Nessakem Vanessa Nwosu, Assistant Social Media Coordinator at African Rainbow Family, speaks up about the issue of the UK Government’s intention to outsource asylum interviews and what we can do about it. African Rainbow Family supports African LGBTIQ people seeking asylum including Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people.
Last month, the Independent reported the intention of the Home Office to outsource asylum interviews. African Rainbow Family is saddened by this news and would like it to be addressed as we celebrate Black History Month.
The problem of outsourcing asylum interviews
Outsourcing asylum interviews means allowing private companies and/or organisations not related to the immigration system, and/or have no experience in asylum and immigration application decision processes, to conduct substantial interviews for people seeking asylum.
The purported reason for this action is to reduce the backlog of awaiting interviews.
While this might sound reasonable, it's very worrying. Many of the companies in the running for this new contract have been embroiled in previous scandals over their handling of immigration services.
"This is another way that the Home Office seeks to continue to deny people seeking asylum access to justice and setting them up to fail. We are watching another hostile environment akin to the Windrush Generation scandal develop. This decision is unreasonable, and the Home Office should rescind it." - Aderonke Apata, founder of African Rainbow Family and human rights activist.
According to the Independent, outsourcing asylum interviews was a failure: it was unjust and excluded people from the system. "Sopra Steria, which was contracted to run the UK’s visa processing system in 2018, was accused last year of overseeing a “substandard” operation that risked unlawful decisions and excluding people from the system because of “inflated prices and inaccessible services”.
This same company is among the contractors in the running to conduct substantial interviews again. We know this decision has many negative outcomes for people seeking asylum, increasing their anxiety and stress.
One of the other contractors being considered, Serco, is just as problematic. Serco manages the notorious Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, which used to house women on behalf of the Home Office. In September 2013, Serco’s staff were alleged to have sexually assaulted women in the centre to whom they owed a duty of care. More recently, in 2018, the company prompted outrage when it introduced lock changes in asylum accommodation in Glasgow. The company was locking out those whose claims had been refused by the Home Office, leaving them destitute.
There's a great fear that there would be bias when to conducting interviews and/or assessing applications of Black LGBTIQ people, including LGBTIQs from the Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, and not just LGBTIQ people, but everyone seeking asylum.
And there’s a concern about how interviews would be conducted by individuals who have not received any training on immigration matters, or being run by companies that have shown a lack of compassion for people seeking asylum in the past. The Home Office has received complaints about its processes before; who is to say this will not be worse?
What is African Rainbow Family doing about it?
This is an issue that affects us all just as we all dream of a world without prejudice. Change starts with addressing matters like this.
A problem addressed and spoken of is on its way to being solved because then people are made aware of it and start to speak up against it.
The founder of African Rainbow Family, Aderonke Apata, when she was detained indefinitely for over a year in Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre in 2012, started talking loudly and campaigning from inside the detention centre about women being detained indefinitely. This led to an inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees & Migration into the Use of Immigration Detention in the United Kingdom. Finally, we won the fight. No more detention of women!
What can you do about it?
We celebrate the heroes before us who set the path for us to follow and even if we have different ways or approaches to get there, we will.
Happy Black History Month.
African Rainbow Family supports LGBTIQ people of African heritage and wider BAME seeking asylum including refugees. Contact us if you need support or for someone else:
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