Why does advocacy matter to Boaz?
At Boaz, our primary focus has always been to provide safe and secure accommodation for people who have become homeless because of their immigration status. However, we cannot ignore the systemic failures that lead to individuals becoming destitute and therefore advocacy (speaking out against injustice) is something that is core to our work. We explored this a little more back in 2021, after we were asked why we engaged in advocacy work alongside our practical support. Since our earliest days as an organisation, campaigning has been an important focus and in more recent years we have felt that we simply cannot ignore the growing hostility towards people seeking sanctuary, most recently in the Government's Nationality and Borders Act (2022) and the Illegal Migration Act (2023).
Seeking sanctuary is a right, not a crime.
We believe that every individual deserves to have their asylum claim considered within a system that is fair and humane. Without sustained advocacy efforts and lobbying to influence political will, the UK will remain a place of hostility for the people who live in its shadows.
It has been another desperate couple of years with regards to UK asylum policies and practices. Despite months of campaigning by charities, community groups and members of the public (including many Boaz supporters), the Nationality and Borders Bill was passed into law in April 2022. Over the next year, the Illegal Migration Act came into law which will have even more devastating consequences for people who arrive in this country in search of sanctuary, determining cases inadmissible if a person has arrived through an ‘irregular means of entry,’ such as crossing the Channel.
In practice these pieces of legislation mean that we could see large numbers of people placed in warehouse-style accommodation including on large barges, such as the Bibby Stockholm, which is effectively a floating prison. We have previously witnessed at Napier Barracks in Kent the devastating toll that being accommodated in such settings can have on a person’s physical and mental health.
Furthermore, the announcement by the Government in April 2022 to send individuals who arrive in the UK, via crossing the Channel, to Rwanda is leading to further suffering, with some of those threatened with deportation having made suicide attempts and having gone on hunger strike. As of October 2023, this policy is still facing legal challenge. Over the past year Boaz clients have shared with their Boaz support workers how anxious they are following news of this policy and we are deeply concerned about the impact these policies are having on people who have already faced huge levels of trauma and persecution.
What we have witnessed this last year are attempts by the Government to blame people seeking sanctuary for the problems that the country faces. Rather than address what should be of true concern at this moment in time – the cost of living crisis, the threat of climate breakdown, the mental health challenges faced by millions of people – the policy announcements made over the last two years have been a blatant attempt to scapegoat some of the least powerful people in our society, shifting responsibility away from elected leaders.
Hope leads to Action
Yet in all of this we have found reasons to hope and this in turn has emboldened us to act. Over the last few years, we were able to share updates and briefings as the Bill progressed through parliament. We produced and shared draft letters which our supporters could adapt and send to their MPs and local councillors, as appropriate. We publicised and attended rallies where we called for the unjust Borders Bill to be scrapped.
We also continued to work in close partnership with other local and national organisations, co-signing letters which were published in the national press, co-producing public statements and sharing resources. We joined the Together with Refugees coalition, which was set up initially in response to the Nationality and Borders Bill and which now has some 230 organisations who are a part of it. As campaigning groups and as individuals, we will keep up our efforts to ensure that people in need of sanctuary are afforded it.
The generosity of the British public in wanting to open their homes to people in need was demonstrated following the Russian invasion of Ukraine during February 2022. We were especially encouraged that it rightly led to charities and campaigning groups advocating for all refugees to be welcomed in our society, irrespective of their nationality or means of arrival in the UK.
We will continue in our efforts to advocate for a fair and compassionate asylum system, and one that respects the dignity of each and every person.
Click the button below to find out more about how you can speak out with and for people seeking safety.