Mike Ash-Edwards (Oxfam's NW Area Campaigns Manager) introduced the Cut Conflict Campaign by stating that 84% of war casualties are civilians. Other s peakers included: Gaafer Abbaker Aii (GM Sudanese Community) who spoke about the experiences of refugees in this country; and Geraldine Terry (Oxfam U K Poverty Programme) who outlined problems faced by those seeking asylum in the UK.
The refugee community would like more assistance from the British people to enable them to be independent in this country. They need assurances that the British Government is trying to bring about an alteration to the situation in their homeland; is pressing for more democracy in the refugee's home country; and is trying to put an end to forceful displacements by governments of other countries. Campaigns like the anti-landmine campaign and Oxfam's Cut Conflict Campaign are seen as very encouraging by the refugee community.
Britain has a good history for taking asylum seekers and indeed an obligation to do so. However, the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 states that unles s the individual seeking asylum does so as soon as they step onto British soil they are not entitled to benefits such as Income Support. People who ar e refused asylum can appeal but this can take (on average) 19 months, during which time the asylum seeker is still unable to claim benefits.
Asylum seekers may be placed in detention in this country. Approximately 800 asylum seekers are at the moment being detained, of these some 200 are be ing detained in prisons. There is no time limit for detention and they do not need to be given a reason.
Oxfam is currently working with voluntary groups that are providing practical support to Britain's asylum seekers, and also with agencies such as the Refugee Council in order to highlight the important issues of detention and benefit entitlement.
Esther Douglas/Vincent Goodridge, Central Manchester Oxfam Campaigns Group (0161 228 6273)