New Nick Broomfield film calls on MPs to help change UK policy making refused asylum seekers destitute

A campaigning film with a difference opens in parliament on Tuesday 4 December. Still Human Still Here: The Destitution of Refused Asylum Seekers, produced by Nick Broomfield for Amnesty International, has one audience in mind: parliamentarians.

The 13-minute film, shot by Nick Broomfield’s son Barney and directed by Marc Hoeferlin, shows the destitution suffered by refused asylum seekers denied support or the right to work in the UK, but unable to return to unsafe home countries

It’s aim is to convince MPs of the need for policy change to stop such destitution. The film has been shown at the Labour Party Conference and Amnesty is now asking constituents to order a DVD copy from their website ( www.amnesty.org.uk/asylum ) and show it to their MP.

Nick Broomfield said:

“I was really attracted to a project that has such a small and important target audience. This is a film aimed at changing minds in Whitehall and Westminster, and for Amnesty’s activists to take to their local MP to show them what’s happening and why they need to do something about it. I just hope it works.

“The way that refused asylum seekers are being treated in this country is disgusting. I could hardly believe what I read in Amnesty’s report – that our government is basically trying to starve people into submission and force them out of the country when they’re terrified of returning home.”

Amnesty is part of Still Human Still Here, a coalition of refugee agencies, human rights organisations and church groups campaigning to end destitution for refused asylum seekers until they are granted leave to remain in the UK or can return home safely.

The film features real-life case studies talking about their experiences of sleeping rough, scavenging for food and depending on hand-outs to clothe themselves.

It tells the story of Afshin, a 36-year-old Iranian man who arrived in the UK 12 years ago after fleeing to escape the threat of persecution. He had a long history of opposition to the Iranian regime and was imprisoned and beaten many times before leaving the country. Once his asylum claim was refused and his appeal dismissed, his financial support and accommodation were stopped.

With no money for food, clothes or shelter, Afshin lived on the streets, sleeping rough or in launderettes or the back of a pizza shop, sometimes eating from rubbish bins. Afshin has had many health problems, but destitute refused asylum-seekers are only able to access hospital medical care for emergency treatment or any treatment they were receiving during their asylum claim. Afshin has twice attempted suicide.

Amnesty’s UK Refugee Programme Director Jan Shaw said:

“This is a new route for us, producing a campaigning film with such an acclaimed director. It was also an insight into film-making for me – it’s a long and sometimes painful process. But at the end of it, having something concrete and professional that our supporters can show their MPs is a great help to the campaign.

“Some of the interviews were deeply upsetting – people are desperate and some are profoundly depressed. It certainly confirmed to me just why we are fighting this campaign: using destitution to starve people into returning to an unsafe home country is inhumane. It is to our shame that people are deliberately made hungry and homeless in a prosperous country like the UK.”

Marc Hoeferlin, who directed the film, said:

"Spending time and meeting people in this situation, it became very apparent that each case and story is as different and varied as the places they come from. I was amazed at how dignified and good-humoured the people I met were, even in this abject poverty.”

Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council and who is chairing the launch said:

“The policy of deliberate destitution is both inhumane and ineffective. If people can’t return home, they should be given the means to live until they are either able to return safely, or granted leave to remain here.

“This film is an important contribution to the Still Human Still Here campaign, which is fighting to end this appalling treatment of very vulnerable people.”

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