Community Care‘s campaign for 2003 urging a fair deal for
refugees and asylum seekers was launched to the media and social
care decision-makers in London last week.
At the launch, editor Polly Neate said: “Community Care has chosen
to campaign about asylum because there is deep concern among those
who work with asylum seekers and refugees about the way they are
portrayed and the increasingly punitive approach of asylum policy.”
The campaign was launched at the Refugee Council’s Brixton centre,
which provides a one-stop service for between 200 and 300 asylum
seekers each day, including advice, food, support and English
Head of policy Alison Fenney said the charity was supporting the
campaign because it was “very easy to get disheartened working in
the field, feeling that you are struggling against the tide”.
“But things can change, and do change,” she added, highlighting the
controversial voucher system, under which asylum seekers received
restrictive tokens to buy food and essential items until it was
scrapped after 18 months of lobbying.
Fenney said the media was a “powerful tool” in altering public
perceptions. In the late 1990s, she said she was often faced with
questions from the public over her work. Yet during the war in
Kosova, when the whole atmosphere towards asylum seekers changed,
she said she “became Mother Theresa overnight”.
“The people hadn’t changed. What had changed was how people are
portrayed,” she said. “That is why this campaign is vital because
the Refugee Council can bang on about the issues, but we need other
mainstream organisations to pick up these issues too.”
The campaign was also welcomed by children’s charity the Children’s
Society, which works with child asylum seekers. Policy and practice
manager Alison Harvey said there was an urgent need to counteract
the negative media because headlines had a direct impact on
children, adding: “Hostile press can quite simply be a fist in
someone’s face in a school playground.”
Adding his support, Sudanese refugee Deng Yai said: “It is
important to seek, discover and reveal the truth – the whole
The campaign was first revealed to Community Care readers
at a presentation at last month’s Community Care LIVE.