This dissertation focuses on the service network for asylum seekers and refugees and the way in which they promote integration into the local community.
The term ‘migrant' is often used generally; however for this research it is important to distinguish the different categories that migrants fall into, as their reasons for migration vary. A legal immigrant is someone who is free to, ‘enter, work and settle in a country without any restrictions' (Bloch 2008). In contrast to this, the term ‘illegal immigrant' could apply to those who have: ‘entered a country illegally, without permission from an Immigration Officer' (UNHCR 2008). ‘Economic migrant' is another term to separate migrants from refugees and asylum seekers, This term, economic migrant, is used to describe people who leave their country of origin in search of work, they voluntarily choose to leave their home county and can return when they wish to (UNHCR 2008). It is certainly not a new term. After the Black Death of 1348 nearly one third of the population was wiped out. This ‘produced a gap in the labour market that immigrants were eager to fill' (Winder 2005). More recently large numbers of economic migrants arrived in Britain in 1945 due to another severe shortage of labour following the Second World War (McDowell 2003).
The terms ‘asylum seekers' and ‘refugees' are often used interchangeably by the media, giving the impression that they mean the same thing; however, officially, there is a distinct difference between the two terms. A common definition used for the term asylum seeker is: ‘a person seeking refuge in a nation other than his or her own' (OED 2007). The important word in this definition is ‘seeking', as they have not yet been granted the right to remain in the country where they have claimed asylum. Leuder et al. (2008) write that, according to the law, when an individual arrives in the UK (without permission from an immigration officer), they are an asylum seeker. They submit an application for asylum and once that is accepted then they become a refugee. Originally ‘asylum seeker' meant ‘spontaneous refugee' and it was first used after the influx of Tamil refugees in Europe during 1984 (Robinson et al. 2003). In the USA asylum seekers and refugees were first seen as people, ‘fleeing from communism, welcomed from behind the iron curtain' (Cohen, 1994).
Johnson et al., (2000) write that ‘refugees' are ‘displaced people who are unable or unwilling to return to their homeland because they are facing persecutions for reasons such as, race, religion or nationality differences'. It is important to note that these definitions are not always used in this way, as different combinations are often employed depending on personal preferences and perceptions. A number of researchers conversed with some asylum seekers and refugees who took on a range of titles acknowledging both their legal title and their personal perspectives.
Sales (2002) reports that the terms have developed into new social categories. These terms label ‘asylum seekers' as ‘undeserving' compared to the term ‘refugee', describing people as ‘deserving' of entry into Britain and support. This may have been brought about by the media during the 1990's. An increasing number of articles were being published in the daily newspapers on the rising numbers of asylum seekers, labelling them as economic migrants, as people in search of an improved standard of living, rather than someone who has fled their home due to persecution. Thus a distinction between ‘genuine' and ‘bogus' asylum seeker was brought to the headlines (Robinson 1995). In contrast to this ‘refugee' has also been a term used to describe people that are going through all different stages of the asylum application process, accepted or refused (Burnett and Peel, 2001).
For the purpose of this report the terms set out by Leuder et al. (2008) will be used. Refugees are those who have been granted status by the Home Office and asylum seekers are those who have applied and are in the process of waiting for a decision.
It is difficult to find exact statistics of the numbers of asylum seekers and refugees around the world as many cases go undocumented. However, 1.1 shows the global trend of refugees calculated by the UNHCR (2009) resulting in a total of 10,478,600 refugees worldwide at the end of 2008. The UNHCR's (2009) report reveals that by the end of 2008 developing countries hosted 80% of the worldwide asylum seeking and refugee population, as it is often the case that asylum seekers flee to the nearest safe country for refuge. The slight increase in refugees within Europe at the end of 2008 highlights the 16,000 people who fled Kosovo whose status changed from ‘internally displaced people', someone who has been forced to flee their home due to armed conflict, violence, violation of human rights, natural or human disaster who have not crossed the State boarder (Phuong 2004), to ‘refugees' during that time.
In contrast to Europe's 4th position for the number of refugees settled there, it still remains the primary destination for asylum seekers, 1.1. On a global scale there were 838,900 applications made for asylum. In all major regions the number of positive decisions has gone up, except in Europe where strict asylum policies result in many rejected applications (UNHCR 2009). 1.2 shows how the strict policies introduced in the UK affected the Home Office decisions on who was granted asylum and who was refused, form 2001 the number of applicants the UK received steadily decreased to 2005.
Due to these strict policies Europe has been labelled, ‘Fortress Europe'. Albrecht (2002) writes that ‘Fortress Europe' came about as the first plans were made for a common EU immigration policy, which called for harsher boarder controls to prevent illegal immigrants without visas from entering into the EU member states unlawfully. This became an important issue with the enlargement of the EU in 2004. The new states were responsible for policing the Eastern boarder of the EU, therefore they were put under considerable pressure to control illegal immigration from the east (Phuong 2003).
Despite these strict immigration policies, the UK received 25,930 applications for asylum in 2008 (ICAR 2009). Within the UK the migrant population is highly concentrated in London and the South East of England in areas of relative prosperity and relative deprivation (Glover et al. 2001). To relieve the pressure of the densely populated asylum seekers and refugee population in London, the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act was created to disperse asylum seekers across the UK (Stevens 2001).
1.1 The Study Site
This study was conducted in the city of Plymouth.
Plymouth is located on the south coast of Devon, in the south west of England (see 1.3). The 2001 census showed that the population of the city was approximately 240,700 (DCC. 2009).
The reason that Plymouth was chosen for this study was that in 1999 Plymouth was selected to be a ‘dispersal city' under the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act. This act disperses asylum seekers to towns and cities around the country and moves asylum seekers away from London, where most would probably prefer to settle (Stevens 2001). Although the south west of England does not have a large community of refugees and asylum seekers compared to other parts of the UK, there are significant and growing numbers of people being dispersed to the south west under the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act (SWC 2009). Before this, compared to the south east of England, the West Country saw few asylum seekers and refugees. Since then, the ethnic diversity of Plymouth has broadened greatly, Cunliffe and Bahiraey (2006), explain that there are now over 25 native languages (other than English) spoken and the main countries of origin of people dispersed to Plymouth include, ‘Iraq, Iran, Angola, Sudan, Congo DRC and Afghanistan'.
This study seeks to highlight the importance of service networks in supporting asylum seekers and refugees in dispersal cities and the ways in which they work to encourage integration into the local community. By looking at service users who make use of the service network in Plymouth; the research aims to be of relevance to other dispersal cities across the UK that have some concern with issues of integration for asylum seekers and refugees.
1.2 Aim and Objectives
The main aim of this dissertation is to investigate how successful Plymouth's Service Network has been in helping Refugees and Asylum Seekers integrate into the community.
To reach this aim, objectives set are,
* To research when asylum seekers and refugees began to come into the city creating a need for a service network
* To research the urban geography of Plymouth, the variety of services within the city centre and the help they provide for asylum seekers and refugees
* To research the extent of the integration of asylum seekers and refugees and the attitudes of the local population.
Traditional approaches to the geographic analysis of refugees and asylum seekers have been focused on specific case studies of refugee emergencies looking at space and boarders, concrete divisions rather than taking into account the social aspect of the lives of refugees and asylum seekers (White 2002). As shown in 2.1 there are a number of ways for a geographer to approach the topic of asylum seekers and refugees, a broader understanding of the subject can be gained by using the research collected from a range of geographical fields.
Hyndman (1999) describes that by studying refugees and asylum seekers in a geopolitical context, geographical dimension is lost, the gap between political and cultural geography needs to be bridged. Healey's article (2006) looks at population geography alongside social theory when studying the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. Population geography involves studying the size, composition, fertility, mortality and migration of a population, and how those s affect economic development, ecological change and social issues (Bailey 2005). In addition to this, asylum seekers and refugees also fall under the category of social geography, as groups within society. Valentine (2001) explains that, one person can hold more than one identity; their lives are able to cross separate lines of difference, boundaries and social statuses at the same time. Asylum seekers and refugees, experience constraints and deprivations as they are restricted in the amount of choice they have compared to others, this links to White's study (2002) within political geography as it is changing refugee and asylum law that leads to such deprivations. As a result of this asylum seekers and refugees can face the problem of social exclusion, studied by Mohan (2003) within the field of urban geography.
Historically, the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which was the main legal document defining a refugee and their rights, had been called for due to the aftermath of the Second World War which left thousands of refugees wandering across Europe (Wilkinson 2001). Someone was only officially a refugee if their status was recognised by this convention, only then were they able to work and claim benefits. At that time there was a need to recover the labour shortages in most European countries, therefore refugees were recruited into schemes and resettled to fill the vacancies, for example Britain's European Volunteer Workers Scheme (Robinson 1995). Since then, there have been a number of developments in immigration and asylum legislation; these are shown in Table 2.1 from 1951 to 1999.
As shown in 2.2 in the years between 1996 and 1999 the number of asylum applications made within the UK increased from 30,000 to 70,000 aplicants. One reason for this rapid increased may be a result of the Yugoslavian war (1992-1995) which created 550,000 refugees in Europe (UNHCR 1999). Before 1999, refugee emergencies were dealt with as they happened, that is specific responses as a reaction to specific global disasters. For example, programmes were established for, ‘Ugandan Asians in 1972, for Vietnamese during the 1970s and 1980s, and Bosnians and Kosovans in the late 1990s (Sim and Bowes 2007). The voluntary not-for-profit sector and charities would often provide the funding needed for theses operations with an emphasis on the local community. As the number of applicants had risen so quickly this brought about the creation of the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act.
In 1999 immigration and asylum legislation changed drastically with the introduction of the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act. This aimed to address the ‘weaknesses' of the asylum system by introducing new centralised support for destitute asylum seekers through National Asylum Support Service (NASS) and by discouraging economic migrants into the UK via the provision of minimal levels of monetary support for asylum seekers (AC 2000). The extent of support includes accommodation (only if necessary), vouchers and some cash (£10 per person per week) and support which is the equivalent to 70 per cent of income support rates (Stevens 2001). In addition to this, and following intense lobbying by local authorities, is the attempt to relieve the pressure on the South East of England by moving asylum seekers to dispersal cities throughout the UK without giving them any choice of where to go (Robinson et al. 2003).
After the changes made in 1999, legislation continued to be tightened in an attempt to deter asylum seekers to the UK, see table 2.2.
The acts introduced after 1999 greatly impacted the number of asylum applications as shown in 2.2, the applications dropped from 80,000 in 2002 to 24,000 in 2007 as it has become harder for asylum seekers to gain refugee status.
The reason that genuine asylum seekers come to the UK is to escape political persecution they face in their home country. This could include massacres, detention, beatings and torture, rape, witnessing death squads, political repression, deprivation of human rights, and harassment (Burnett and Peel 2001). Of those who claimed asylum in the UK in 2009 the largest number of applications were from countries including (in order of most applicants to least) Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, China, Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq and Nigeria (UNHCR 2009). Hayter (2001), writes that while it is human nature to want to stay with your families, friends and your culture, the people who leave those situations are desperate to leave countries facing war and repression.
Once asylum seekers arrive in the UK they claim asylum to an immigration officer or at the UK Boarder Agency offices. After an initial screening interview they will be assigned a UK Border Agency case worker who will be responsible for the decision of their case. The asylum seeker can then apply for financial support and accommodation through NASS (National Asylum Support Service) (Asylum Aid 2010). At this point asylum seekers are dispersed away from the South East of England under the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act to cities they may not have been to before. Service networks aimed at refugees and asylum seekers have offered support and projects have encouraged new and existing local communities to become involved and mix socially with the asylum seekers dispersed there (Doyle 2003). Small community organisations and voluntary organisations also encourage integration, and they play an essential part in the assimilation of asylum seekers and refugees within the community. Once they have been sent to dispersal cities services promote social cohesion within the communities (Wren 2007).
It was the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act that was the major catalyst for bringing asylum seekers and refugees to Plymouth. The exact number of refugees in Plymouth constantly fluctuates due to the granting or refusing of applications to remain. However, Cunliffe and Bahiraey (2006) estimate that there are in excess of 700.
By studying local service providers and the local population in Plymouth's city centre, this dissertation will look at the integration of asylum seekers and refugees in Plymouth since their arrival as a result of the enactment of the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act and the introduction of dispersal cities.
What was the point, why was it necessary????????????Were there limitations to the existing literature???????
For this research three separate methods have been used, semi structured interviews, participant observation and qualitative secondary data research known as triangulation. Using multiple research methods strengthens the results and gives a broader variety of answers to the main research questions (Longhurst 2003). I have used this method to gain a deeper and wider understanding of asylum seekers and refugees and to support any limitations in one method, with another.
3.1 Semi Structured Interviews
Semi structured interviews were taken with four service providers within Plymouth to gather a variation of interactive research gained from other's experiences (Cloke et al. 2004). The aim of the interviews was to find out when asylum seekers and refugees began to arrive in the city, what services the providers offered and how often the services were available. I also asked about the day to day lives of asylum seekers in Plymouth and the response of the local community, discussing topics such as integration and hostility.
Where appropriate a Dictaphone was used to record the interview which allowed full concentration on the interview and conversation was able to flow without pausing for note taking (Valentine 2005). When a Dictaphone was not suitable due to refusal by the interviewee a note book was used to record the topic discussed during the interview.
A non-probability sampling method was used when conducting interviews and by discussing my research with the participants a snowball sampling design was used, gaining new contacts through those already interviewed (Kumar 2005). Once the information was collected recorded interviews were transcribed and any notes taken were typed in full. The issues and themes within these documents were then coded; frequent themes then compared and discussed.
Due to the nature of the research, it was expected that issues such as racism and discrimination may have arisen and in those cases the researcher needed to be sensitive and make clear to the participants that if they did not wish to answer any questions they were not obliged to (Valentine 2005). Furthermore, any service users names mentioned during the interview would remain confidential and reported anoymously. The potential for problems working with a Dictaphone due technical failures was noted; therefore notes were also taken to ensure that the information was recorded in some form.
3.2 Ethnographic Research, Participant Observation: S.T.A.R.T. Placement
The ethnographic research was taken in the form of participant observation whilst volunteering with a service provider in Plymouth. The placement lasted 3 weeks where I took on a covert role when shadowing members of staff, assisting service users and attending organised events. The aim of this research was to gain some personal experience working with asylum seekers and refugees, in the hope that I would better understand their day to day lives in Plymouth and discover what service provisions are available from an insider's point of view (Herbert 2000).
A small, discrete note book was used during the day so as not too make it too obvious when taking notes as this may have made surrounding participants uncomfortable what they were doing or saying was being recorded. These accounts were then written up and extended each evening within a field diary which was kept covering details remembered at the end of the day (Cook 2005). Once the information was collected it was categorised into different themes and compared to additional data collected through other methods.
Using this method of research brings to question the ethics of taking a covert role during participant observation. For this study I did not tell the service users that I was using my placement for dissertation research, I was accepted as a geography student gaining work experience in the ‘social work' sector. The ethics debate this raises is whether a researcher has the right to study areas of social life without the consent of the participants. Covert research has been criticised for being an invasion of privacy and dishonest (O'Reilly 2005). Cook and Crang (1995) identified that the people being observed are expected to be honest of their thoughts and feelings; the ethical question is whether the researcher should also be true to their thoughts or feelings, which may change the behaviour of the observed participant. Whilst on placement at S.T.A.R.T I attempted to work to the best of my ability, to work well in the organisation and to make a good impression on my colleagues and the service users as I would have were I not taking part in ethnographical research. I kept my research from them in this situation as they may have changed their behaviour and would not have been as open with me if they knew they were part of a study. To improve the ethics of this research I ensured that the anonymity of all participants was kept.
3.3 Qualitative Secondary Data Research: Newspaper Archive Sources
To collect data for this dissertation, newspaper articles were used as a source of information on when refugees and asylum seekers began to arrive in Plymouth. Local newspaper archives of the Evening Herald and the West Country News are held at Plymouth Central Library, Drake Circus. Newspaper articles are of cultural value to this research because they provide an insight in to the changes that have taken place within Plymouth. The aim of the newspaper research was to observe the tone of the information that the general public was reading about asylum seekers and refugees. I also noted the dates of the articles, which revealed when the media first noticed asylum seekers and refugees arriving in the city.
Plymouth's Library Service Online catalogue was used to search for relevant articles on asylum seekers and refugees. Where articles were stored on microfilm reels, a microfilm reader was used and relevant articles printed for coding and analysis.
Cloke et al. (2004:72) write that a common problem for human geographers interpreting newspaper articles is, ‘that bias will be recognised in all but our own favourite outlet'. When analysing the articles, it was vital that all potential biases be taken into account and the information presented was not to be taken as fact.
Data Presentation and Analysis
Through taking interviews with four local organisations Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support Council (D.C.R.S.C), Plymouth Access to Housing (P.A.T.H), Refugee action and Students and Refugees Together (S.T.A.R.T), participant observation at S.T.A.R.T and analysing local newspaper articles three main themes became apparent when analysing the data, these include:
* Plymouth's attitude towards asylum seekers and refugees,
* Asylum seekers and refugees within the city and
* The services available within Plymouth for asylum seekers and refugees.
The results collected from newspaper articles give examples of the attitude portrayed by the media to the population of Plymouth, it shows, what information people are given and in what way. In addition to this, interviews conducted with local agencies have provided relevant quotes, as the members of staff are aware of the general public's attitudes and of incidences of racism that have occurred in Plymouth. Lastly, the ethnographic research taken shows my personal experience of working with asylum seekers and refugees living within the city.
4.1 Plymouth's Attitudes Towards Asylum Seekers and Refugees
The first question that arose from the topic of asylum seekers and refugees was, “what are the attitudes of the local population of Plymouth towards asylum seekers and refugees?” The results show that there is a mixed attitude of both hostility to and welcoming of the asylum seekers and refugees since the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act, created dispersal cities.
Interviews with Service Providers:
The interviews taken with some service providers in Plymouth give the impression that the asylum seekers and refugees began arriving in Plymouth without prior preparation. Therefore, the locals seemed quick to judge. Although the newspapers did report the predicted effects of the dispersal act, one Refugee Action representative believes that Plymouth City Council had not planned for the arrival of asylum seekers and refugees into the city, as she says,
“there was no preparation no forward planning of services, education or social services…they just brought asylum seekers here and they have regularly ever since.” (Refugee Action 16/11/09).
Research conducted in other dispersal cities in the UK would suggest that the findings of being under prepared are not limited to Plymouth. In Glasgow, Wren (2007) found that local service volunteers faced setbacks due to the lack of preparation before the dispersal programme was put in place; the local community was unprepared as asylum seekers often arrived without warning. In Peterborough, UK, which became a dispersal town in 2002, the research showed that as the local community was unprepared for the arrival of asylum seekers, there was a widespread, negative public perception of the asylum seekers. In addition to this, local authorities had been wrongly informed of the regulations, which resulted in asylum seekers being sent to the jobcentre to claim benefits they were not eligible for (McCarthy and Cooper 2009).
Since then, many agencies and charities have formed to assist the council with the asylum seeker and refugee community. The S.T.A.R.T interview participant revealed that,
“Plymouth is a dispersal centre with about 500 bed spaces so there are a lot of people coming into the city” (S.T.A.R.T 18/11/09).
Overall, this rapid influx of asylum seekers and refugees into Plymouth meant that services were forced to quickly understand and respond to the needs of the asylum seekers and refugees and work out how to accommodate them within the city, and at the same time encourage a more accepting attitude from Plymouth's existing population (Griffiths et al. 2006).
The interviews revealed that in some cases the asylum seekers and refugees encountered hostile attitudes.
The topic of racism was discussed within the interviews held for this research, the comments made are shown in 4.1. The issue of racism against asylum seekers and refugees can lead to social exclusion from the community. This is linked with a social hierarchy, highlighting those on the margins of society in relation to those in the centre (Hopkins 2006). The social exclusion that asylum seekers and refugees face within dispersal cities has been researched in a study by Spicer (2008) which focuses on asylum seeker's and refugee's sense of place and integration. He reports that NASS accommodation is often situated in urban areas where income is low and there are few immigrants. Within these cities they often suffer from hostility and racist harassment. There are few chances to socialise and few inclusive local services therefore limiting the opportunities to integrate into the community. The city of Plymouth fits this description of NASS accommodation areas, therefore the service providers attempt to prevent the effects that Spicer portrays. In the S.T.A.R.T interview, it was said that,
“social inclusion and social interaction are key aspects [of the organisation]… if you are really isolated its hard… we look at that in case work to see if there are specific things that people want to do… if they want to join a group we try to facilitate that” (S.T.A.R.T 18/11/09).
Asylum seekers and refugees also suffer from the hostility worked into policies and processes against them, this was shown in 4.2. The D.C.R.S.C representative describes the process that asylum seekers go through after they have arrived in the UK and the P.A.T.H representative as he described the way in which asylum seekers are treated on their arrival in Plymouth. These examples show how asylum seekers are forced from one city to another, having just arrived in the country.
Asylum seekers and refugees do not have the same access to financial assistance in the UK, for example asylum seekers are only entitled to 70% of the income support that refugees and UK citizens are given (RefugeeCouncil 2009). In addition, if asylum seekers have nowhere to live on their arrival in the UK then their only choice is to be placed in NASS accommodation.
Asylum seekers in NASS accommodation often face difficulties when dealing with the organisation. Applications for a change of location/accommodation are not always dealt with sympathetically. 4.2i shows an example where there were differences between the asylum seeker and the landlord, the asylum seeker feared for the safety of her children so wished to be relocated. In recounting the circumstances for the request for a change in accommodation, the benefit of the doubt was with the landlord meaning that the asylum seeker was not believed to have a justified cause for complaint; therefore NASS was reluctant to move this family.
Refugees also suffer from the hostility of the housing system, For many reasons, refugees are often unable to find employment and therefore seek housing benefits to assist with their immediate accommodation needs. However, for refugees the very system that is intended to help them, often causes further difficulties.
Whilst it is accepted that there are landlords in the private rental sector that simply will not accept any tenant claiming housing benefit, it would appear to be more widespread in the refugee community. This may be because there are opinions held by some landlords that are detrimental to refugees and are born out of a poor understanding of the issues involved ( 4.2ii).
After receiving council accommodation all tenants can apply for vouchers up to £200 to assist with furnishing their home. The terms and conditions of this voucher are complicated and have many restrictions on their usage; this means that refugees encounter more difficulties than other recipients. The conditions control not only where the vouchers are redeemed but also the items purchased, the sales staff encountered (there may be only one member of staff trained to deal with these vouchers), and the method of payment (this is not conducted at a normal checkout but at the Customer Service Desk). These conditions make it very difficult for any recipient but refugees have to overcome additional obstacles such as language barriers, cultural differences, being undermined and their fear of authority, on top of individual traumas they are dealing with. Therefore they need help just to navigate through the system and its processes and procedures to avoid unintentional non compliance ( 4.2iii).
Boswell (2001:1) writes that as the number of asylum seekers and refugees increase within Europe there has been a focus on the, “growing public anxiety about the perceived social and economic costs” of assisting those searching for refuge, this can lead to hostility and racial harassment. During the participant observation placement I had the opportunity to discuss hostile attitudes shown towards asylum seekers and refugees which led to an asylum seeker telling of a racial incident that she witnessed,
“She talked of an experience that she had on a bus in Plymouth city centre where a black woman had got onto the bus. Some young boys had started to shout horrible things at her, the service user said she went home and cried as she felt so unwelcome in Plymouth” (20/07/09).
Newspaper Archive Sources:
Once Plymouth was selected to be a ‘dispersal city' under the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act, asylum seekers and refugees began to appear more frequently in the local newspaper headlines. In December 1999 newspapers were publishing that the government was planning to disperse 2,500 asylum seekers a month around Britain. By February 2000 the Evening Herald published an article announcing, “Plymouth looks set to host more than 300 asylum seekers over the next 11 months” (EH 1.2.2000 p2), informing readers of the government's plan to disperse asylum seekers around the UK. Further articles such as, ‘Council Voices ‘Serious Concern' Over Refugees'(EH 4.9.2001 p1) appear to be more condescending towards asylum seekers as it is published that there have been top-level-talks between the council about the suitability of Devonport accommodating a large number of refugees in a confined space, giving the impression that the refugees are not welcome within that community.
It is often seen that the media has a large affect on the general public's attitude towards asylum seekers and refugees. This is researched in Lauder et al. (2008) report which shows that it is often the case that media coverage of asylum seekers and refugees is negative. Research taken by Philo and Beattie (1999) found that within the British media asylum seekers and refugees were described in the same way as natural disasters, in ‘floods' and ‘tidal waves', using this language automatically creates fear and concern. The local newspapers studied for this research have also printed articles which present negativity when reporting on asylum seeker and refugee news. For example, in the article ‘Refugee move is a disgrace' a councillor is quoted saying, “it seems there is an open ended agreement to take on these immigrants” and, “they are coming in through the back door” (EH 13/09/00 p7), portraying hostility towards the asylum seekers and refugees within the city. However, in the same article another councillor is quoted saying this is untrue, cover both sides of the argument. These actions present evidence that there have been hostile attitudes taken towards the asylum seekers and refugees dispersed within Plymouth.
In contrast to this, not all attitudes within the media towards the arrival of asylum seekers and refugees have been negative. After the dispersal act was introduced the Evening Herald quoted Plymouth Councillor Mike Sheaff saying, “We ourselves have experienced the devastation of war in the past and we should be ready to support those who need our help” (EH 26/01/00 p7). This article raised awareness of asylum seekers and refugees entering the city and showed clear support from a member of the council.
One event that shows Plymouth's support for the multiculturalism within the city is the Respect Festival, shown in s 4.3 and 4.4. Plymouth Respect Festival is an event that ran for two days within the city centre, activities such as music, performance and arts took place and there was plenty of information provided on stalls by agencies that supported multiculturalism within the city (TH 26/10/09). The Herald quoted Dr Naresh Button from Plympton saying, “The festival is beautiful and I wish events like this happened more often to get people out of the house, mixing together away from the television and seeing how the world really is” (TH 26/10/09). Sales (2002) writes that due the ‘hands off' approach of official policy, action is put upon the voluntary sector to promote integration of asylum seekers and refugees into the community. By hosting organised events such as Plymouth Respect Festival asylum seekers and refugees within the city are helped to relieve social and cultural isolation. By using the major public space within the city centre to host the respect festival; an area which is seen as a prime place for bringing, locals, minority groups and tourists together, promoting social cohesion (Madanipour 2004).
4.2 Asylum Seekers and Refugees in the City
Nowadays, Plymouth's asylum seekers and refugees often face destitution, have troubles integrating into the community and have to deal with social clustering.
Interviews with Service Providers:
One difficulty that asylum seekers and refugees within the city face is destitution. As PATH associate Nick Reid says in 4.5i asylum seekers and refugees others have to rely on others for help when they find a gap in their payments, this often lead to them turning to the friends they have made for help. Refugee Action's spokesperson Jane Robinson explains this in 4.5ii, levels of destitution continue as asylum seekers become an increasing burden on their own unstable communities due to the ‘cashless' support system.
The unfortunate circumstances for asylum seekers is that they are unable to work their way out of destitution as they are not given the right to work in the UK. Phillimore and Goodson (2006) write that once receiving refugee status they are legally allowed to work however, disadvantages such as knowledge of the English language often leave many unemployed. Dent (S.T.A.R.T) said during her interview that, ‘a lot of the industries like food factories that traditionally took on a lot of people through short term contracts and it was easy for people to get in often that's peoples first job in a new country… have either closed or, there aren't a lot down here (18/11/09)', leaving fewer opportunities for the refugees to find employment.
This causes integration into society to become more challenging and does nothing to strengthen community cohesion within dispersal cities. Some asylum seekers work illegally to relieve destitution however; if they are caught it is likely that they would be deported (Zetter and Pearl 2000). As 4.5i shows that there is some help available for the destitute within Plymouth provided by the services and charities that those in need can be referred to. However, the help provided is rarely money which the asylum seekers and refugees can spend for themselves. In most cases they must make a separate application for each resource they are in need of. For example, the Red Cross provide support in form of furniture and food vouchers and Liz Hardinge says that D.C.R.S.C can offer some help, 4.5iii.
An important part of accommodating asylum seekers and refugees is ensuring that the newcomers are integrated into the community so that they can build lives for themselves in Plymouth. After interviewing service providers within Plymouth the trend seems to be that many single refugees will leave the city in search of work or family and refugee families will remain if they have children in school. S.T.A.R.T representative Susie Dent says that,
“currently in Plymouth is very difficult [to find work] … industries like food factories that traditionally took on a lot of people through short term contracts have closed … so some people will go because they cant find employment…a lot of people will stay which is great particularly families as they have children in schools but again some families will choose to go because for them their particular community is elsewhere maybe they want to join other family members somewhere else or they want to join a religious community or an ethnic grouping its very variable”.
Korac (2003) explains within her article that when measuring integration, occupational mobility and economic status are strong indicators of how well an asylum seeker or refugee has integrated into the community. However, factors such as the quality and strength of their social links within the city are just as important for their personal satisfaction. Once refugees have decided to remain in Plymouth there are service providers in Plymouth who help to promote community cohesion which enables all to live peacefully following out their own values and beliefs (Temple and Moran 2005). Hardinge (D.C.R.S.C) states that,
“Although people and the media regard Plymouth and the South West as a racist area the service users of DCRSC say that they feel safe and welcome in Plymouth. DCRSC offers them a certain amount of safety and they may feel less vulnerable in Plymouth rather than in large cities”(10/11/09).
A natural action when asylum seekers and refugees enter a city is social clustering, however Plymouth city council would like to avoid ghetto areas forming. Dent (S.T.A.R.T) explains the situation to be unpreventable due to the nature of the housing in 4.6i. Once asylum seekers are granted refugee status they must move out of their NASS accommodation and find a property through private or social housing, Robinson (Refugee Action) has noted that some refugees experience hostility when given social housing in Plymouth, 4.6ii. Vaughan's article (2007) argues that ghettos form through choice, the attraction of immigrant clustering is the available economic, social, religious and cultural support that develops and to build up a network of support from others arriving in a city which is new to them. Reid (P.A.T.H) says that pockets of communities are arising in Plymouth; the Kurdish community is the biggest ethnic community noticeable in Plymouth. There have been events celebrating their culture which have had funding from the local council. He draws attention to areas such as King Street, 4.6iii. This small Kurdish community builds a system of support for those included and also helps to preserve traditions and cultures within the social network (Aftab 2005)
In contrast to this Hardinge (D.C.R.S.C) states that,
“Certain cultural ghettoes have not built up in Plymouth. This is because once they asylum seekers have been granted refugee status they often go into council housing where they have no choice over where they are located”.
In addition to this, there are certain areas of Plymouth where asylum seekers and refugees have suffered from racism in the past. This is not acceptable and action can be taken to avoid being housed in such areas. Dent (S.T.A.R.T) states that,
“there are areas where a number of hate crimes have been reported…if people say that they have been offered housing in an area that we think maybe there have been a lot of racist incidents we will speak to the police to see if they know about a lot of hate crime in that area…”(18/11/09) the service providers will use their expertise to help asylum seekers and refugees integrate into the community as smoothly as possible.
The results show two contradicting opinions of social clustering within Plymouth as this topic is open to an individual's interpretation of the term. Vaughan (2007) report's a distinct difference between the ghettos seen in the US where 60% of a group's members are in one area compared with enclaves which are more commonly seen within the UK as a small concentration of a minority group.
Whilst on placement, I discussed what it was like living in Plymouth with some of the service users. One asylum seeker spoke about being unhappy with the accommodation she was living in, 4.7i. this shows the troubles that asylum seekers face when placed within NASS accommodation. Zetter and Pearl (2000) writes that once NASS replaced the previous housing legislation in 2000 asylum seekers were offered accommodation once in a dispersal area, if the asylum seeker refuses this property without a reason deemed appropriate by NASS then they will not be offered another. Burnett and Peel (2001) add to this explaining that if asylum seekers suffered from problems with the property, whether that was racial abuse from neighbours or if they decided that they wanted to be nearer their family or community and this resulted in an asylum seeker leaving their allocated accommodation they would then be refused any future public welfare support, meaning that they would have to rely on their friends and families to provide for them. In contrast to this negative feeling towards being placed within NASS accommodation without choice, away from any social networks asylum seekers may have, I found that the young asylum seekers and refugees I met were happy living in Plymouth and felt that it was ‘home', 4.7ii. Hieronymi (2008:12) writes that this is often the case with children as they adapt easily to, “new languages, customs, rules, and opportunities much more quickly than their parents”.
Newspaper Archive Sources:
There have been movements published in the media that promote the integration of asylum seekers and refugees into the community to prevent them from wanting to leave. Herald reporter, Nick Lester reports that there has been, “An Action plan launched in the city to support fair treatment of asylum-seekers and improve the integration of refugees into the community” (EH 16/06/04 p6). In April 2003 an 18 month programme was launched in Plymouth to improve social cohesion within the city. This was done through celebrating cultures, working towards equality for all and educating young people, in hope that ‘over time, these small steps towards a more harmonious local environment might well hold the key to a more cohesive and integrated society' (Home Office 2004).
4.3 Services Available for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Plymouth
Interviews with Service Providers
Hardinge (D.C.R.S.C) said in her interview that before DCRSC opened in 1999 charities and Christian groups were trying to fit the need for a support service for asylum seekers and refugees within Plymouth, “without the necessary expertise in housing or support work” (10/11/09). However, today there are many service providers throughout the city, the four interviewed for this research, D.C.R.S.C, P.A.T.H, Refugee action and S.T.A.R.T work both independently and together to offer their services to the asylum seekers and refugees in Plymouth. Some of the services these organisations provide include, food packages, clothing, use of internet, weekly social meetings, hosting organised events such as football tournaments, cultural celebrations, housing advice and assistance in applying for asylum and housing funds. They are often open to asylum seekers and refugees 5 days a week. Examples are shown in 4.8.
One of the reasons that service providers were called upon was to assist with promoting the integration of the dispersed asylum seekers and refugees into the local community. Griffiths et al.'s (2006) study of refugee community organisations in the West Midlands and North West showed that there was a rapid growth of service providers within the cities after they had become dispersal areas. These organisations were in high demand as evidence showed that 50% of asylum seekers granted refugee status remained within the city they were dispersed to. Reid (P.A.T.H) says that the organisations were created to,
“help move [asylum seekers and refugees] forward into finding accommodation and integrating into society rather than just to give them status and then push them out the door and then allowing them to sink or swim” (10/11/09).
Service providers have a critical role within dispersal cities, handling the transnational flow of migrants. They are accepting of individual's cultures and identities whilst encouraging the learning of the local economic, social and political environment (Fyfe et al. 2006).
Gamelidin-Ashami et al. (2002) writes that the service providers feel marginal from integration of asylum seekers and refugees into British citizens. They are only there to bridge the gaps between the mainstream agencies and the service users, as often the small organisations do not have funds to run their own education and training programmes. 4.9 shows a model of successful integration in society based on 3 factors outlined by Knight et al. (2002). These include basic needs which represent material factors, human association which represents relationships and cultural identities and participation which represents becoming a citizen. Gamelidin-Ashami et al. (2002) write that service providers, such as those interviewed for this research, are able to provide some functions in the first two stages, such as lunch time clubs: women's sewing group and working on cultural identity with ‘Play Back Theatre'. However, for asylum seekers and refugees within the city to participate as citizens, to have their voices heard and views respected the service providers should be more involved, rather than be marginalised by mainstream organisations at the participation stage. In the interview with Refugee Action it was said that where asylum seekers and refugees are unable, the service users advocate on behalf of them in an attempt to have their pooinions heard. For example by writing letters and making phone calls to the Boarder Agency or Social Services. Robinson (RefugeeAction) says,
‘Although they get somewhere to live and a very small amount of money there is a lot of advocating for things that they should just be getting…for example there are gaps in money and if someone's claim fails they will have no money and nowhere to live so we can try to get them support in different ways if they fit into a certain category we can make a claim for their case to be opened again' (16/11/09)
When discussing integration the interviewed service providers in Plymouth said that families often remain in Plymouth after receiving the right to remain as they do not wish for their children to change schools,
“a lot of them [families] do stay partly because of they have children in schools here… a lot of asylum seekers and refugees are very well educated..so they are very… they want their kids to do well so they wouldn't necessarily move them” (Refugee Action 16/11/09).
Therefore the service providers promote the integration of asylum seeker and refugee pupils within the local schools. Refugee Action spokesperson, Jane Robinson, explained that they also promoted integration from the locals point of view,
“we had funding for a refugee awareness worker that went out and gave presentations within schools” (16/11/09),
by educating the children about the lives of asylum seekers and refugees there is a hope that integration will become a smoother transition in Plymouth. A report by Arnot and Pinson (2005) suggests that through raising awareness of refugee issues in the citizenship and religious curricular and by promoting positive images of asylum seekers and refugee pupils within schools, effective integration of the children would be successful.
As well as assisting asylum seekers and refugees in integration into the Plymouth community the service providers also create opportunities for them to socialise with one another. At the D.C.R.S.C there is one volunteer assigned to the position of organising social events for the ASR, Hardinge says it is his job to plan “events such as playing football and going to the gym and he lets the service users know when there are free events going on to keep them occupied” (10/11/09).
Griffiths et al. (2005:218) write that the aim is to, “promote the political and social integration of refugees through the increased participation, consultation and mobilisation of local organisations”. Whilst on placement at S.T.A.R.T this was clearly appreciated by the service users, for example at the Women's Group, shown in 4.10i. Another time S.T.A.R.T joined with a company named Play Back Theatre, 4.10ii, this group focused on the asylum seekers and refugee's emotions and experiences, by discussing their past and planning their futures they were encouraged by the organisation to build a life for themselves in Plymouth. This provides an opportunity for asylum seekers and refugees to create social networks and to ‘support' each other in an environment which is new to them.
Although service users do focus on integration, this mostly includes encouraging asylum seeker and refugee communities to form social support networks amongst themselves, rather than integrating with the local Plymouth population. For there to be a strong move towards full integration into Plymouth's community, the social activities run by the service users should be opened up to the general public too. If Plymouth's locals and Plymouth's asylum seekers and refugees were to spend time together in a safe, secure, supervised environment, not only would social networks broaden but it may also reduce the hostility between the groups.
As asylum seekers within the UK are not allowed to work the events and activities organised by the service providers gives them something to do, keeps them occupied whilst they are waiting for their decision, for example activities such as the Allotment project, 4.10iii. Ekburg (1998) has studied migrants in Sweden. In his report he has suggested that asylum seekers may have lost valuable skills during the long waiting period for their refugee decision. By attending regular social activities there is more chance that asylum seekers will gain in confidence and by making conversation in English, improve their language skills for the workplace.
This data has researched the three main objectives of this project, To research the urban geography of Plymouth, the variety of services within the city centre and the help they provide for asylum seekers and refugees, to research when asylum seekers and refugees began to come into the city creating a need for a service network and lastly, to research integration of asylum seekers and refugees and the attitudes of the local population.
It is important to take into account where this research has come from. The service providers I interviewed for this project work daily with asylum seekers and refugees and understand the lives they lead. In comparison with this, on occasion when an article is published in the local newspaper, it's main aim is to sell papers. Therefore the examples within this analysis from the Herald should be questioned and not taken as fact.
The aim and research questions for this dissertation are, to investigate how successful Plymouth's Service Network has been in helping Refugees and Asylum Seekers integrate into the community.
* when asylum seekers and refugees began to come into the city creating a need for a service network
* the urban geography of Plymouth, the variety of services within the city centre and the help they provide for asylum seekers and refugees
* To what extent of the integration of asylum seekers and refugees and the attitudes of the local population.
Given the evidence presented in the results and the issues considered in the discussion of this dissertation, the principle findings of the research are,
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8.1 Placement Diary 06/07/09 - 24/07/09
The first family I visited was during a meeting to fill in a number of forms as the family are leaving Plymouth for London. The family welcomed us warmly into the family home, including myself who they had met today for the first time. This family of 8 are very involved within S.T.A.R.T attending the organised events regularly, they play a large role within the organisation and it seems they will be greatly missed once they move away. The have been in contact with many members of the S.T.A.R.T team closely. Recently the family has been granted refugee status after 7years of being labelled as asylum seekers. During the visit they discussed their sad feelings about leaving Plymouth and the friends they have made. They seem to fit in well to the community. The children are getting on well at school and the parents talked fondly of their friendships with neighbours.
* Refugees migrating from Plymouth to London once receiving refugee status
* Socialising with other ASR's
* Integrating into the community
First I was shown a video produced two months agoof some young children of START who were disusing their lives in Plymouth. Many of them said they thought that Plymouth was a welcoming place, they all seemed very happy here and saw Plymouth as home. Whenasked about the countries they hadleft some children said that they remembered leaving but avoided going into further detail. Next I was shown a presentation about START. This gaveme a deeper insight into the organisation and the types of people they work with. START mainly focuses on helping refugees with housing once they have been granted status as they are then evicted from their NASS housing. After thatI spent some time on the internet looking for a 4 bedroom house in a particular area within Plymouth. Unfortunately I found nothing that would accept people that were on housing benefit, which covers most refugees. If arefugee decides to find accommodation through a private landlord, they have more choice over location, however, it may take longer than if the refugee optedfor social housing. At midday I went to tosupervise the 'soft creations' group. This is a women's group, they usually spend 2 hours sewing. However, this week was named 'taste of cultures'. One of the women prepared anational dishfrom Cameroon for about 14 other women from around the world. Although there are many nationalities mixed together in one room, you would not know, the women were all gossiping and eating together. They discussed every day matters like the weather, they talked about accents and they also talked about the countries they come from. Some of the women live together in a shared house and although they all have different mother tongues they have become close friends through their English. There were two new Iranian women in the group, other women talked with then. Another Iranian woman who had attended the group for a long time came over and tried to chat inFarsi andone woman said she would prefer to talk in English. It seems that they enjoy using their English eventhough they may struggle. We had a cake as it was one of the women's last day before leaving for London. The women were sad to see her go.This groupwas a close group and this women's departure would be a great loss. Aftersoft creations Iassisted a member of staff in two house visits. The first was to help a service user with reading her electricity meter and utility bills, the service user was panicked as she had been charged for a service she was not using, and the problem was sorted with a telephone call to the electrics company. After that we went to visit a single mum with two young children. She had just been offered a social housing property in the Union Street area. She was happy with the news however, she was also concerned as her children would have to change schools and the flat was completely unfurnished. She had no money to furnish so START will look around for some second hand furniture for her.
* Positive feelings towards Plymouth
* Sharing cultures
* Socialising with other ASR's
* Integrating into the community
* Services providing help with cultural and language issues
* Vulnerable and destitute people
I spent the morning with 'Play Back Theatre'. This is adrama group who uses art, crafts anddrama to tell thestories of asylum seekers and refugees. There were 4 service users who turned up. The session started witha poem which talked ofopening door toreveal new places and sights. The service users were then asked to use various materials to create asculpture behind a door. The service users took about 30minutes creating their sculptures and afterwards the team discussed the service users feelings and what they had included in the sculptures, they then used that information to act out the service users story. One of the service users had created a sculpture that showedher dreams, she talked of her lifebefore Plymouth, everything she did was for her husband, for her brother, and for her father. The men in her life controlled her, she felt trapped. Now in Plymouth she has the chance to make decisions on her own and do what's best for her and her children. Other service users created a sculpture which showed a ladder in a garden, this represented reaching up towards the future. The ladder reached through the clouds to show troubles and at thetop of the ladder was the sun, representing the hopein their lives.
The day started with a team meeting, I was welcomed into the START team and another member of staff was leaving. Details of the trip were also discussed to take place on the 21st of July. I then went to the allotment project. We met one volunteer and one service user there. The service user came up to the allotment frequently during the week as well as on a Thursday, he is seeking asylum, during this time you are unable to work so the allotment is a good place where the service users can keep busy. He also felt that the allotment was a successful project that he had been involved with. The allotment keeps the service users occupied and also offers them a chance to socialise with others. Together we fixed the fence to the lot, did some weeding, we watered the plants and also planted some new seeds. Two other service users arrived at lunch and everyone ate together. We talked about the countries that the service users came from, although they have been forced out of their country they speak fondly of it, they talked about the city and the mountains. They talked about the differences and similarities of the food that was able to grow in their countries and in Britain. Later we talked about sport, it was a chance to describe new and popular sports of the different countries and share sports that we particularly enjoyed. The project finished at 2.00 so I returned to the start office for the allocations meeting.All of the START members meettodiscuss their particular case studies to make sure that START is providing a good service and if there are any issues all of thestaff can discuss them together - in isin connection with PATH anotherorganisation based in Plymouth working with vulnerable people.
* Socialising with other ASR's
* Keeping busy and entertained
This morning I shadowed two student staff members to a service user house. The service user was applying forfurnituresupport and to receive food vouchers from the Red Cross. She happily welcomed us into her house and we discussed the new house that she will be moving into next week. She had a friend with her to assist with the translation. Once the forms were understood and signed the service user offered us a drink and we stayed for a while. She was excited to move into her new house. We talked about fashion andher children and languages. The service users often talkof the languages they speak asit is usually more than just their mother tongue and English. After returning to the START office, we met with the service user again for a viewing of the new flat.Everyone was anxious to see inside and the quality of the flat. Once inside the service user seemed very happy, it was smaller than she thought however it was in good condition and a very good location, with a park for her children to play in.
* Vulnerable and destitute people
* Positive feelings towards Plymouth
I went to the house of a service user family to help as they were moving from Plymouth to London. They had packed up all of their belongings and were packing their things into a van. The entire family were helping move and although it was a stressful day for them they were welcoming and grateful for the support of the START team. It was obvious that the children were sad to leave Plymouth, they have settled in well here; however there was also an excitement of going somewhere new. The boys were doing all of the heavy lifting whilst the women were organising the important things from the not important. The father was extremely apologetic that he was unable to offer us any refreshments; he said that it is embarrassing in his culture for someone to enter your home without being fed. Once the van was full, remaining items were brought to START and they will be driven up to London at a later date. In the afternoon I sat in with a member of staff as she was closing a service user's case, they discussed the service that START had provided for him and his current situation. The service user was concerned about having his case closed; START provides some security and a familiar face for service users to come to when they have a problem of any sort. This service user was very happy in his private house that START staff had found for him, and currently he had no immediate issues that he needed help with so his case closes. The member of staff made it vary clear to the service users that although his case was closed it could be reopened at any time he wanted and he was welcome to drop into the START office with any quires. This service user was extremely happy with the service that START had provided and this was shown through his evaluation questionnaire.
* Cultural differences
Today I spent the morning in the office researching citizenship papers trying to find how the applicant proves themselves to be suitable for British citizenship. At 12.30 I collected a service user from the city centre to show her the location of soft creations. The service user is from Iran, she chatted about the history of Iran and that she was coming to the women's sewing group to meet new people and make friends. This week we made cards which we plan to sell at the 'respect' festival in August. This week there were half as many women present than the week before however, everyone got involved but many broke off into groups of their own nationalities chatting in their languages. This often isolates those who are the only person who speaks their language. We also discussed next weeks trip with the women, there will be a trip which the women had requested as a change to the usual sewing activities they do. START agreed to pay for the ferry fares however the women must meet us at the ferry port paying for their own bus fair. Many of the women were unhappy with this arrangement and only one woman agreed to attend the trip next week, maybe it will be called off. After returning to the office I assisted a service user in filling out an application form for the west country housing association.
* Vulnerable and insecure people
* Plymouth's services providing support
* Positive feelings towards the service providers
In the morning I went with a member of staff to service user's new flat. Other members of the START team were already there and had arrived with a car load of furniture that had been donated by the church. We carried the things in to the new flat and a member of staff and I went to the service user's current accommodation to fill the car. She had hired a van and there were 3 friends of hers helping her with the heavy lifting, we filled the car and met the van at the new flat. We spent the whole morning taking all of her belongings up 3 flights of stairs to her new flat. At lunch time another member of staff arrived and the service user cooked a meal for us. We arranged some change of address details over the phone and left her to settle into her new property. Next I went with a member of staff to visit another service user who had problems with damp in her kitchen. Once we started talking to her she asked us to look at her electric and gas bills so we made a call to try to get her some help with paying the bills. This service user is going to be a computing student in September. After that we returned to the office for a meeting with Refugee Action. Then we packed up another van of belongings to send to London for a service user family.
* Cultural differences
* Language issues
First thing I went to get some supplies for the Allotment projects, this morning it was pouring with rain so we were not expecting many volunteers there today. At 9.30 this morning we had a staff meeting to discuss any topics that had come up, we talked about the cancelled trip next Tuesday from lack of interest form the women in the sewing group. We also talked about the meeting held with Refugee Action on Wednesday and said goodbye to a student on placement at START. After the meeting I went with a member of staff to the allotment project. There were not many volunteers at the allotment today, as predicted just the same two that attend regularly. We watered the plans inside the polly tunnel, we planted new plants (redcurrants and blackberry bush) and one volunteer organised the START shed, hanging all of the equipment up on the walls. After the allotment project I returned to the office, I started doing some work on the computer designing the certificate that will be given out to the volunteers after they have completed a certain number of hours at START projects. Late in the afternoon a women arrived who had previouslyvolunteered at the allotment project and who I had taken to the soft creations meeting on Tuesday. She is very new to Plymouth so I was a familiar face when she walked into the office; she asked to talk to some one about being assigned a case worker. Although this women is an asylum seeker awaiting her refugee status decisionSTART will work with her. Although START mainly works with refugees who have received status, this is the work that they are funded for, however, they also have contacts and can make life, especially the integration ofmigrants into communities easier for those who want help. The woman discussed her past with us in broken English. As the language barrier was such an issue with this service user it was not always clear what she was saying. She did make it very clearto us that she wasunhappy in their NASS accommodation and that she would like to be moved to another house. This is not an easy thing to do for asylum seekers unless there are serious issues that have been reported to the police for example. Thisserviceuser had only been in Plymouth for a number of weeks, she felt very alone andthe suffering of her past have led to server mental health issues which may make her eligible for a move. This womanleft a large house and family in herhome country through fear of being persecuted and she is looking for friendship andcomfort in a world that is new to her.
* Vulnerable and destitute people in need of help
* Negative feelings
* Cultural issues
This morning I accompanied a service user to Homebase. She had been given a £200 voucher by the council to decorate her new property; there were many restrictions under the conditions of the voucher so I went along to ensure that everything ran smoothly. The service user also brought a friend along to help with translation as she lacks confidence when using English. There was a little struggle when discussing the types of paint that she wanted however we managed to collect everything that she wanted and spent all of the money on her vouchers. I helped then take the supplies back to the service users flat as started helping stripping wallpaper from the living room walls. Then the service user invited me to stay for some lunch and tea and then I returned to the office. I then met with a member of staff for supervision to discuss how things had progressed over my second week and talk my experience here.
* Hostility: no change given and cashiers are confused when faced with refugee vouchers
In the morning I met a service user in town at 8AM. Together we got on the bus and went to a hospital where she had an appointment with the doctor. On the bus she was discussing her life in Iran. She talked about how the country was good the people were very friendly but it was the government that were the problem. They were corrupt, they dictated what everyone should do and say within the country. She also discussed her family life in Iran where she lived with her mother and father, when talking of her mother she got very upset, she spoke to her last week but calls are expensive and so she can only talk for a short time. At the hospital she was asked about her past so again she came out very upset from the memories that she had just relived. On the way back she discussed how she was treated by others in Plymouth, about the house that she shared and other women in it. She had some issues with one of the housemates about things such as an open or closed window, she was so fed up and irritated that this issue had really upset her and she wanted to move house. On return to the office I had to take a long lunch break as it was hard to hear that someone is having such a hard time and there is nothing you can do about it, asylum seekers have little leeway on things such as housing and joining collage courses such as this service user wished to do. Later the same service user had another appointment at the hospital so I accompanied her again. This time she was more positive. She talked about her life before in Iran, she worked as a journalist in the capital city. She talked of how the government were trying to stop all of the newspapers and magazines from publishing and that it was a very dangerous job to have in Iran but she missed it now, she was always very busy and had a lot of deadlines to meet, she spent the morning meeting people and taking interviews and she would have to produce an article by 2pm in the afternoon. She also asked about my family, when mentioning divorce she said in her country the women put up with bad husbands for the sake of the children, divorce is very uncommon in Iran unlike the UK. She said that she was engaged in Iran but her husband was arrested. After her second appointment the service user was a lot more cheerful. She had seen a mental health specialist; there was also a translator there so she could speak without the language barrier being an issue as it was with us. She said that although it was difficult to talk about the past the therapist was very nice. The service user said that she had met some people in England that were nice but it was difficult as she felt that some people she had met were not open to asylum seekers and refugees. She talked of an experience that she had on a bus in Plymouth city centre where a black woman had got onto the bus. Some young boys had started to shout horrible things at her, the service user said she went home and cried as she felt so unwelcome in Plymouth.
* Hostility for Plymouth's population and other ASR's
* Cultural differences
Today I helped draft a letter for an asylum seeker who was applying to move house due to issues with her current landlord, as many of the members of staff at START are students on placement from abroad I was asked to write the letter from their notes. This was the third letter sent to NASS about this case and it was proving difficult to persuade them that this family's story was true as the landlord was arguing differently. In the afternoon I went to the sewing group soft creations where there were not many women this week. We did some sewing and the older women were teaching the younger women how to knit. The discussed clothes and fashion and the differences between countries.
Today a member of staff an I re organised the office, sorting files of existing and previous service users as it is often the case that service users wont need START's help for a number of months before returning into the office so the files must be saved for 3 years. Another member of staff and I went to the location that soft creations and cultural kitchen is held and organised the arts ad crafts office making a list of new supplies needed and ensuring that the room could be easily accessed.
This morning we had a staff meeting, which I took the minutes for. We discussed the poor numbers of people turning up for the allotment project and how this could be improved. There were a few members of staff leaving this week so we discussed whether all our work was finished and we made plans for the cultural kitchen tomorrow. Once the meeting was over I went to the allotment. It was good weather this week and many of the crops were ready to pick. Only one service user turned up and there were three members of staff. The atmosphere was great as the allotment had produced so many vegetables which we would be able to serve at cultural kitchen. We discussed what vegetables could be grown in Iran, vocabulary and places to visit in Plymouth.
* Positive feeling towards Plymouth
Today was a busy day, I ensured that all of the filling that I have been given had been competed and the certificates were completed and presented well on a board to show this evening. Then 4 members of staff went to set up for cultural kitchen. This involved setting up tables preparing food and setting up an arts and crafts activity for the service users. Everyone started to arrive at 3.30 and there were soon over 50 service users. There is a vast ranges of ages and nationalities all mixed together in one room. I sat with a group of children involved with the art activity they talked about school and TV programmes. The children seem very integrated into Plymouth life through school and they often have more advanced English than their parents. The evening was very successful and at the end of the evening everyone stays to help tidy up. The service users I have been working with knew it was my last day and all signed a card for me. I was surprised that I managed to build close relationships with the service users as quickly as I did.
* Socialising with other asylum seekers and refugees
* Integration into communities (children)
8.2 Local Plymouth Newspaper Articles
1999 - 2009
CITY PREPARES FOR REFUGEES
* Dispersal Act
* Anticipation of ASR arrival
4000 HOMES FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS
* Accepting / Welcoming ASR arrivals
* Planning (interpreters, healthcare, education)
* Against ASR housing clustering
‘ASYLUM FOR 300' SCHEME
* Dispersal Act (warm welcome)
* Planning (anticipation arrivals)
REFUGEE MOVE IS ‘A DISGRACE'
* Against ASR coming to Plymouth
* Labour Leader welcomes ASR
MORE REFUGEES ARRIVE IN CITY
* 164 AS move to Plymouth
CONCERN OVER ASYLUM PLANS
* Racism concerns (following murder in Glasgow)
* Against ASR housing clustering
* Fear of safety
REFUGEE HOMES ARE DISGRACEFUL
* Seeking better housing for ASR
* Stopping privet operations
REFUGEES IN ASYLUM PROTEST
* Upset over time spent waiting for a decision on refugee application
Western Morning News
HUNGER STRIKE REFUGEES WANT END TO ‘LINING HELL'
* Inhumane treatment
IRAQI KURDS' THANKS TO CITY
* Upset over time spent waiting for a decision on refugee application
* Grateful for Plymouth's support
HOW A REFUGEE SEES PLYMOUTH
* Refugee Week
* Case study of a refugee
* Positive feelings towards Plymouth
Western Morning News
DESPERATE REFUGEES SET SIGHTS ON WEST COUNTRY
* Devon and Dorset gateway to Britain
RACE HATE MOB ATTACKS IRAQ REFUGEES
* Unprovoked attack on AS in Plymouth city centre (after a murder in Manchester)
FEARS AS PAIR LEAVE CHARITY
* ASR rely on the service providers within Plymouth city centre
TRUE PICTURE ON ASYLUM IN CITY
* Providing services
FAIR DEAL FOR CITY REFUGEES
* Refugee Week
* Providing improved services
CITY GRANTS £40K TO HELP REFUGEES
* Providing services
* Diversity in Plymouth
GROWING PROJECT FOR CITY REFUGEES
* Socialising with Public
* Socialising with other ASR
CHARITY PLEADS FOR HELP FOR REFUGEES
* Encouraging locals to volunteer
* Encouraging integration
* Welcoming refugees
DECADE OF HELP FOR THE CITY'S REFUGEES
* Providing services
* Negative Perceptions of ASR
* Dispersal Act
8.4 Interview with D.C.R.S.C 10/11/09
During this interview only notes were taken rather than using a Dictaphone to record as the interview was taken in an open area with service users constantly walking through. A recording would have breached the confidentiality agreement. This also meant that the interview was broken as we were often interrupted.
DCRSC began 10 years ago in 1999, the time of the home office's dispersal program to send asylum seekers to Plymouth. It all started with Sam Kallom who was born in Sierra Leone. He had worked with asylum seekers previously in Reading. He then moved to Devonport. Asylum seekers that had recently moved to Plymouth also lived in that area and noticed Sam around. Once they learnt of his experience working with asylum seekers then began turning up at his flat asking for help. Due to this, Sam sought some support and met and befriended a vicar from Estover. They found a Methodist church who gave them two rooms free of charge, one was used as an office and the other was used as a clothes store. The city council gave them £3000 as set up costs. DCRSC remained there for 3 yrs until the church was sold. In 2003 they moved to Wimple Street, which had previously been owned by Big Issue and was in a terrible state. They decorated. Over time, the Home Office sent more and more clients to Plymouth as they found it was a cheap area to house people. The count in August 2009 was 437 asylum seekers in Plymouth (not including refugees and failed asylum seekers)
Initially it was churches that helped to create DCRSC and provided food and money. An Amnesty International group in Cornwall also donated and gradually many other churches in Plymouth became involved.
Finance: DCRSC approached charities, there is some support form the local council but not enough.
They often have 70 people on one drop in day.
They work closely with NASS, the Boarder Agency and the Home office.
They mainly work with asylum seekers as once a person has received refugee status there are other agencies to help.
They help finding accommodation and sorting out finding national insurance numbers for refugees.
There are 3 members of paid staff who deal mainly with case work as they have qualifications from the Office of Immigration Service User and there are over 40 other volunteers' av. 5 working per day. Confidentiality is important.
There is a computer suite downstairs and a clothes store which are open on Mondays and Wednesdays.
The service users also volunteer as many come from rich families and are highly educated. There are staff from Nigeria and Eritrea who can speak many languages so DCRSC rarely have to pay for an interpreter.
Asylum seekers are located in the Greenbank, Mt Gould, Stonehouse and Mutley Plain area so the office is in a central location.
There is a fund to assist those struggling, DCRSC can offer a little money but its mostly food parcels and clothing that is available.
There is a comfortable area which offers the asylum seekers a place to socialise as they find DCRSC a place of safety where help is given.
It is difficult to comment on integration as service users are constantly coming and going and once they have received refugee status they no longer require our help. However, some do choose to stay in Plymouth. Although people and the media regard Plymouth and the South West as a racist area the service users of DCRSC say that they feel safe and welcome in Plymouth. DCRSC offers them a certain amount of safety and they may feel less vulnerable in Plymouth rather than in large cities where they are wary of others that come from their countries of origin as they may not be trustworthy. Certain cultural spatial areas have not built up in Plymouth. This is because once they asylum seekers have been granted refugee status they often go into council housing where they have no choice over where they are located.
On arrival at a port, a certain number of asylum seekers are sent to Cardiff where they are placed in temporary accommodation. There they are allocated a case holder - one person who is responsible for their application as a refugee. Then they are sent to a dispersal city - which is often Cardiff, Bristol or Plymouth. Plymouth is often chosen for its cheap accommodation which is provided through Clearsprings. Now and again they have to travel to Cardiff to meet with their case holder. Depending on which city has space in NASS accommodation is where the asylum seekers are sent.
Some funds are provided by Plymouth City Council however the amount has to be shared between DCRSC, START and Refugee First. The council has created a consortium, because it wants to communicate with just one body supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Plymouth. However, each of these organisations offer separate services and while they do work together they are separate, independent organisations.
There is one volunteer who organises events such as playing football and going to the gym and he lets the service users know when there are free events going on to keep them occupied. It is often the men that suffer from boredom as they are unable to work and have nothing to do, this gets bad press coverage.
8.5 Interview with P.A.T.H 10/11/2009
What is RHSS?
RHSS is a service commissioned by supporting people which is a branch of the government if you like, administered in the local council. The get a pot of money every year which comes through to the office in Midland House they administer that and it pays for, it used to be called Transitional Housing Benefit a long time ago, now its become supporting people and its lots of services that provides support to adults in…in the widest sense of the word, um who are either living in hostels or need some elements of support in their lives to live a normal life and in most cases it would be fair to say, their moving the idea being to get them back to independent living ultimately the service would then pull away and the person would go on living independently, so, put in the broadest sense, that's, who SP are and the RHSS was one of the strands of their funding um and it was to provide a floating support to refugees and refugee families in Plymouth as it was seen better to um, what's the word, to um, to get, there's a word that I can think of, to get involved with refugees at the point where they're given status, a preventative approach really, to get involved with then and help move them forward into finding accommodation and integrating into society rather than just to give them status and then push them out the door and then allowing them to sink or swim as it costs, um the bottom line is it costs society, social services etc more money if you have to mop up the mess that can happen as a result of people not being able to cope, than if you intervene at the beginning and try to give them skills to, and advice and guidance to, to build and set up home for themselves
In the area, so it's a floating support service
What's the floating part?
Well to explain that, that's… um the floating bit is because it's not tied to an accommodation it not tied to like, a hostel or er…
The persons home its really, its really um... a dynamic service that can go anywhere if you like, so its people that can physically go and visit clients wherever they are located so whether their in their NASS accommodation whether they're in their own flats or in temporary accommodation or B+Bs or wherever we can go to them, I mean they come to us as well but um… we're very flexible and we work with them on a regular basis in order to help them set up their new lives when they've been given status because prior to that they don't have… well their accommodation, their support network is provided by the government in a standard package through NASS support which is managed by a housing association and again it's a similar role but a less hand on approach really… they're kind of… shipped down to the city and caught by somebody who then takes them to the accommodation gives them the keys and tells them this is where you get your money each week and shows them the door, the very basics and walks off really and leaves them and does very little more with them, it's a very hand off approach really…
Then they sit and wait for a letter hopefully saying you've been given refugee status… um…
And that could take however long
Yeah there's no time scale on that actually, the current service they would like to do it within 6 months or so I think… they don't always manage that and the majority are refused um… of asylum seekers um… the ones that get a positive decision are the ones that potentially become our clients
And how does that happen
So, the the the first stop for refugees in most cities I think is what the government designates as a one stop shop which is refugee action in Plymouth they will give them an interview to explain their options and if they wish to stay in this City and they want help finding accommodation at that point … they would be referred to us. Everyone who has come though the new REIS system since 2007 would have been pointed at us by refugee action… now that's just one chunk of the work that comes to us because also anybody who's come through any other route… and got… and is a refugee and has problems with accommodation can also come to us either by themselves or through another agency. Through Midland house through GP's is could be anyone who stumbles upon a refugee who... if they know about us, who have issues with their accommodation they can point them at us
OK, how long have you been set up to help refugees in the city?
Good question… um… probably 2006 ish
It will be 5 years in September 2011 so if we go backwards…
Yes 2006, ok was that because there was a missing link…
Yeah, there wasn't a service there wasn't a coherent service that could intervene at the point where people got status to stop them from declaring themselves homeless or just going on the street or whatever…um, the government at that time was really big on street homelessness, they were really pushing it, it was Blair in full flow trying to say that there was nobody homeless in this country that all the councils could cope and there was enough housing for everybody when society was flying relatively strongly economically and there should have been…on paper… enough money enough accommodation for everybody, it was inexcusable that vulnerable people were left without and support… um… so it was out of that politics that we were coming er… previously there had been a lot of hotch potch, apart from refugee action but most of their work is to do with asylum seekers as that's the majority of people that are put into a given space as once people have got status they can fly the coop they can go anywhere, they are the ones that need more advice around their claims for asylum really…
Yeah… Um, do you have to compete for the funding that you get from Supporting People?
Potentially if we were to renew it we would have to go up against other service providers… at the time we did have to go up against Devon and Cornwall Housing Association but we had a lot more experience as we got together with other agencies that help refugees… and PATH had housing skills so… together we kind of robbed home haha,
And got the bid easily…
So there was nothing really in Place before 2006
No well, there was a kind of random hotch potch of charities that, Christian groups and things trying to fit the need, but not very organised is a not very joined up way… an without the expertise in housing and support work … before that bit PATH had 10 years housing experience er… in that field including g refuges… they were a small part of its work and it still is as PATH has masses of arms, the refugees in one contract that is joined with START and um… and we only have 2 members of staff that deal with refugees um… um… and we provide the drop in service two days a week
OK and is that just to see you or do you offer a place to socialise or any use of computers?
Well they can see me anytime Monday to Friday 9 till 5 but during drop in anyone can come and request the service but its primarily a time for new clients
Would they just come to you for housing issues… or if they have money issues or need food parcels would they come and speak to you?
Yeah… I don't know once you have a client they come to you with any issues but new clients tend to just come with housing issues as that's how they've heard about us… once you have a client they come to you about anything and you realise that house starts to include everything else as well as housing… you find yourself doing all sorts of other things … they often don't know how to get benefits and English lessons and how to get help, how to fill out travel documents… I either help them or let them know where they can go to get help… the list is massive, its never ending really… every week is different every day… I'm like a directory of services really… the refugees have very few possessions they haven't got so much baggage so it makes things easier really… that's not always true but in some cases it makes things quite straight forwards when filling out forms….
There's not past there are no debts or mortgages or commitments…
So once you have found accommodation do you think that the refugees find it easy to integrate into Plymouth… life? Do you have people come to you and say we want to move…
Yeah… what I often say when I first meet people is that… be aware that it is is a small country town/city, it's a country… it country style
This is not a big city… to put it in simple terms for them the culture here is different… there's not a lot of work… but it has plusses and minuses… its quiet a good place to bring up children … um its nice countryside, the weather is as good as you're gunna get in England
So to warn that it people looking for a countryside life rather than a big city…
Yeah… it is… the culture here is slightly conservative in terms of racism sort of cultural mix is going to be less… cosmopolitan than living in the city so I make that plain to them… I say there is nothing wrong with staying for a while then moving…
Do lots stay for a while and them move on.. to London? Or do they stay and settle?
… most do tend to settle if they have decided to stay as far as I can tell… its important to get that across…
Are there any areas of Plymouth that certain cultures have… set up in… are there any mini ghettoes?
Yeah there is that happening, it's the Kurdish community that is the biggest… I don't know the s… as far as ~I know anecdotally the Chinese is the biggest but not so visibly and the Kurdish community is the second biggest… the is more noticeable in Plymouth… most people would notice… their here in a big way… they have quite a few big events and they have had an impact on the city, and the city had responded to that in a positive way such as providing money for services and events and things… er beyond that there are also quite a lot of Congolese and Sudanese , there's an Africa House organisation but it doesn't have a geographical location the communities are spread
Do you think that makes it easier in Plymouth, if the cultures are spread out its not so noticeable …
Yes well I think there are probable pockets, I… but I couldn't tell you where they are really… I thing Kings St, in terms of the street there seem to be a lot of Kurdish there… there is a Kurdish restaurant…
Yes there is,
and a Halal Butcher round the corner and there is a lot of visible Kurdish people on the street, I expect a lot of them are living in the council housing around there, that's a bit of a community centre …and it has been a bit of a flash point at times as well… um beyond that …there isn't anywhere else I could say is visible… however much you believe in multiculturalism and diversity its an idea that one strives towards… and… peoples instincts seem to pull them in the other directions… the language and common culture pulls people together even when you encourage them to mix they do… resist it… but Plymouth is going in the right direction in terms of multiculturalism… and the university has had a big impact in term of Plymouth because of foreign students in terms of the multiculturalism um.. plus the economic migrants and a lot of foreign workers are coming into the city… I think some of the local might not understand what the group is made up of and just call everybody an asylum seeker through prejudice and they're probably the smallest of the group... um… um hopefully over time they will learn that that's not the case…
What about the local press, is there quite positive press or is it negative…
I'm not sure I don't really follow the local papers but I think there have been some companies for people being deported… but I'm not sure.
8.6 Interview with Refugee Action 16.11.2009
So, when did refugee action start and when did this office open in Plymouth?
Well, refugee action started in 1981
And it's a national charity. um. and …its similar to refugee council which most people have heard of more than us. But in the early days of refugee action there was a lot of advice and community management but I think the major group of concern in the early days were the Vietnamese boat people so it was a much smaller organisation then and they worked directly with communities and integration… later on round 1990 with the conflict in the Balkans they ran the Bosnian program …resettling people… and… yeah… then the major this was the Kosovan program in 1999 and some of our colleagues still work on that program… they have continued with the organisations… but the major major change came in 2001 as there had been pressure on the government and there were more and more asylum seekers and many ended up in Dover or Heathrow or in the South East that's when they brought in the policy of dispersal where they but asylum seekers round the country to places like Plymouth which had never, well actually… the were some that had got here some how… it was to do with the cities that agreed to do it… but the council at the time in Plymouth was pretty inward looking and they couldn't get their heads around the plan so what happened was NASS contracted with accommodation providers… and they… just sort of said we will house asylum seekers in the city… so there was no preparation no forward planning of services, education or social services… they just brought asylum seekers here and there has been regular asylum seekers dispersed here ever since. They have no choice many want to go to London but it's… you have to go where we send you… um… the biggest group in Plymouth is Kurdish Iraqis
So about 2001 the office here opened?
No… it… didn't start to 2002. First it was set up in Exeter but that wasn't where the asylum seekers were and very soon they relocated to Plymouth so 2002
Ok, what services do you provide for ASR do you work with both equally?
Well… no… we have the one stop shop to work with AS since last October we started the RIES service (Refugee Integration and Employment Service) which is to work with R but only new ones… that have come through the new asylum model (NAM). We plug the gaps we advocate for people. Although they get somewhere to live and a very small amount of money there is a lot of advocating for things that they should just be getting… there are gaps in money and if someone's claim fails they will have no money and nowhere to live so we can try to get them support in different ways if they fit into a certain category we can make a claim for their case to be opened again… so… there is a lot of destitution which is… may not be that many living on the streets… although that does happen… its… often people living in a house with other asylum seekers with little money in the first place… sleeping on the sofa and them having to share their food you know… a small amount… um … a lot of work we do … because people have been here a long time and may be traumatised in the first place but … the way they have been treated here… un certainly and the fact that they cant work… um… a lot of mental health problems… um… early on it was recognised by the health service that there were mental health problems they are a dedicated team that work with asylum seekers
Is that through the NHS?
Yeah… they have been created as a specialist team… they are a fantastic resource they often have the same clients as us and because of that we can use that information to get support form social services … so… there are lots of interlinking things like that
Do you work with a lot of the other services in Plymouth?
Yeah… we work as lot with DCRSC… not just because they are all around the corner but we have a lot of clients in common with them they are a bit more like a community centre… we have clients come in and then go out again we advocate for social services as laws have got stricter… and with PATH and START we do a lot with refugees as they have a contract to help refugees with housing and we have someone to help with finding work
And… um… do you put on any events for ASR?
We do some training, at one point we had funding for a refugee awareness worker that went out and gave presentations within schools and to anyone who asked… the negative side is prejudices but people are very interested in what's going on … so we used to do a lot of that…there is a lot of other stuff to do…
Is there much opportunity to integrate or do you think that once people have got status they move away?
Good point… I don't think we have tracked it enough… I think a lot do go for obvious reasons if they have family living somewhere else that they want to be near um… and what's been said about families that have been here a long time and they get status a lot of them do stay partly because of they have children in schools here… you have probably heard this before… but a lot of ASR are very well educated..so they are very… they want their kids to do well so they wouldn't necessarily move them…
Has there been any hostility?
Not recently… but in 2005 there was an appalling case in a school in Devonport where a gang of white children ganged up on an asylum seeker it was a big big issues it was very unpleasant… I can't say as I don't work out there… but… generally... I think things have been ok… not too bad.
Are there areas in Plymouth where AS are placed?
Oh yes… there are most of the areas are… mainly Greenbank, Multey and some round Keyham…as a lot of the North of Plymouth is council estates and so the council always said they would never place asylum seekers in council housing … that was a problem of dispersal in the early stages due to this companies like Clearspings have properties they have leased which has been in private rented areas… Beaumont road se well… which is a bit further out towards Mount Gould… but people that have become refugees have been offered council houses and I think that there have been issues there… as the communities are not that friendly…
Um… Where does the funding come from for Refugee Action…
UKBA the funding comes from the Border Agency… that's for our mainstream work as our work is seen as things they do… but we do advocate for asylum seekers and refugees against the Border Agency…
How do the Asylum Seekers get here from arrival?
A lot of people come over land and pay people smugglers as they need someone who knows the routs… at the moment we are getting a lot of Afghanistanis across land… some people do fly… in Plymouth there a re a lot of Eritreans… depending where they enter the country they may be put in very temporary accommodation in London and then they will be dispersed to different bits… the people we get have been dispersed to Cardiff where there is a short term hostel…
How long would they have been there?
Not very long,.. 4 weeks 6 weeks then they are dispersed either here… Bristol, Swansea, or sometimes Cardiff city centre… so its all sporadic… in Cardiff they have an induction and health screening and then they are sent here … or other places…
How may people do you get using your services each day
Well we can't always see everyone who comes but … maybe.. 20 people each drop in … but we also do appointments … and we do phone advice… also an important thing is that if someone doesn't speak English we always get an interpreter… which I think we are the only agencies who do that… that's what we guarantee to do… a lot is done on the phone…with the refugee integration work we have to see them after 7 days after they have been notified so sometimes we have to move things around to see them…
8.7 Interview with S.T.A.R.T 18.11.2009
My first question is when did S.T.A.R.T first open?
My understanding is… but you should check this but I believe it started in 2001… I think um… it started with three students on placement and… they might have had space at the civic centre and set it up as an organisation…
And um how often are you open?
We are open 9 till 5 Monday to Friday apart from a cultural kitchen day when the office is still open until 5 but the cultural kitchen runs until 8.30 or 9…
Do you know how many people come to the cultural kitchen?
It does vary hugely um… there are set amounts as well for fire safety… when it's completely choc o'block we have had over a hundred on a quiet kitchen sometimes its about 20…
So it varies from week to week um… often its around 40 50 60 mark
What about cases? How many of those do you have?
Currently at START we have RHSS which is funded through supporting people… which I have here… so I can… probably give you an exact number… at the moment through RHSS contract START has 27 cases and PATHs carrying 10 so total number is 37 cases…. Um… but sometimes we have more cases than others as we roughly follow the academic term so we have less cases over the summer months… then it evens out over the years… we also work with people that we are not funded for and those are called START cases as we have no funding for them and currently we've got 8 …….cases so that's for those still in the asylum process that cant be in the RHSS contract but we wouldn't not work with them… so that's what forms them…
OK… so are you open to house visits or are you situated in your office and the service users come to you?
Um… START was always set up to be an at home service to work in peoples home environments… sometimes that's not appropriate for example if a person is sofa surfing… they are staying with friends… or…maybe they don't want you to visit they are staying somewhere where they don't want you to come then we will meet people in the office but as a general rule we would much rather do home visits as its probably more relaxed and you have a better reaction you want to have a conversation in a place that reflects the truth of peoples circumstances if you're sitting in someone's front room…
Um… was START opened because there was a gap in the agencies in Plymouth was something needed to fill or make a link?
Yes… what START isn't is a statutory service… we are only in Plymouth … this is it… there's nothing else and what were not trying to do Is replicate those statutory services those services are there and they exist… were not trying to copy them or do the same work as them… how I see START is filling the gaps between the services…so sometimes people do need to access social services health services and mainstream services so where people need that we would encourage them to do that but there are lots of huge gaps in the services..um… where I see it is when people are completely supported by UKBA is by the home office and then have to access mainstream services things like the job centre or housing benefit and that space in between.. the two services don't meet up very well… they are completely separate…START fills those gaps well…
And do you work closely with other agencies in Plymouth?
Yes we do.. we work very closely with all agencies we refer into them… they refer into us… and there is also a consortium of organisations that we belong to which is at trustee level…
Do you benefit from that?
Yes…its about sharing information… also looking at funding and joint funding bids… working coherently with other agencies and also if there are things that need to be looked at with … I don't know… the housing to have that in a consortium gives it much more weight…
Do you find you have to compete with other agencies for funding?
Funding is an enormous issue at the moment… I think that… for all agencies in whatever sector for any third sector organisation and RAS probably are not at the top for funding as it's a very political area there is a lot of rhetoric about defending borders and all of that stuff out there with I don't suppose makes it any easier… when STAERT was set up they had quite a sizable amount form the national lottery then they had RHSS contract which now is the main source of funding which will extend for two more years… we are applying to lots of different charities but it's a very competitive world now but we are competing against everything
Do you offer advice in all areas of things for the service users or do you just focus on housing?
Although RHSS is our main funding we are very clear that… we try to look at people holistically … so the every child matters… things like staying safe and having housing and having enough money… its all those bits we cant just look at housing as you have to look at all the other bits like are there support networks… have you got friends… are you well do you need medical services so when we meet people we go through all of those things when we first meet someone to look at the holistically …
Do you provide any goods or food or drink for service users?
There are some agencies within the city that do that for example DCRSC and red cross have extremely good food programs and we refer into them all the time… we don't offer that ourselves… we will help if they are really destitute but that is only a small amount of money… we don't try and do everything for everyone as there are some things that we cant do and other agencies can… things like the food program… we have a very good relationship with them so we can refer clients to them…
Ok, um… is there an opportunity for service users to socialise here?
Yes the social inclusion and social interaction is a key aspects… if you are really isolated its hard… we look at that in case work to see if there are specific things that people want to do if they want to join a group we try to facilitate that… then as an agency we run a cultural kitchen on alternate Fridays and er… an allotment project on a Thursday and a women's only sewing group on a Tuesday and all of those are about the activities… a bit… but its also about meeting And talking and about making friends and to network
And also its about service users taking the lead… people take the lead of the activity… it should all be done collaboratively… the allotment when I first started here was used a lot by asylum seeking women to grow food for their families buy now its used by 4 or 5 men who use it as a space to come and talk as much as anything else
And um are there any areas of Plymouth that have developed into small ghetto areas or is it not like that, are or the houses mixed in so you would know where ASR are living?
Um… asylum properties tend to be…um… because its um… landlords which have contracts with Clearspings and that tend to be in areas of cheaper housing… they tend to be central areas like Keyham and Cattledown sometimes Mutley… when people get status they can then access the private market and people doing that like to be near the city centre…often they cant drive so they want to be somewhere that's walk-able.. if people are going through social housing if you go through homelessness route people can bid on areas that they feel are more appropriate and people do tend to be in a central area… there are areas where a number of hate crimes have been reported…if people say that they have been offered housing in an area that we think maybe there have been a lot of racist incidents we will speak to the police to see if they know about a lot of hate crime in that area…
It is difficult as you can never judge your neighbours
And its hard to say really… I think that some of the older more established housing estates on the edge of Plymouth that are predominantly white are trickier for service users than some of the more central areas um… of Plymouth that perhaps have a greater BMG community but Plymouth city council will be very keen not to have ghettoes or no go areas… I think that would be pretty central to their housing policy
And do you think there is much chance for integration into Plymouth… do you find that refugees stay and they are happy living here?
Yeah again its very variable… um … most people who come want to work… above housing their main goal is that they want to work and work currently in Plymouth is very difficult its difficult all over but there are a lot of people have a sense that Plymouth is harder than other areas but I don't know if that's true or not? Um… a lot of the industries like food factories that traditionally took on a lot of people through short term contracts and it was easy for people to get in often that's peoples first job in a new country have either closed or, there aren't a lot down here there's one or two in Cornwall but not a lot of those kinds of industries so some people will go because they cant find employment…a lot of people will stay which is great particularly families as they have children in schools but again some families will chose to go because for them their particular community is elsewhere maybe they want to join other family members somewhere else or they want to joint a religious community or an ethnic grouping its very variable..I've got no idea about the numbers really… a lot of people will stay but a lot of people will go because they can't find work…
So it varies between each individual case…
Yes it may be easier if you've been here for 10years you might be more established and have friends and the support network and you're more likely to stay ….
Ok um……Do you think Plymouth is open to receiving ASR? Has there been any bad press?
There is racism in Plymouth there is racism in any city I don't know statistically if it is worse in Plymouth than it is in any other city you would have to ask the racial equality council and also some of that will be related to reporting… some cities are better at reporting than others… here we are a reporting centre any we would really encourage anybody who has any to come and report it to us and we would report it to the council and we support people accessing the police and court cases and anything else … yeah there is racism in Plymouth and we work with families all the time who deal with… I was yesterday
Who do experience racism and we would really encourage people to link in with other agencies at that point particularly the race equality council because they are one of their main areas is looking at hate crime
And do the local police respond to this?
Absolutely… I am working with two families at the moment who I have regular meetings with the race equality council and the local police officers in the service users own homes in different parts of the city
Ok and so the council um…… are they welcoming to asylum seekers when they are dispersed here?
Yes… um Plymouth is a dispersal centre with about 500 bed spaces so there are a lot of people coming into the city… uh… it depends on who you get the policies and processes I'm sure are usually there, there is a social inclusion unit interpreters are available… I think there is a training issue there's not an enormous BME community in the city you do find sometimes that front desk workers at housing benefit or the job centre to act in inappropriate ways and if that was in a racist way we would certainly report them and recording them… so I think there is a training issue…
So after 10 years of having the dispersal act things must be settling down… maybe…or not?
Maybe… I think one would hope that and in times of economic stress nationally then… you know… racism comes to the foreground…