In response to the Independent Family Returns Panel Annual Report published today, Refugee Action Chief Executive Dave Garratt, said:
“As the national independent charity delivering the Choices Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) Service, we broadly welcome the Panel’s recommendations to better safeguard the welfare of parents and their children during what is a very traumatic time in their lives.
In particular, Refugee Action urges the Panel to go further in its commitment to improve the returns process by allowing families the opportunity to feed in additional information.
It is essential that families are able to constructively engage with the Panel’s decision making process. This includes the right to provide supporting evidence and to call into question any inaccuracies in the information submitted by the UKBA.
To ensure that the process is fair and transparent, documentation sent to the Panel by UKBA must be shared with the family and their legal representative, allowing sufficient time to review it in advance of the Panel’s meeting.
However, we firmly reject any pressure to ‘persuade’ asylum seeking families to return to their country of origin. It is unethical and ineffective to coerce families into returning and would only serve to undermine the integrity of our service. We strongly uphold the principle that AVR should remain truly voluntary in both policy and practice.
We also believe that the UK Border Agency must urgently address the credibility gaps in the asylum process if families’ confidence and trust in the system is to be fully restored. The reality is that claiming asylum in this country continues to be a confusing, challenging and complex process.
Research conducted by Refugee Action with more than 100 asylum seeking families earlier this year highlights that lack of confidence in the asylum system means AVR is sometimes perceived as a means of enforcement without due regard for protection needs, thereby reducing the numbers of individuals considering voluntary return.
For many of the parents that Refugee Action supports, the pressures of parenting coupled with the task of navigating the asylum system has a huge impact on their wellbeing, and ability to make an informed decision about their options, including voluntary return.
Through Choices AVR, our trained caseworkers provide confidential, non-directive advice and support which allows families to make their own decision about whether to return to their home countries or not. It is vital that the facts and realities of people’s situation are transparently set out to them so that they can make a fully informed decision.
It is also clear that it would be to the detriment of the families involved, the AVR programme and UKBA if a policy of persuasion were to be involved in any way in this process.
Refugee Action looks forward to working with other agencies in the sector so that parents are supported to make an informed and independent decision which is in the best interests for them and their children”.
For more information please contact Press & PR Officer, Antony Watson, on 020 7952 1530 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to Editors:
- Refugee Action is an independent, national charity that has been standing up for refugee rights for more than thirty years. We provide practical advice and assistance for newly arrived asylum seekers and offer long-term commitment to their resettlement through community development work. As one of the leading agencies in the field, Refugee Action pioneers partnerships with refugees through social action projects to build stronger and safer communities across the UK. Last year, we provided impartial advice and support to more than 30,000 individuals through our national network of advice centres. For more information, please visit: www.refugee-action.org.uk
- Refugee Action runs the Choices AVR Service available to individuals considering assisted voluntary return. The programme is funded by the UK Border Agency and the European Return Fund. As a charity we operate entirely independently from both of these agencies, providing confidential, independent and non-directive advice for people seeking assistance from us. For more information, please visit: www.choices-avr.org.uk
- To download a copy of the Independent Family Returns Panel Annual Report, please visit:www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/aboutus/reports/ifrp-report/