Asylum Seekers Support and Response
c/o The Methodist Mission,
Chair’s Report for AGM, 8/2/12
Asylum Seekers Support and Response (ASSURE) was set up in January 2011 with the primary aim of seeking to offer support to asylum seekers whose initial claims for asylum have not been successful and who therefore face destitution. An additional target group are those asylum seekers who have applied for government support under Section 4 of current legislation, but are waiting until it becomes available. From the beginning ASSURE has sought to partner with other organisations in Huddersfield who work with asylum seekers.
Our first venture was a conversation club at the premises of Cultures United in St Patrick’s Centre. This was reasonably successful for a while, but tended to attract overseas students and refugees with immigration status rather than members of the target group. When Cultures United closed the conversation club moved to the Methodist Mission, but the second floor location of the room meant that many were unable to find it, and after a while the decision was taken to close it down. However, attempts are currently being made in to relaunch it at St Thomas’ Church on Manchester Road.
The other early focus of ASSURE was a proposal to open a night shelter for asylum seekers in the former church school in Kirkheaton, but it met with the opposition of some local residents, and after a public meeting at the end of May it was decided not to continue with this project. Our thanks are due to the Revd Richard Steel, Rector of Kirkheaton for his active support and encouragement in all this.
After this the work turned to establishing a hosting scheme. A number of people willing to offer overnight emergency accommodation to homeless asylum seekers were recruited. A hosting application form, together with an explanatory manual, was written, and training meetings were arranged. Referrals were sought from KASS in order to ensure a degree of vetting before hosts were asked to accommodate specific individuals. To date hosting has been arranged for two people.
A management committee consisting of the chair, secretary and treasurer and, at most, 2 or 3 other people, has been meeting regularly. Members of the committee have brought a great deal of experience of working with asylum seekers over a number of years. Thanks are due to the committee for their tireless enthusiasm and hard work, particularly Tony Bowers our secretary and Lucy Lucy the first treasurer of ASSURE. At the beginning we had the valuable help of Steve Perkins and his knowledge of business matters. His death earlier in the year was a sad loss to us, and we extend our sympathy to his family. We have also valued the experience and knowledge offered to us by Pedro Fuentes, and in addition would like to acknowledge gratefully the contributions of Ros Walters and Emma Bedeau. Bill Dennis has also been a strong supporter of what we are trying to do. We also give special thanks to Robert Spooner from ASSIST in Sheffield for his valuable advice and support.
We have been grateful for the financial support and encouragement of the Co-operative Movement. Financial contributions have also been received from Kirklees Council. We also thank the Methodist Mission for the use of their premises.
In spite of the inherent difficulties and limitations involved in the development of the new organisation, compounded by an increasingly hostile environment resulting from both the government’s policy on asylum and the media -including the local media – we are pleased with what we have managed to achieve so far. We will continue in our mission of making a real contribution to the welfare of asylum seekers in Huddersfield, with the help and support of others working in the same field. In 2012 we anticipate increasing our supporters’ base and developing a flourishing hosting scheme. Thank you for attending this AGM tonight and we look forward to your continued support and active participation in the work of ASSURE in the coming year.
Chair of ASSURE