This report provides a brief introduction to Manchester Migrant Solidarity (MiSol) and African Rainbow Family (ARF) and an overview of the work the organisations have carried out in 2020. It describes the impact that MiSol/ARF’s work has had on its Members and what has been learned from this.
The report has been written by an independent consultant, Sophie Ahmad, with support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. It draws on interviews with MiSol/ARF’s Founder and six of its nine Coordinators/Assistant Coordinators, and on a discussion group with 14 other Members (from MiSol in Manchester and ARF’s four branches in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and London).
This is the first time that MiSol/ARF have produced an impact and learning report and the first time that Members have been invited to share their perspectives as part of an independent process. It is hoped that this report will be of interest to Members of MiSol/ARF, and their partners and funders. Although this has been a relatively brief, limited, exercise, it is hoped that it will prove useful in informing future approaches to evaluation and learning at both organisations.
An Aspen Card, as described by Privacy International “is a debit payment card given to UK asylum seekers [people seeking asylum] by the Home Office. The Aspen Card provides basic subsistence support, but purchases on the card are closely monitored by the Home Office, making it an insidious surveillance tool.”
I believe that changes should not be made if there is going to be major failures. I liken the changes made to the Aspen card by the Home Office to the COVID-19 vaccine. Trials are made but the vaccine is not used immediately until there is 99% confidence in its success rate. With the Home Office Aspen cards, the opposite is the case.
On 21 May 2021, the Home Office basically introduced the change from one Aspen card provider, Sodexo to another, Prepaid Financial Services (PFS) and did not trial it to see how effective it would be. Instead, PFS issued cards en mass to people seeking asylum. This seemed like a trial and is failing in all ramifications.
I would like to reiterate that most people seeking asylum in the United Kingdom are given £39.63 a week as subsistence and also not allowed to work till their case is determined. This could take years. The £39 a week subsistence is not enough to cover basic needs. Now most people seeking asylum have not received the new Aspen cards. Where some have received them, there is no money in them. Some of these cards are being sent to wrong addresses or recipients.
Charities such as African Rainbow Family and other organisations are being overburdened with this issue. These Charities are speaking out but as usual, just like the demands to increase the support, this demand is being kept in a waiting list or queue with the rest of our demands.
“I call this inhumane because we should call a spade a spade. I am calling for the Home Office to look into this immediately!“
You can make a donation towards food parcels for people seeking asylum here.
A big thank you to African Rainbow Family and other organisations that are supporting people seeking asylum with food parcels. I do urge people to support by raising their voices, donating and so on.
You can make a donation towards food parcels for people seeking asylum here.
We are recruiting for new Trustees to join our Trustee Board!
African Rainbow Family (ARF) is a small registered charity (registration number 1185902) that support LGBTIQ people of African heritage and the wider Black Asian Minority Ethnic groups. ARF was established in 2014 in the wake of some Commonwealth countries in Africa’s toxic and draconian anti-gay laws which seek to criminalise LGBTIQs for the preference of whom they choose to love. ARF provides practical support for LGBTIQ refugees and people seeking asylum and campaigns for global LGBTIQ equality.
We need experienced members of the public to join our existing Board. We are particularly keen to recruit members who have one or more of the following skills:
Experience of managing a growing and dynamic independent organisation
Financial management – able to act as our treasurer.
Experience of managing press and publicity.
Experience in a secretarial role.
For further details please click here or below for the Trustee’s Advert
Position 1 title:Support Services Manager – Refugee Support
Salary: GBP 25,000 per annum depending on experience.
Position category/type: Migrant & Refugee Services
Date posted: 10/05/2021
Application closing date: 04/06/2021
Interview date: Week beginning 14/06/2021
Location: African Rainbow Family’s (ARF) and Manchester
Contract type: Permanent and Full Time One year fixed term with possibility of
extension depending on funding availability
Full Time: 37.5 hours per week
Location: African Rainbow Family’s (ARF) and Manchester
Migrant Solidarity’s (MiSol) offices are based in The Monastery, Gorton Lane, Manchester. M12 5WF, ARF has meeting centres in Birmingham, Leeds, London and Cardiff which requires monthly travel to each branch. Currently, all ARF’s and MiSol’s Staff and volunteers are working from home due to Covid-19. A mix of working at home and/or the office is likely for the foreseeable future. When face-to-face service delivery resumes, there might be occasional travel outside of Manchester and these meeting centres with plenty of notice.
We offer a wide range of staff benefits, these include:
• 23 days holiday (including Bank Holidays)
• Up to 8% contributory pension
• Flexible working policy – online/remote due to Covid-19
If this is you, click the job application pack below to apply.
Hours: 17.5 hours per week (Wednesday to Friday times to be agreed)
Appointment: 1 year fixed term contract with possibility of extension depending on funding availability
Pension: NEST pension scheme
Reporting to: ARF Support Services Manager and ARF Trustees
Location: Manchester with some travel including to partner meetings
Post Summary We are looking for a Part Time Funding Officer working 17.5 hours a week, to join our small and dynamic team. The post holder will lead on building our grant income from trusts, foundations and relevant pots of funding, using their strong fundraising and communication skills to ensure that our team have the resources they need to make a difference in the lives of LGBT+ refugees and people seeking asylum. You will join a friendly team and working with our Media and Fundraising Volunteer and Support Services Manager.
The core of this role:
Work with our team and Media and Fundraising Volunteer to identify funding priorities.
Build relationships with new and existing funders.
Write and coordinate applications for funds.
Ensure grants are managed effectively and reporting to funders is on point.
If this is you, click the job application pack below to apply.
For explanation purposes, seeking asylum means seeking protection from strict laws, death penalties, inhumane laws and maybe wars.
The asylum system which was designed literally to protect every now and then, seeks to go against the main purpose it was created for. I will explain how.
As a lesbian woman who has to prove that I am a lesbian in order to get protection here in the United Kingdom (UK), I have to provide evidence of my sexuality. How is it expected that someone running from a homophobic country and who has been in the closet for most of her life, to give evidence of that.
Also disclosing information about the women that one must have dated in hiding or even asking them for letters and/or any evidence to corroborate one’s story is in fact a security breach.
Some of us who are out or were outed, move out to enjoy the LGBT scene by going to pride, gay bars, speaking up against homophobia, racism and discrimination and it is no longer a secret. It means that if one ever goes back to one’s own country of origin, that person is risking their life.
Some people think that putting ourselves out there might just be for the asylum process but no, it is like getting out of prison and wanting to do everything that one could not do when in chains.
That is how an LGBT person seeking asylum feels in a country where they can be themselves even though the asylum process makes it hard for one to enjoy that.
The new rules, that are about to kick off are extremely difficult and absurd. They include:
Housing people seeking asylum in reception centres, potentially overseas, while their asylum claims are being processed.
Moving those refused asylum through a fast-tracked appeals process and curtailing the right to challenge refusal decisions.
Requiring all evidence to be submitted at the beginning of the asylum process, telling judges to “give weight” to evidence raised alter and requiring a higher standard of proof for these.
“Clarifying” what qualifies as a “well founded fear of persecution” and making it “much harder” for people to be granted refugee status based on “unsubstantiated” claims.
I wonder what intent Priti Patel, The Secretary of State for the Home Department, actually has for the future of the asylum system because it is not to protect anymore but to refuse protection.
Keeping people seeking asylum in reception centres is not safe especially for an LGBT person. More especially for a gay man, transgender, lesbian woman etc.
Already there have been complaints about abuse in the asylum housing system. Imagine how it would then be like in reception centres that might not actually be in the country that one has put in one’s asylum application for protection.
The idea of “requiring all evidence to be submitted at the beginning of the asylum process, telling judges to give “minimal weight” to evidence raised later and requiring a higher standard of proof” is impractical and outright wicked to say the least because it means as an LGBT person seeking asylum, if you do not have a proof of your sexuality from the start then you are not valid and could be turned away.
Let us be practical here, a lesbian woman from Nigeria or Ghana who is obviously running for her life or has been in hiding, dating a woman behind closed doors and looking for a way out, puts in her asylum application and is asked for evidence from the start when all she has is her story and stories of the homophobic laws in her country which can easily be found on the internet. How can she provide proof of same-sex personal relationships?
How unfair is it to this lesbian because sometimes even with all the proof and letters, one still gets their asylum application refused.
These proposals are so harsh and inhumane. When I look at the future of the asylum process for people like me who might want to live their lives devoid of fear, and if these proposals are passed it will become very difficult. It will in fact not be an asylum system that protects but a system that is toxic, blind to justice and human rights and/or lives.
I ask that people look into the different Home Office asylum proposals. Not just the ones that I spoke about but also the ones that stop children from uniting with their families. Speak up against these laws, show support and love for people in the asylum process because news like this can be heart breaking.
“Personally, it means a lot to me because knowing that my queerness exists past and present gives me so much relevance. It means that I am not alone and it gives me strength to become more of myself. Knowing history adds to my relevance, as a queer woman seeking asylum, it is from reading about women like Audre Lorde that I gain strength in who I am. I am not ashamed, I am empowered just by knowing my queerness exist past and present.”
“LGBT History Month to me, is to remember those without rights. To remember how we got rights. Raise awareness about historical and current progress and challenges for LGBTQ+ people.To support those raising awareness of sexual orientation and gender identity, equality and diversity. To learn how to change the world. To remember how far we’ve come, even recently.
Nadim reminds us that Winston Churchill famously said: “History is written by the victors.”
“The women I celebrate this month are Marsha P Johnson, Audre Lorde and Anne Lister. I choose these women because I see little parts of myself in them. I see the courage I am still hoping to build from them. I see my future in them. Learning from past heroes means looking at their strengths and finding ways to make yours. I want to be outspoken and bold as Marsha. I want to be confident and be a warrior like Audre and I want to live openly and document all my Sapphic encounters just like Anne Lister.” Vanessa continues.
“History isn’t something you look back at and say it was inevitable, it happens because people make decisions that are sometimes very impulsive and of the moment, but those moments are cumulative realities.” Marsha P Johnson.
“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.” -Audre Lorde.
“I know my own heart and understand my fellow man. But I am made unlike anyone I have ever met. I dare to say I am like no one in the whole world.” Anne Lister.
The above are my favourite quotes from my heroes and I hope it speaks to you. We can only write our history if we speak up. Document your life, do not be erased,do not be silent. For every closeted person there is an out person who lives an exemplary life for you to learn from. It doesn’t mean you have to come out, it means that you are not alone and you can be happy. This is what LGBT history means to me. Vanessa says.
On 5th October 2020, our own Nadim Uddin, African Rainbow Family‘s member and Media Coordinator delivered a presentation on behalf of African Rainbow Family to the National Emergencies Trust (NET)’s Equity Scrutiny Group (‘ESG’). The presentation was held on Zoom and based on ensuring that the ESG works to ensure swift, fair and equitable disbursal of funds during the Covid-19 crisis from a local perspective.
Nadim presented to the ESG, the impacts of Covid-19 on LGBTIQ people seeking asylum including those that are not LGBTIQ. He presented African Rainbow Family’s emergency and ongoing response to our over 500 members across the United Kingdom. He also suggested what actions should be taken to reach, support all people seeking asylum especially during this pandemic and on the longer term.
“The virus does not discriminate, and neither should we.”
The NET said:
“The ESG needs to know the impact of Covid-19 across the country (each nation has a different response), the structural/systemic issues and impacts on communities (each country has different policies, procedures and law), issues for the Covid-19 recovery and, longer-term, what are the likely issues we will need to consider if there is an emergency like a significant flood in Cumbria or Scotland or another bomb attack, like Manchester.”
Nadim co-presented to the ESG with Paul Roberts OBE, Chief Executive Officer of LGBT Consortium.Paul presented from the national perspective. Feedback from the ESG was positive.
A member of African rainbow Family says:
“I don’t demand much, just enough to survive.’’
Consider donating to support our life-saving work with LGBTIQ people seeking asylum.
On 30th April 2020, African Rainbow Family made a Submission To Women and Equalities Committee on Unequal Impact: Coronavirus (Covid-19) and the impact on people with protected characteristics as it affects LGBTIQ people seeking asylum. You can read our recommendations to the Women and Equalities Select Committee here.
The inequalities affecting Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, which our members are part of, have been shockingly and brutally laid bare in the UK with the publication of the study by The Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre into Covid-19 deaths, revealing the pandemic disproportionately impacts BAME communities. Yet the reasons behind this, social inequality, lack of equity and racial discrimination are still overlooked by many. People seeking asylum are not allowed to work, they live on £5.39 a day and have a range of added inequalities of social isolation, lack of housing, finance and access to healthcare. LGBTIQ people seeking asylum are in particularly, hardest hit.
Self isolating, observing the government’s guidelines of stay home, save life and save the NHS in those shared accommodations has been negatively impactful on our members’ mental health and wellbeing given the amount of homophobia they are subjected to on a daily basis. The following was a quote from TH, one of our members:
“I don’t know how I am going to survive this! My other housemates always make homophobic comments at me whenever I pass through the communal areas. They usually say: it is because of these gay people that God is punishing the whole world and causing this unimaginable number of deaths. I wish for these gays to be struck down by lightening.” Says TH, member, African Rainbow Family.
African Rainbow Family takes the health and safety of our members and the population at large very seriously. We encourage our members to keep safe and healthy at home. We urge the Home Office to consider increasing the amount of weekly subsistence for LGBTIQ and non LGBTIQ people seeking asylum urgently during this Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. Some deaths can arise out of hunger and inadvertently counted as due to Covid-19.
Finally, there is need for the government to make a statement to address homophobic attacks upon LGBTIQ people seeking asylum in Home Office shared accommodations to avoid some of them becoming homeless or having suicidal ideation.
You can read our recommendations to the Women and Equalities Select Committee here.
They say your life begins when you find yourself because then you see your path clearly but is finding yourself easy?
I’d call that a rhetorical question because nothing on the surface of the earth is easy. Growing up wasn’t easy, In fact I had the type of childhood you would see in the Willoughby’s but not that it ended in me rescuing my parents lolz.
When you grow up in a family that’s all about reputation, religion, education you automatically want to do everything to be that or fix that box even when you were made to stand out. Everyone who knew me from way back knows I wasn’t like the other girls, I was a tomboy or girl boy like they call it and it wasn’t that I wanted to be a man and get all the girls, I just loved dressing up like that, with no makeup I was comfortable that way. Under that whole tomboy I was the most feminine woman you can imagine with hips I couldn’t escape lol … To be honest I’d never trade my hips or bum for anything and no, it’s not for a man. I mostly wore shirts, trainers and trousers and when I wore a skirt I still looked like a tomboy.
Talking about being a tomboy, there was a point in my life where I would get angry if you called me that partly because I had not accepted that I love women and because of the stereotype. My excuse would be I grew up with imaginary boys around and I adopted their behaviour and style well I mostly had boys around me but it wasn’t because of them. I just was a tomboy. If I ever looked at a guy I did so because I wanted to copy his dress style or make mine.
My mum hated that I wouldn’t wear heels and dress up, make my hair and all that comes between and I would tell her “guys love me like this”. Well they did I must tell you and if you ask me I don’t know why. That part of me (being a tomboy) I struggled with because no matter how feminine I tried to look you can tell by the way I walked, I was hiding who I was and it’s safe to say you can call me a TOMBOY and I won’t blink because I finally love myself.
Another part of my life I struggled with was and is my sexuality, it has been there right in front of me even when I try to run from it. I started off thinking I was just having girl crush like the one I had for Genevieve Nnaji where I imagined meeting her and we would talk and she would like me and blah blah! Some say when you go to an all girls secondary school you become a lesbian and when I hear that it sounds funny to me because before secondary school I had started having these feelings even if I didn’t know what to make of them.
Every LGBTQ person must have at one point tried to pray away who they are or given in to religious talks because apparently religion rules our thinking. No matter how you see me I love JESUS and at that I felt like me being myself was driving him from me or I was the worse sinner on earth. I went to church, prayed and even fasted but still it was like GOD kept saying “don’t run from who you are”.
At a point I put my hands up and gradually I started to accept myself, sounds easy but there were and are still moments I fall back because of homophobic comments and all that stuff but I always come back stronger after I look within.
It’s a gradual process that should not be rushed at all, live your life, doubt yourself, question yourself but never belittle yourself or try to change who you are for anybody and I’ll say the way I accepted myself was I said to myself if it’s Love then it’s not a sin. If you love who you are, you are who you are meant to be. Accept yourself and others will keep up…
End. London 29th June 2020.
Vanessa Nwosu: Member, African Rainbow Family, London branch.
African Rainbow Family’s Organisational First Response: Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19)
Ongoing arrangements for the office, meetings and support for members:
As a small Charity we are aware of the need to act to support and protect our members, coordinators, volunteers and staff especially those of us who are or can be ‘vulnerable’ for whatever reason. We hope the following statement clearly explains our response to the current COVID-19 situation and the channels through which we hope to maintain contact with and offer support to all of our members and stakeholders.
All group meetings are suspended for the present, though we are exploring ways to keep contact with each other. The office in the Monastery will be accessed on a daily basis by Jacqui to pick up mail and send emails. Jacqui will still receive emails and phone calls remotely and respond as usual. If an appointment or a conversation is needed please contact her on the mobile number 07711285567. You can do so by giving her a missed call and she’ll call you back or sending a text message on messenger, sms or WhatsApp.
Current suggestions for social support include:
Having an online meeting. We know this would not work for everyone but may be useful for some members.
Setting up a buddy scheme with people regularly speaking with each other via phone and other forms of technology. Although we are aware that many members already have social support, we realise that this is not true for all members.
We have had offers of practical support in the form of:
1. Food and essential shopping to be dropped off at the person’s door at a prearranged time, for members who need to quarantine or maintain isolation to reduce their risk of contracting or and spreading the virus.
2. Lifts to and from unavoidable appointments for people who need them. For instance, if you have an underlying health condition, you may need to reduce your use of public transport but still have to attend medical appointments. Travelling in a car can potentially reduce your risk of contracting the virus.
If any of the following underlying health conditions apply then you are most at risk from the coronavirus:
Heart problems that have caused you to see a doctor
Lung or breathing problems such as asthma or chronic bronchitis.
High Blood Pressure
Any conditions relating to immune system such as Crohn’s disease, Lupus or HIV/AIDS
Any blood condition such as anaemia.
Any other serious medical condition not mentioned above.
Mental distress or mental health conditions
If you have any of the above but not exhaustive list, then please contact Jacqui on: 07711-285567 so she is aware of the support that would be useful to you.
An alternative number will be shared in the near future for anyone needing to access this support on a regular basis.
Lastly, all suggestions would be warmly welcomed, so please share ideas, thoughts, concerns, good practice that other groups are adopting, so we can update our actions and approach on an ongoing basis.
Do get in touch if there is anything further that we can do to assist at this challenging time.