubbish on the Sicilian coast, and ordered the ship to be impounded. It has since lost its Panamanian licence and been unable to leave the French port of Marseilles.

Earlier this year the ship was left stranded in central Mediterranean waters for a week, while European governments tried to negotiate out of a political stalemate over which country would take responsibility for the 141 passengers on board. Speaking of the failure of European governments to support search and rescue operations Sophie Beau, co-founder of SOS Méditerranée, said last month that “it is a criminal policy for Europe to allow people to die at sea when we know we can save these lives. If European countries are not able to provide a framework to allow us to fulfil our humanitarian obligation, this undermines the fundamental principles of our democracies and ultimately we will all pay the political cost.”

The cessation of Aquarius’ activities means that all five of the civilian search and rescue ships which have been operating in Mediterranean waters since the beginning of the “refugee crisis” have now stopped. The only ships in the area now are run by Libyan authorities, and according to humanitarian agencies on the ground these are not equipped to deal with the sheer number of people continuing to make the journey. IOM data shows that this number has been steadily increasing in 2018, and over 2000 people have already lost their lives at sea. With the Aquarius out of action this number is only set to rise.

Head of MSF in the UK, Vickie Hawkins, said in a statement that “the end of Aquarius means more lives lost; more avoidable deaths that will go unwitnessed and unrecorded. It really is a case of ’out of sight out of mind’ for UK and European leaders as men, women and children perish”.

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Choose Love, the store that sells products for refugees, is back for 2018

The charity pop up store that took London by storm last year is back with more ways to help displaced people this Christmas. The Help Refugees ‘Choose Love’ store will open simultaneously in London and New York offering a totally unique take on the traditional shopping experience.

Choose Love invites visitors to ‘shop your heart out, leave with nothing, and feel the love’. From new items like solar lamps and women’s services to emergency blankets and school bags, every purchase goes towards a similar item for a refugee, distributed by Help Refugees and their partners across Europe and the Middle East. In addition, this year the store will also be offering sleeping bags and support for homeless groups both in the UK and the US.

Each store invites visitors to interact with the items and discover why they’re needed. Split into three sections, each area explores a different stage of a refugee’s journey, from “Survival” (emergency blankets, warm clothing and food) to “Shelter” (tents, sleeping bags and hygiene packs) all the way to the “Future” (educational materials, a dictionary and keys to a home).

New for this year will be the addition of ‘bundles’ of items, which are offered to help people with specific needs, such as the mother and baby bundle, and a collection of services for vulnerable women.

This year, we’re adding ‘bundles’ of items so that shoppers can equip families like this with essential items

There will also be new products on show to support people; like family reunion, which will pay for a lawyer for a refugee separated from their family and a solar lamp, which will allow customers to buy energy and power for people in refugee camps.

Last year, the London store and its online equivalent raised £750,000, helping provide refugees with:

  • 800,000 nutritious meals
  • 3,556 nights of accommodation
  • 25,000 essential winter items for adults, which included 5,000 blankets and 11,000 items of clothing
  • 100,000 essentials for babies and children including 77,000 packs of nappies

Josie Naughton CEO of Help Refugees says, “Last Christmas, the shop became a beacon of compassion in the heart of central London. Choose Love helped people from all walks of life feel empathy for refugees – and do something practical to help.”

“This year, as displaced people attempt to survive another freezing winter in tents and makeshift shelters, we’ll be inviting people to Choose Love once again and support refugees and homeless populations across the globe.”

The store has been carefully designed to create an uplifting yet meaningful retail experience – a striking space where people can learn about refugees while doing something practical to help. In London, Choose Love now covers two floors with the ground floor elegantly showcasing the items and merchandise, and the 1st floor acting as a space to host events, workshops and talks.

Help Refugees volunteers will be on hand to answer any questions and take donations in both London and New York. For those not able to get to the store, offers a seamless online shopping experience. Browse the items, read the stories of the people you will help and pop them in your cart.

All images, stories and items in store come straight from the frontline of the refugee crisis, where the charity works. The concept and design of the store was created by creative collective Glimpse, whose mission is to use creativity for good.

The items on sale will include emergency blankets, children’s shoes, warm gloves, mobile phone credit and more. Costs will range from £4.99 to £499: an option to ‘buy the store’.


Opening: 23 November 2018 Closing: January 2019
Address: 30-32 Fouberts Place, Carnaby, London, W1F 7PS
Hours: Monday – Saturday 11 – 6 pm, Sunday 12 – 6 pm


Opening: 27 November 2018
Address: 456 W Broadway, New York, NY 10012, USA

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Refugee Youth Service are recruiting

Our partners Refugee Youth Service are recruiting. They’re are looking for a new Social Worker and a new Pashto/Dari Cultural Mediator to join their outreach team in northern France.

Please see the following links for job descriptions and contact with your cover letter and CV to apply. Please share with anyone you think might be interested.

Refugee Youth Service provides safe spaces for displaced unaccompanied children and young people on the move. These spaces offer services such as food and showers, and facilitate access to services including protection, asylum, accommodation and education. Within their spaces, a varied programme of activities take place, centred around wellbeing, social development and informal education, fostering a feeling of belonging, self-worth and a sense of community. Refugee Youth Service is a restricted fund under the auspices of Prism the Gift Fund registered charity number 1099682

Find out more about Refugee Youth Service.




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The experiences of a Michelin star chef volunteering on Lesvos

Merlin Labron-Johnson is a chef and restauranteur. At only 24, he received a coveted Michelin star. But recently he swapped London for the Greek island of Lesvos, cooking for 900 refugees each day at the One Happy Family Community Centre. Here he shares his experiences of his time on the island – the highs and lows of life as a volunteer helping refugees living in one of the most overcrowded and under-resourced camps in Europe.

Merlin chef cooking in One Happy Family Community Centre on Greek island of Lesvos Arriving in Lesvos on a Sunday night in October was not quite what I expected. The taxi took me past beautiful beaches, grand old aristocratic buildings and rivera style hotels. Outside the cafes, local people were congregating and basking in the warm air of their extended summer. There were no tourists. The air was thick with the smell of souvlaki and cigarettes.

I was under instructions to meet with a man called Mahmud upon my arrival. Mahmud is a man-about-town, cafe owner and in charge of catering for refugees at the One Happy Family Community Centre. He is also a refugee himself, having fled war-torn Syria two years ago. Back home, he worked as a doctor. He wanted to touch base before I embarked on my kitchen takeover, to brief me on the situation in Lesvos and what to expect during my time here.

I met him at 10.30pm in a local bar and over a double espresso he proceeded to give me the full lowdown. He started by describing the nearby refugee camp of Moria, the most overcrowded in Europe. It was originally built for 2000, but is currently four times capacity with around 8,000 refugees living in the most unthinkable conditions. Food is a huge problem. Sanitation is a huge problem. The very basic needs for survival are often not being met.

“The atmosphere was no different from my kitchen in London”

With the current system, refugees will wait at least two years before even being granted an interview where they can begin to discuss their next steps – their future. The state is intentionally letting people live in the most inhumane conditions in order to send a message to future asylum seekers. But it is failing to deter them. Every night hundreds of refugees are making their way across from Turkey and those that survive the journey are sent to Moria.

The conversation turned to the centre where I’d be cooking. It’s run by a mixture of grassroots volunteers and refugees. The day centre is on a different part of the island to Moria and is a safe haven away from the day-to-day trauma of living in camps. Refugees can attend classes, talk to social workers, play sports and eat a free meal. The kitchen, I’m warned, is rather ill equipped to cater for the masses that turn up each day for lunch. There are just two large pots. No oven. No fridge. The trick is to cook everything in the same pot and then serve it in one move. One component dishes only. Because when you have 900 desperately hungry people in a line, you really want the queue to move swiftly. We placed my order for the next day: Fresh tomatoes, onions, tinned mushrooms and bulgur wheat. I retired to my bnb to get some sleep and process this information.

“Each day in the kitchen was a joy, There was something profoundly beautiful about these people of different origins, race, gender and religion coming together”

Merlin chef cooking in One Happy Family Community Centre on Greek island of Lesvos

The following morning I was introduced to the kitchen team: Mohammed from Burma, Fifi from Zimbabwe and Zarah from Iran. First onion peeling, chopping, tomato chopping. The mood was light and everyone was focused on what they had to do. Two German volunteers jumped in to help. We were the United Nations of onion peeling. The atmosphere was no different from my kitchen in London, Everybody know what needed to be done. I was welcomed like an old friend and met so many people that I forgot everyone’s name.

Each day in the kitchen was a joy, There was something profoundly beautiful about these people of different origins, race, gender and religion coming together for the greater good which in this case, was a bowl of warm, nourishing food. Everybody was equal and everybody was treated fairly. Mahmud would watch over, offering advice and smoking his shisha pipe. Arabic music was blaring from an old guitar amp via youtube on someone’s broken iPhone.

“what if I burnt the pot, didn’t make enough or accidentally added too much salt? 

I’d have been responsible for 900 people going without food”

Over the course of the week I made bulgur wheat pilau, potato, chickpea and tinned green bean curry with coconut flavoured rice, chicken, rice n peas and the piece de resistance: A dhal made from red lentils, rice and frozen spinach.

At times it was challenging, coordinating the timings, working with no hot water, blunt knives, language barriers, getting the quantities right. I was absolutely terrified of messing up, what if I burnt the pot, didn’t make enough or accidentally added too much salt? I’d have been responsible for 900 people going without food and I don’t think I could’ve coped with that.

I don’t think it could’ve costed more than 30p a head but these bowls of food were sacred, a shimmering light in the darkness. Food that was bringing communities together and giving people hope and dignity. It’s hard to look at food the same way after this experience, enriched by the juxtaposition of cooking in a million pound kitchen in Mayfair and being here, stirring these big warped casseroles with a giant oar that had been rescued from a beach.

Merlin chef cooking in One Happy Family Community Centre on Greek island of Lesvos

The sense of community, equality and camaraderie belies the fear, poverty and suffering of life in camps like Moria. This is best illustrated in a quote courtesy of Taim from Syria: “In Moria everyone is fighting. The reasons are the bad conditions of the camp. We have to share the toilet and the bathroom with a lot of people. There is not enough food. In the night it is very cold, in the morning it is very hot. I love Greece, but I hate Moria. The reason I came to One Happy Family, is because I needed a place where I feel normal again.”

To gain more perspective, I decided to visit some of the other projects that are being supported by Help Refugees. I went to the Attika Warehouse where they store, sort and distribute donations. Like I’d seen in the Calais Jungle, camp residents were being provided with ‘care packs’. These were sets of donated clothing that would be distributed outside the camp – providing not just something clean to wear, but also warmth and a bit of a dignity.

How could this be happening in Europe, in 2018?

And why do we, in England, know so little about it?

On the other side of the Island I met the Refugee Rescue team. They’re a group of volunteers with a boat who keep watch over the sea during the night, and when they see or hear of refugees in trouble, they scramble to rescue them. Its hard to imagine the fate of thousands of desperate refugees, were it not for the work of refugee rescue. Nobody back home has heard of them or the incredible, dangerous and selfless work that they are doing to save human lives every day.

I met volunteers from a group called Watershed. They’re working to help improve sanitary facilities inside the camps. Access to clean water and adequate sanitation are enormous challenges in Lesvos camps. These guys are the unsung heroes, working tirelessly to try and make improvements.

I also visited the ‘lifejacket graveyard’. A dumping ground for the thousands of lifejackets from refugees who’d braved the journey from Turkey. In a remote part of the island was this orange and white mountain of misery, a reminder of all those that risked their lives on this journey and a reminder of all those that didn’t make it. How could this be happening in Europe, in 2018? And why do we, in England, know so little about it?

“Tears of joy and tears of sadness. A moment I will never forget.”

On my last day in the camp we ran out of food. The two large pots were full to the brim and there was no way of being able to prepare more in advance. Those that were at the end of the queue were told they’d have to wait while we whipped up a soup. They’d been queuing for hours and wouldn’t have eaten since the same time yesterday.

As we fed the final guests a greek musician arrived to play his guitar. A large crowd gathered around him as he sang ‘Peace be upon you’. He was joined by a Syrian refugee pop star who had the most wonderful voice. As he sang songs which I can only presume were familiar to his audience, many of the crowd began to cry. Tears of joy and tears of sadness. A moment I will never forget.

Merlin chef cooking in One Happy Family Community Centre on Greek island of Lesvos

We’re proud to support a wide range of grassroots groups providing essential aid and services on Lesvos. Please support this vital work by donating today.

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What’s happening in Yemen?

Five million Yemeni children – and 8.4 million Yemenis in total – are facing famine as the country endures what the UN has described as one of the worst humanitarian disasters in modern times.

Food items and medicine are 500% more expensive in some areas than they were before the civil war, and 18 million of the country’s 29 million citizens lack access to regular, nutritious meals. In some remote parts of the country families have resorted to eating leaves to survive, after distributions of aid to their area were prevented by local authorities.


Why is there a war in Yemen?

Fighting broke out in 2014 between Houthi rebels and Yemen’s internationally-backed government. The Houthis took control of the country’s capital, Sana’a, and the government fled the country. In response, in 2015 a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign aiming to restore power to the government. The war has continued ever since, with international involvement on both sides. The country is currently controlled by four groups: Houthis (rebels), Ansar al-Sharia (Al-Qaeda), Islamic State and the Saudi coalition.

Due to the unstable nature of the environment it is very difficult to accurately record the number of people who have been killed and injured during the conflict. As of January 2017 the number of recorded civilian deaths stood at 10,000, with the number of wounded at 40,000. Now, almost 18 months later, those numbers are likely to be significantly higher.

As well as severely limiting access to food and food production, the fighting in Yemen has led to the destruction of crucial health and sanitation infrastructure, increasing the population’s vulnerability to disease – a rapidly-spreading cholera epidemic has so far affected more than a million people, including at least 600,000 children.


Millions of people have been displaced.

The UN estimates that over 3 million people have been displaced internally and over 280,00 have fled to claim asylum in other countries, such as Djibouti and Somalia.

In Djibouti, Markazi refugee camp is housing thousands of people who have escaped across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen. Djibouti is currently home to 27,000 displaced people, 4,000 of whom are Yemeni.

There is also a very active migration route in the opposite direction: thousands of people from Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea are regularly attempting cross Yemen, via the Gulf of Aden, to reach more stable Gulf states or Europe. More than 100,000 people are expected to have attempted this route by the end of the year, with many of them dying on the way. Others are caught up in dangerous, violent smuggling operations or held in appalling conditions in makeshift detention camps on the edge of Yemen. The ongoing conflict means no security measures are in place to put a stop to this.


What’s going to happen next?

The US, UK and France supply most of the weaponry being used by the coalition through arms trade with the states involved, yet despite the high number of casualties they have not stopped supplying these arms. It is expected that violence in the country will continue until some kind of agreement, backed by all members of the UN Security Council, is reached.

Last week the US called for talks to be arranged in Sweden by the UN, between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebels, as well as a 30-day ceasefire within the country. The rest of the Security Council has not yet backed this move. Until a ceasefire agreement is reached and peace is negotiated in the country people will continue to be displaced, ending up in appalling conditions in camps and on the streets across the Middle East and Europe.

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Please help fill our emergency container for Lesvos!

As freezing winter temperatures approach, there is a desperate shortage of supplies for refugees living on the Greek island of Lesvos. Our incredible partner Attika Human Support provides over 6,000 people each month with essentials like clothing, bedding and hygiene products. But right now, their warehouse is nearly empty.

Lesvos donation callout poster

On Sunday 18th November we aim to fill a shipping container in East London. We’re asking you to group together with your friends, local community or workplace – and organise a mini collection – then bring these donated items to us on Sunday 18th November. We’ll get these items to Lesvos, where they’re needed most.

Items include:

  • Adult and children’s clothing
  • Warm socks, hats, gloves and scarves
  • Hygiene items
  • Footwear
  • Food

If you would like to coordinate a collection please register: You’ll receive all the relevant info about most-needed items, sorting, packing and how to drop-off your donations.

Please note: unfortunately we do not have the capacity to receive individual donations.

Spread the word: we need over 1500 boxes to fill the container so we really need your help!

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A Brief Timeline Of The Human Rights Situation In Calais

On the occasion of the two-year milestone since the demolition of the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp, we have co-published a report with Refugee Rights Europe in order to highlight the human rights situation which has been unfolding in Northern France.

After decades of encampments and evictions, it is evident that the state approach tried so far is simply not working. It is high time for meaningful change. In light of this, Refugee Rights Europe and Help Refugees urgently call on the French and British governments to find new, constructive solutions, including:

  • A non-violent approach adopted as the default position by French authorities, and a de-escalation of the tense situation for refugees and displaced people in Northern France.
  • The urgent provision of adequate shelter, food, water and sanitation, as well as accessible information and legal guidance.
  • An increased presence of social workers, interpreters, medical staff and psychologists in northern France, and assurance that such services are available without discrimination based on immigration status.
  • An end to the harassment and intimidation of volunteers and charities providing displaced people with humanitarian aid.
  • Expanded safe and legal pathways to Britain, through which asylum applications, Dublin Regulation family reunification applications and Dubs cases can be processed.

For many years, a bottle-neck scenario has been unfolding in Northern France, characterised by precarity, rough-sleeping, dangerous and unauthorised border-crossings, and excessive police violence whichoften takes the shape of dangerous interventions.

A child walks towards police during a raid of the 20 establishments providing food for the residents of the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp (Refugee Info Bus)

The use of tear gas and intimidation tactics, as well as what would appear to amount to intentional sleep deprivation, appears to be part of a conscious tactic by the French state to create a hostile environment for refugees and asylum seekers in Northern France.

Such an approach – combined with an undeniable failure on part of the British government to meaningfully facilitate safe and legal passage for prospective asylum-seekers and those looking to be reunited with family in Britain – directly hinders an effective resolution to a detrimental and decades-long situation. Will you take action and write to your MP condemning the current approach? We have written a template letter that you can send in less than 60 seconds. Please join us in demanding a better response to the crisis in France today. 


Hundreds of displaced people – in Calais, Grande-Synthe and beyond – are sleeping on the streets. They are preparing to face another winter without shelter, and are dependent on volunteers for support. If you are able to help us help them, please donate here.

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Job: apply now to be Product Coordinator at Code Your Future

Code Your Future is the UK’s first coding school for refugees and asylum seekers. We are looking for a Product Coordinator to grow the user-base for an exciting new project: a service directory for refugees and asylum seekers, built by refugees and asylum seekers.

We are seeking an enthusiastic, organised individual to join the Code Your Future team for four months as we look to onboard users before our nationwide launch next year.

You will be working alongside the Project Manager and developers to run the user testing, prioritise new features, reach out to potential partner organisations and bring the product to market.

Main responsibilities:

– Expand the service to at least two cities outside London
– Conduct outreach to refugee and migrant support organisations to expand the user base of the service directory to hundreds of active users
– Collate feedback from testers and users; define key problem areas and prioritise areas of improvement for the service directory
– Oversee the inputs from designers to ensure it is aligned with users’ expectations and needs
– Organise testing online and face-to-face sessions to identify new pain points of the service
– Reviewing app reviews & managing customer support emails

The successful candidate will be have an interest in software and a passion for ‘tech for good’ projects, with good attention to detail and strong communication skills. They will have the ability to work both in teams and on their own.

The successful candidate will be have an interest in software and a passion for ‘tech for good’ projects, with good attention to detail and strong communication skills. They will have the ability to work both in teams and on their own.

We would especially like to encourage people from minority, migrant and refugee backgrounds to apply.


Contract details: Fixed term four month contract
Salary & time commitment negotiable (minimum 3 days a week)
Reporting directly to Project Manager
Based in London

Required skills

-Management / coordination experience
-Organisational skills
-Interest in technology as a force for good
-A passion for refugee and migrant rights
-Strong verbal and written communication skills
-Willingness to follow leads over phone and email
-Proficient in web-based software services (Google Suite, Trello)

Desirable skills

-Experience working with refugees, asylum seekers or migrants
-Project management experience
-Some experience in web development (HTML, CSS, JavaScript)


Code Your Future are a non-profit organisation supporting refugees with the dream of becoming developers. With projects in London, Manchester and Glasgow, we are the UK’s first coding school for refugees.

Deadline: Monday October 29th 2018, 11.30pm

Salary: London Living Wage


Send your CV, along with a cover letter, to with the email title ‘Product Coordinator application’, to

The successful applicant will have the chance to join the team at an exciting time, as we get ready to launch the product

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Lift the Ban: why people seeking asylum should have the right to work

Right now, right here in the UK, people seeking asylum are banned from working and forced to live on just £5.39 a day. We think this is wrong.

That’s why today, alongside 87 charities, unions, think tanks, faith groups and businesses, we are launching a new campaign to #LiftTheBan and fight for the right to work. Join us. Read the report and sign the petition and tell the Home Secretary to #LiftTheBan!

71% of the public agree that people seeking asylum should be allowed to work, an amazingly high level of agreement for any issue.

But high public support is just one of the countless good reasons and practical arguments to lift the ban.

“I want to work – I don’t want any more hand-me-downs. I want to enjoy the reward of my sweat. I don’t want to rely on the Government’s benefits – I want to work so I can prove myself to my children.” Rose

We believe that people who have risked everything to find safety should have the best chance of contributing to our society and integrating into our communities. This means giving people seeking asylum the right to work so that they can use their skills and live in dignity.

Our coalition of charities, think tanks and faith groups argue in this report that giving people seeking asylum the right to work would:

  • Strengthen people’s chances of being able to integrate into their new communities.
  • Allow people seeking asylum to live in dignity and to provide for themselves and their families.
  • Give people the opportunity to use their skills and make the most of their potential.
  • Improve the mental health of people in the asylum system.
  • Help to challenge forced labour, exploitation, and modern slavery

It’s time for a change. Join us in urging the Government to move rapidly to grant the right to work for people seeking asylum by reading the full report and signing our petition demanding the government #LiftTheBan.

We want to thank all the brilliant organisations that have contributed to the Lift The Ban campaign. We are honoured to be a part of the coalition to grant asylum seekers the right to work, and work with 87 organisations all demonstrating that when we work together, we can create long-lasting, positive change at the highest level. #ChooseLove.

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