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Consonant

Got the Home Office to provide childcare during women’s asylum interviews

Asylum Aid, which merged with Consonant (formally Migrants Resource Centre) in 2016, began a campaign in 2007 calling for women seeking asylum in the UK to be provided with childcare during their asylum interviews.

The charity was aware that women risked traumatising their children during interviews by sharing their experiences of human rights abuses, including rape and domestic violence. Yet if they didn’t provide a full and honest account of their experiences, this could reduce their chances of gaining asylum.

The charity wanted the Home Office to provide onsite creches for children under five at all interview hubs. In practical terms this meant a play room close to the interview room, staffed by two qualified play workers.

But the charity soon discovered that Home Office decisions about childcare for asylum-seekers were made regionally, and it did not have a regional structure. So instead it supported its member NGOs to lobby their local Home Office directorates.

It also set up the Charter of Rights of Women Seeking Asylum, a national campaign with a
range of demands including childcare. Member NGOs could use the Charter as a brand for the campaign.

By the end of 2009, NGOs had persuaded their regional directors to provide childcare in four cities. However, by 2014 there was still no childcare in London and Liverpool, and provision in Glasgow and Leeds had been suspended.

In December 2014, using the Charter, Asylum Aid launched the Protection Gap campaign. By then Home Office operations were centralised again, so this campaign targeted the Home Office directly. Within four months childcare for women in asylum interviews was included in the Home Office Gender Action Plan.

Now the Home Office provides childcare during asylum interviews at all nine casework hubs. The UK is the only country in Europe that provides childcare during asylum interviews.

Chris Michaels described the campaign as “a really clear example of how advocacy hits a problem and makes a solution”.

Danielle Walker Palmour admired the level of collaboration with member agencies and the way the charity adapted the campaign as circumstances changed. Cathy Phelan-Watkins praised the campaign’s perseverance and determination.

consonant.org.uk

CC reg no: 291789

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