Getting rid of the last resort


Getting rid of the last resort

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Written by: Harmit Athwal


At the beginning of February, the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (NCADC) announced a desperate cash crisis and imminent closure – very, very bad news for those desperate asylum seekers who rely on the organisation for support and guidance.

NCADC has closed its London/South East office in 2005, NCADC’s North East/Scotland office will be closing in March, the North West office in Manchester may be forced to close by the end of April, followed by the complete closure of the organisation, with the shutting down of the Midlands/South West office, in May.

NCADC is unique, in that it is the only national organisation with a ‘mandate’ to campaign against deportations and empower those facing deportations to establish campaigns for the right to stay. The NCADC has, for the past ten years, provided a back-bone of support for all anti-deportation campaigns across the UK, linking campaigns together, helping to foster ‘communities of resistance’. It also provides a huge amount of information (to other campaigners, activists, solicitors, doctors, journalists and parliamentarians) on the daily struggles faced by asylum seekers, both in detention and in the community.

The problems faced by NCADC and its users comes at a time when legal aid for asylum seekers fighting asylum cases has been restricted and many asylum seekers are left to represent themselves. Furthermore, access to competent legal advice is even harder as law firms pull out of asylum and immigration work as a result of new qualification requirements for immigration practitioners. NCADC is often a last resort for desperate asylum seekers.

For the last six years, the NCADC has been funded by the Community Fund (now the Big Lottery Fund) but this funding has now come to an end. The organisation is in a dire position with many of its funding avenues blocked. NCADC is not constituted as a charity (which would preclude campaigning) and as such cannot apply to the charitable trusts that charities might approach for support.

And its fraught history of funding has no doubt scared off potential funders. In 2002, the Community Fund suspended NCADC’s grant and ordered an investigation into the organisation’s ‘political activities’ after it was vilified in the Daily Mail. Generous donations from individuals and other supporters carried the organisation through until the Community Fund monies were unfrozen. But following the Daily Mail attack and the resumption of the Lottery Fund money, NCADC has been placed in a position where its activities have been minutely scrutinised. And in today’s harsh political climate, it becomes harder and harder for anyone in this sector to distinguish between bona fide charitable welfare work and political campaigning.

Now NCADC has its freedom to fight as politically as it wants but it is the asylum seekers who go to NCADC for help and advice, that will now pay the price – its demise.

Organisations and individuals are appalled at the thought of there being no NCADC to turn to and we publish below a series of comments of support:

‘NCADC has been invaluable in helping doctors in the Medical Justice Network to gain access to detainees who have requested our assistance, in the face of obstruction by detention centre management. If they are forced to close, many deserving refugees will become even more vulnerable than they are already. I urge you to support them.’ Frank Arnold MB FRCS, Doctor, Medical Justice Network

‘I am so sad to hear that you are going to close all your office. Please stay!’ An asylum seeker

‘Thanks. I really depend on NCADC for news, help, advice, it’s so good to know you are there. I felt sick when I read the email. You are the front line for so many people. I just hope enough people will come forward to help.’ Kate Adams, Kent Campaign to Defend Asylum Seekers

‘We need to campaign for NCADC to keep their doors open for those who are suffering under the threat of deportation to where their human rights were severely abused. The work they are doing needs some money and this is very important because they can’t achieve their objectives and help refugees and asylum seekers without it. They can’t disappear because our lives depend on them. I fully support and believe in their work and it will be a nonsense for them not to be there for us. Opposition is normal and we are very different from each other. England seems to be one of the countries where difference of opinions and views is respected. Please do not minimise others. We need to help each other and we are complementary in this world.’ An asylum seeker

‘To my knowledge, the NCADC provide the most prompt information service in the UK on issues affecting migrants, they are unique in helping to set up and link the individual anti-deportation campaigns around the country, and they provide moral and practical support for the right of individuals to free movement about the world. In particular, they have over 12 years been uncompromising in opposing the barbaric practice of imprisoning tens of thousands of innocent people every year in immigration detention centres.’ Bill MacKeith, Barbed Wire Britain Network to End Refugee and Migrant Detention

‘The NCADC has played a vital role in bringing to light abuses of refugees and asylum seekers, who make up some of the most vulnerable people in our society. I have acted for a number of people who have faced unwarranted and unlawful violence at the hands of detention centre officers or escort officers. Without the work of the NCADC, these cases would have gone unreported and the abuses unchallenged. The NCADC must be given the funds it needs to carry on this hugely important work.’ Sarah Ricca, Hickman and Rose Solicitors

‘The end of support for NCADC has to be seen as part of a pincer movement against would-be refugees. First the government made it harder and harder for people to come here legally to claim asylum. Then they removed levels of appeals etc, next they removed access to decent legal representation. What is left? Campaigning. Raising public consciousness about the iniquities of the system – engaging local people in defending asylum seekers’ rights and involving the media – is the last bastion of support for so many asylum seekers today. If we take that away, we take away a really important level of the struggle for justice in a totally unjust system. It is not just that the fate of individuals, many facing persecution and hardship, will be sealed. But that the general population, in this era of calculated disinformation, will remain ignorant and the chance of involvement of decent people in the fight for human justice will be lost.’ Jenny Bourne, Campaign Against Racism and Fascism

‘…My husband in Amman … sends his thanks to you for your continued support throughout …. out of everyone… you listened the most, and your phone line was ”open all hours”. I do hope, beyond all hopes, that you can get sustained funding to keep NCADC going. We’ve sent a donation, but it’s sadly, not enough. Inshallah! We’ve always wanted to meet you – and even though we haven’t, it feels as if, somehow, we have. May others follow our lead to get the life they too, deserve. “Never give up” is the message we give (and you can pass this on) and “sometimes, just sometimes, you just have to take a risk … we did”.’ Gina and Nabil Musa

‘I was dismayed to learn of the funding crisis at NCADC. They are providing an invaluable service to immigration practitioners, and just now when there are serious problems in the detention estate, particularly the increasing number of cases of suicide and self-harm, they are the only organisation which offers day to day information about the state of affairs.’ Lord Avebury

‘The NCADC provides an invaluable resource for journalists. It uses media-savvy to make the most of the breadth and depth of its grassroots connections. It brings together on one platform the struggles of individuals around the country and gives a coherent picture of the impact national policies have on the ground. As Government gears up for a concerted push on deportations, the NCADC is needed more than ever to give a voice to those who continue to fall through the cracks.’ Nick Sommerlad, journalist, Daily Mirror

‘It is a sad reflection of the immense pressure that NCADC’s funders and the rest of British society are under to conform and keep their mouths shut about unacceptable developments in society world-wide. And another example of the global apartheid wall that is being built that Michel Warshawski speaks of when talking about the wall through Palestine. But I think the most urgent message is that NCADC’s supporters and friends and anyone who cares about how refugees are mistreated in this horrible country need to support NCADC financially and tell other people what has happened, and widen the circle of their supporters so that NCADC and the people they help can continue their battles.’ Sarah Parker, Campaign to Stop Deportations to Iraq

‘I have been writing about immigration and asylum for some years and NCADC has been an invaluable resource. They send out accounts of what is happening to people seeking asylum and other aspects of the issue. They are always very helpful to journalists. I have always found Emma Ginn to be immensely knowledgeable and helpful. Their compassion and campaigning have helped many people seeking asylum who have few if any other allies. But they do not let emotion or red mist cloud their responsibility to provide information that given the obvious constraints in asylum cases, is as accurate as possible. Their demise would be close to catastrophic for the asylum seekers they help. For the rest of us, we would lose a key resource for keeping us in touch with things that are happening under our noses, but which otherwise we would not know about.’ Melanie McFadyean, freelance journalist

‘As a solicitor working with immigration detainees, may I express my support for the invaluable work undertaken by NCADC. I am aware of a number of cases where they have intervened at the last moment to prevent the removal of a ‘ failed asylum seeker’, who has subsequently been able to submit fresh evidence in support of his or her right to remain. As well as assiting some of the most vulnerable people on an individual basis, NCADC has also provided important input into lobbying for political change.’ Harriet Wistrich, Birnberg Peirce

You can help the NCADC by taking out a standing order (commit a regular amount every month), or make a one-off donation or hold a workplace collection. (See links above)

Related links

National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns

Download a standing order form (word file, 32kb)

Download a donation form (word file, 32kb)


The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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Jackie Rigden
Jackie Rigden
15 years ago

Great article. I have already sent my standing order to you. Can’t someone organise a BIG fundraising event somewhere centrally, or in every big city if possible to bring attention to the plight of asylum seekers in the UK and this valuable organisation?

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