Julita Sakowska from Care4Calais - 3 October 2022 Meeting Highlights - Sutton Amnesty
Julita introduced herself as Ops Manager for Care4Calais and described their work, providing a number of statistics and answering questions from the Group.
Care4Calais works primarily in the UK and France (also in Belgium), giving support to refugees and asylum seekers both in the camps and in the UK. This involves giving access to the legal support needed to negotiate the asylum application, practical support with food, clothes, blankets and accommodation as well as moral support. Care4Calais was founded in 2015 when Clare Moseley visited the 'Calais Jungle' for refugees and witnessed first hand the conditions in which they were living.
Julita made a number of comments referencing the arguments made against asylum seekers and contrasted these with the reality of the situation. For example:
- everyone heads for the UK because we are a 'soft touch'; not true - only 6% of refugees in Europe aim for the UK (Germany and Sweden take far more per capita than the UK)
- the reference to 'illegal migrants' implies there are other routes for 'legal' applications; there aren't
- 'most applications are bogus'; not true c70% of applications succeed at the first attempt and of those rejected c50% are successful on appeal. So c85% of applications ultimately succeed
There are still 83,000 pending asylum applications [think a full Twickenham stadium].
An excellent, more detailed, summary of these points is on the Care4Calais website here: https://care4calais.org/the-refugee-crisis/
Julita also referenced:
- asylum seekers being imprisoned;
- phones (a vital means for staying in touch with families and support) being confiscated;
- waits for consideration of initial applications in excess of a year
- people being moved around at almost no notice and unable to take all their belongings
- some not receiving legal support
- the single biggest challenge being mental health problems and a system with nowhere near sufficient capacity to address these.
Our Secretary briefly summarised the work of Refugee and Migrant Network Sutton (RMNS). RMNS' main objective is to support the integration of refugees and migrants within Sutton. This is done through advice work on Immigration, benefits and access to schooling, health and other support networks. RMNS volunteers also provide teaching of English, a One2One service giving individual support, craft courses and an International Coffee Club.
The Group thanked Julita for her insightful and informative talk.
Dr Mohamed al-Roken (our UAE prisoner of conscience)
Our Chair and Lyndon (our case manager for Dr al-Roken) are part of the AIUK UAE local groups forum campaigning on behalf of Dr al-Roken and other UAE 94 members. The forum is leading to a more coordinated effort on behalf of Dr al-Roken and Ahmed Mansoor (the two of the UAE 94 adopted as Prisoners of Conscience by Amnesty).
Our Chair went through some aspects from their meetings. The plan to use 'keys' made of card to be sent or communicate the issue to the UAE and more widely is progressing. The Manchester Amnesty group held a session in Manchester Central Library at which members of the public signed keys. Keys are being sent to the UAE embassy in London.
Lyndon is preparing letters to be sent to our local MPs and local councillors.
The group tweeted extensively on behalf of Ahmed Mansoor on 22 October, his birthday. Amnesty's International Secretariat recently released a statement expressing concern that Ahmed has been kept in solitary confinement for five and a half years.
Our Secretary covered three cases at the meeting
- Ahmad Manasra (Israel) - Ahmad, a Palestinian, was convicted for a crime which occurred when he was below the internationally advised minimum age for criminal responsibility. Although courts found that he was not involved in the incident he was nevertheless convicted of attempted murder. He has been diagnosed with serious psychological conditions yet returned to solitary confinement after hospitalisation when his mental health condition became 'life threatening'. He has also passed the normal period for parole and is considered to be at risk of further mental health crises. His continued detention constitutes torture. We are asking for his immediate release and access to full and proper health care in the community.
- Request to reinstate 57 judges and prosecutors summarily dismissed (Tunisia) The Tunisian President has summarily dismissed, in line with a recent power given to himself by himself, 57 judges and prosecutors on a variety of dubious grounds including obstructing terrorism investigations, moral/financial corruption, adultery and attendance at alcohol-fuelled parties. The Tunis Administrative Tribunal has ruled that 49 of the 57 should be reinstated. This ruling is not subject to appeal yet the judges have not been reinstated. The Ministry of Justice has responded by saying the judges are subject to criminal proceedings yet not given any details of these charges. We are asking for their immediate reinstatement on full pay.
- Abdelmoniem Aboulfotoh (Egypt) - AA is a former presidential candidate imprisoned by the current President al-Sisi for remarks which were critical of al-Sisi. AA is extremely ill, having suffered four heart attacks in July and August of this year, is believed to have been kept in solitary confinement without a bed and his life is clearly at risk. We are asking that he be released immediately given his imprisonment is for exercising human rights and that, pending release, he receives support for his health conditions in line with international standards.
Role of Amnesty UK Country Coordinators (CCs)
Our Chair gave a brief summary of their role
- all are volunteers
- there are about 50 country coordinators and Amnesty splits the world into 13 regions (so typically about four coordinators per regions most of whom cover more than one country);
- it is the International Secretariat that does the research on individual cases;
- CCs choose the cases to forward to local groups and so act as a conduit between them and the IS
Our Chair has been doing this on behalf of the group for about a year and reported that over this period we had tweeted or retweeted over 1000 times. Our main subjects covered were the UAE and Mohamed al-Roken, Iran (extensively recently following the death of Mahsa Amini), Russia (the invasion of Ukraine), Egypt (Alaa Abdel Fattah) and China (treatment of Uyghurs).