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Maintaining hope and solidarity in the face of hostile rhetoric

This month, we have witnessed the impacts of increasingly hostile rhetoric from this administration and therefore wanted to explore this issue and its outcomes with you. Today, as we stand facing further cruel, costly and unworkable policy, we also wanted to share how our community is responding; and how you can practically turn your compassion into action.

Recently, we have seen a wave of far right and anti-migrant protests targeting hotels which are housing people seeking asylum. Notably in Merseyside, where protestors clashed with the police, setting a police van on fire, whilst brandishing hammers and fireworks.

A week later, there was another rally outside a hotel in Rotherham which, again, housed asylum seekers. However, this time they were outnumbered, 10 to 1, by counter-protesters there to support the residents of the hotels and share messages of support.

Why are people being housed in ‘home office hotels’?

The number of people waiting for an asylum decision has increased by 408% since December 2017. It is now at a record high of over 160,000 people. The reason for this asylum backlog is twofold. Firstly, there was an increase in arrivals. Secondly, and more importantly, the Home Office has massively reduced the amount of aslyum desisions it makes. In the whole of 2022 they only managed to make 18,999 decisions on asylum claims, leaving people reliant on asylum support and living in limbo for years.

A failure to address the growing backlog of asylum cases and a failure to provide community housing has meant that growing numbers of asylum seekers have been offered “contingency accommodation” which includes hotels or B&Bs.

Why are we seeing a rise in anti-migrant protests?

Hotels have provided an easy target for the far right. How the Home Office have managed this accommodation (at short notice with little local consultation and high costs) has created local concerns, which far right groups have latched onto and stirred up to inflame tensions.

However, there are other factors which hold responsibility in producing and supporting recent far- right activities. Hostile language, often combining migration with criminality, used by politicians and the mainstream media fuels animosity and division. Media representations matter, they play a crucial role in producing either public support or hostility for people seeking sanctuary. Suella’s language of invasion can be seen to be directly replicated on a far-right banner seen at the Rotherham protest, which read “End the invasion. Stop Immigration”. However, as seen yesterday in the latest migration bill, the chaotic and costly broken asylum system is of the governments own making.

What we are calling for:

At City of Sanctuary Sheffield, we are working on practical ways to fight this narrative and share our vision of hope.

  • 180 organisations, including City of Sanctuary Sheffield, have signed an open letter calling for political leaders to take a clear stand and condemn any further violence against those who come here to find safety.
  • We will continue working with local politicians and media outlets to hold them to account on their use of language as we work to create safety and welcome for people seeking sanctuary in Sheffield and across the UK.
  • We will continue campaigning for a long term plan from the Government to provide suitable community-based accommodation for people seeking asylum and for action to be taken to address the backlogs which trap people in unsuitable, isolating and unsafe accommodation where they become targets for hate.

Actions you can take:

Sign and share symaag’s petition which calls upon Sheffield City Council to “take action on migrant and asylum seeker rights”.

Organise. We are stronger together and there is a place for everyone in this movement. You can:

  • Volunteer (at City of Sanctuary Sheffield or with one of these other incredible organisations in Sheffield)
  • Donate and help us continue to step up and support people seeking sanctuary navigate these difficult times.
  • Follow as we continue to share more opportunities that everyone can get involved in.

Learn and share. The conversations you have with the people around you are vital in creating compassion and understanding about these issues. Through these newsletters we will share more of what we are reading, watching and listening to.

  • Some simple facts about the current asylum statistics
  • 6 powerful truths about the UKs asylum system
  • An excellent analysis by Colin Yeo on the latest quarterly immigration statistics, exploring the reasons behind the aslyum backlog

In solidarity,