At the end of 2007, there were 1,960 asylum seekers in receipt of full support and 235 receiving subsistence-only support (UKBA, 2008). The main countries of origin at the time of writing are Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Congo DRC and Congo.
Asylum seekers who are granted Leave to Remain in Birmingham are also joined by refugees who were granted status in other European Union countries, but chose to come to Birmingham to live and work. In particular, a significant number of Somalis have settled in Birmingham in this way since the 1990s (Griffiths et al 2005).
An overview of Refugee Community Organisations (RCO) activity within the city of Birmingham indicates that there are significant Northern and Eastern African communities now established.
A number of key organisations work in Birmingham providing general advice and support to asylum seekers and refugees:
The West Midlands Strategic Migration Partnership (WMSMP) is the principal regional policy forum on refugee, asylum and migration issues. It was established as a result of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to co-ordinate activities regarding the dispersal, accommodation and support of asylum seekers and the integration and social inclusion of refugees. More recently, it has been asked by the Home Office to include newly arrived migrants within its remit.
The Asylum Team in Birmingham's City Council is responsible for meeting the housing needs of some asylum seekers dispersed to the region under the current UKBA contract. The Children, Young People and Families department also has responsibility for supporting Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) under the Children Act (1989). Finally, the Adult Assessment Team responds to particular cases where asylum seekers have Community Care needs (i.e. needs beyond destitution for the purpose of the National Assistance Act 1948).
The Refugee Council is funded by the Home Office to provide support and advice to newly arrived asylum seekers who have been dispersed to the West Midlands to access initial accommodation and apply for BIA support while their claim is being processed.
ASIRT offers legal advice, representation and advocacy to asylum seekers and other people subject to immigration control. They also advocate on behalf of particularly vulnerable clients, making representations for accommodation and support under the National Assistance Act (1948) and the Children Act (1989). They provide food parcels and a nutritious meal cooked each week. They also administer the Vulnerable Women's Travel Fund which provides access to essential travel for women subsisting without any form of cash support.
The Birmingham Law Centre also provides legal representation for asylum seekers during the initial stage of their claim. It administers a destitution fund for vulnerable asylum seekers who have no recourse to public funds.
The Birmingham branch of British Red Cross helps those in crisis to access basic services and short term practical support through their Orientation Project. They provide a destitution service twice a week whereby food and hygiene products are distributed to destitute asylum seekers. Finally, the International Message and Tracing Service helps refugees to restore and maintain contact between families by delivering messages and initiating tracing enquiries for missing relatives.
For those who have been granted leave to remain, the Birmingham Refugee Resource Centre provides advice and support to individuals in relation to their housing and welfare needs. The centre is also home to a number of RCOs. The centre is managed by Birmingham City Council, but is run as a partnership between the organisations based at the centre.
Last Updated: 06/10/09