ASIRT EMERGENCY APPEAL
Recently we were horrified to read reports of the sexual exploitation of detainees in Yarlswood Detention Centre. Yet, distressing though the reports were, they were in no way surprising.
The appalling treatment described by the people in Yarlswood is the logical conclusion of an immigration system in which people are routinely dehumanised, brutalised and demonised.
This year alone, we have witnessed cuts to legal aid which have effectively taken all immigration work out of the scope of public funding. The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, proposes further cuts, introducing a 'residence test', and preventing organisations such as ASIRT from bringing cases on behalf of others.
The consequences of these cuts, for many individuals and families, are potentially little short of disastrous. Without money, it is little short of impossible to secure justice.
And so people come to us quite simply because there is nowhere else for them to go. As one of our service users, Garth Williams, has written:
'I initially went to ASIRT for help with an application based on the reintroduced seven year concession, as my child is almost ten years of age and knows no life outside of the UK. I was struggling because I was out of work (and couldn't legally get employment) to find the money to pay for the application. I was feeling bewildered and was not sure how to go forward.
'During what I could consider one of the worst periods of my life the ASIRT team were there to offer unwavering support, advice and a concerned ear to all my issues.
'They have helped us with our immigration issues and have also helped to sort out our living arrangements. We were previously on the verge of becoming homeless.
'Without ASIRT I do not know what would have happened to me and my family. They have helped to change our circumstances positively and are continuing to support us.'
ASIRT has made an application to the Home Office to regularise the Williams family's immigration status. Garth's son has special educational needs which could not be met in his country of origin. Transplanting him from the only environment he has ever known, and which he has come to regard as home, would cause him severe distress.
We have also - following the initiation of Judicial Review action - persuaded the appropriate Local Authority to house and support this family while the Home Office is considering the application. This family's situation has changed immeasurably for the better since coming to see us- as happens every year with hundreds of similarly desperate and vulnerable individuals and families.
And we know very well that, if we don't fight for such families' basic rights, there are few others who will.
Yet ASIRT's own future as an organisation is not secure. We are finding it increasingly difficult to secure the funding which makes it possible for us to help those in frequently desperate need and there is a very real risk that, without sustainable financial support, the organisation will close.
We are grateful to Garth for taking notice of this, and for starting up an emergency appeal to help us with our shortfall, and to make sure that we can carry on fighting for the rights of those people our immigration and justice systems seek to deny.
Please help us - and Garth, and many, many more - if you possibly can.