On November 24th , 2021, a group of people – each unique and dearly loved – slowly froze to death in the icy waters of the English Channel while waiting for a rescue that never came.
Twenty-seven bodies were recovered and four are still missing, adding to the pain of the families – twenty-one men, seven women including one who was pregnant, and three children.
Today, two years on from this tragedy, we remember and honour them, alongside many more precious lives lost on dangerous journeys to the UK – we may never know exactly how many.
On that catastrophic night, their flimsy boat left France at around 10pm, but close to midnight, it began to deflate and sink in the middle of the Channel. Between 2am and 4am, the passengers called the French and English authorities many times begging for help. But no one came.
The French authorities told them they were in British waters, and British officials told them they were in French waters. The transcripts of those desperate calls make for difficult reading – one passenger indicates that they are literally “in the water”. “Yes, but you are in English waters, Sir,” is the reply. At around 3am the boat overturned, tipping all passengers into the water, where some drowned because of the waves. Over time, others resigned themselves to letting go as they were overwhelmed by the cold.
Eleven hours later – at 2pm the next day – a French fisherman spotted the bodies in the water and raised the alarm. When the French coastguard finally arrived, they found only two survivors.
We will never let the lives lost that night, or those of loved ones lost since, be forgotten. And for their families, we demand justice and change. We long for people seeking safety on British shores to be seen as human beings, deserving of rights, compassion and dignity. Tragedies like this occur because of the ‘othering’ our politicians insist on – of the dehumanising of sons and fathers, mothers and daughters,
friends and family members.
This rhetoric must change. And so must this government’s policies. Humans in search of safety deserve just that. This means safe routes for all refugees wishing to come to the UK – we need to improve resettlement and refugee family reunion schemes and make it easier for people to travel to the UK to claim asylum. That is the only way these tragedies will end. We stand alongside the families of the victims, as they demand answers as to why French and British authorities failed desperate people who came asking for help. They also need to know when the results of the Article 2 Inquiry will be made public. The families have already waited two long years and deserve answers.
As a society that values compassion, we know that people fleeing the worst the world has to offer should be met with kindness. So, we demand that the division and fear of anti-migrant rhetoric used by some political leaders, is replaced with the empathy and respect that many people and communities across Britain show to refugees every day. We can, and must do better : people’s lives depend on it.
Zana Mamand Mohammad relative of Twana Mamand Mohammad
Mstafa Mina Nabi relative of Zaniar Mstafa Mina
Rasul Farkha Husein relative of Pshtiwan Rasul Farkha
Saman Abubakir Alipour relative of Sirwan Abubakir Alipour
Husen Mohammad relative of Mahammad Husen Mohammad
Sarhad Pirot Mohammad relative of Sarkawt Pirot Mohammad
Shamal Ali Pirot relative of Shakar Ali Pirot
Ahmad Mohammad Akoyi relative of Afrasia Ahmad Mohammad
Abdulkarim Hamd Abdulrahman relative of Bryar Hamd Abdulrahman
Ismail Hamd Qadir relative of Muslim Ismail Hamd
Rizgar Husen Hamd relative of Kajal Ahmad Khizir
Hadye Rizgar Husen
Mubin Rizhar Husen
Hasti Rizgar Husen
Yasin Husen Hamd relative of Rezhwan Yasin Hasan
Qadir Abdullah relative of Mohammad Qadir Abdullah
Omar Mohammed relative of Hassan Mohammed Ali
Ali Mohammed relative of Hassan Mohammed Ali
Emebet Kefyalew Gizaw relative of Fikeru Shiferaw Tekalegn
Freedom From Torture
Scottish Refugee Council
Today (Wednesday 15 November) the Supreme Court ruled the UK Government’s Rwanda plan is unlawful.
Govan Community Project is very happy that the correct ruling was made by the Supreme Court on the Rwanda Plan, however we share continued concerns with our colleagues across the sector of the UK Government’s ongoing inhumane treatment of those seeking safety.
We stand with over 100 of our sector colleagues, issuing the following joint statement.
We are relieved today that the Supreme Court has made the right decision and declared that Rwanda is not a safe country for this government to send people needing safety. The Rwanda plan was always cruel and immoral. We urge the Government to immediately abandon such plans with Rwanda or with any other country, and instead protect the rights of people who have come to our country in search of sanctuary.
While we welcome the decision today, we remain concerned by this Government’s overall treatment of people who move to this country. We are alarmed by this Government’s continuous efforts to detain and forcibly send people to countries where they may not know anyone, especially if it puts them at risk of harm and human rights violations. We know that as a community we are compassionate and welcoming, and we need immigration policies that are rooted in that same care, compassion, and respect for human rights. We call on everyone to stand up for the rights of people seeking sanctuary, regardless of where they come from or how they travel here.
Signed (as of noon Wednesday 15 November 2023)
Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)
Doctors of the World UK
Welsh Refugee Council
Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX)
Bail for Immigration Detainees
René Cassin, the Jewish voice for human rights
Freedom from Torture
Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS)
North Wales Regional Equality Network
Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU)
Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees (AVID)
Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT UK)
Humans for Rights Network
Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ)
Scottish Refugee Council
Helen Bamber Foundation
The William Gomes Podcast
New Citizens’ Gateway
West London Welcome
Student Action for Refugees (STAR)
Afghan Association Paiwand
Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group
Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN)
Our Second Home
St Augustine’s Centre, Halifax
Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit
Good Chance Theatre
The Runnymede Trust
Hope at Home
Voices in Exile
Refugee Support Group (Berkshire)
Ice and Fire Theatre
Reading City of Sanctuary
Cambridge Convoy Refugee Action Group
Hastings Supports Refugees
Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign
Hastings Community of Sanctuary
Herts for Refugees
City of Sanctuary UK
Bristol Refugee Rights
Da’aro Youth Project
Reunite Families UK
Migrants’ Rights Network
Public Law Project
Together with Migrant Children
JRS UK (Jesuit Refugee Service)
Here for Good
Open Rights Group
National AIDS Trust
Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group (ATMG)
People in Motion
Refugee and Migrant Centre (West Midlands)
Refugee Women Connect
LGBT Health and Wellbeing (Scotland)
The VOICES Network
HOPE not hate
African Rainbow Family
Manchester Migrant Solidarity
Birmingham City of Sanctuary
Birmingham Schools of Sanctuary
House of Rainbow CIC
Hope and Aid Direct
Inclusive Mosque Initiative
Kanlungan Filipino Consortium
Time To Be Out
Durham Visitors Group
Lewes Organisation in Support of Refugees & Asylum Seekers
Reclaim The Sea
Big Leaf Foundation
Muslim Council of Britain
Lesbian Asylum Support Sheffield
Asylum Support Appeals Project
Stand For All
Migration Justice Project, Law Centre NI
Refugee Legal Support
South Yorkshire Refugee Law and Justice
Refugee and Migrants Forum of Essex and London
Leeds Asylum Seekers Support Network
Nottingham Arimathea Trust
Govan Community Project
Simon Community Scotland
The Pickwell Foundation
Refugees at Home
Southeast and East Asian Centre (SEEAC)
Room to Heal
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
The Advice and Advocacy Team will be closing the helpline for one week starting Monday 30th October 2023.
Please note that our voicemail will not operate after midnight on 29th October until we reopen at 10am on Monday 6th November 2023.
Some members of the A&A team will be available that week to respond to requests about existing cases, although we might be slower to respond. The firstname.lastname@example.org will be monitored during this period for queries about existing cases.
When the helpline reopens on 6th November, the number will still be 0800 310 0054. The helpline will run at the same opening times between 10am and 1pm Monday to Thursday.
More than 175,000 people are awaiting a decision on whether they will be granted refugee status in the UK. Many people wait years for an outcome- forced to live in limbo.
During this time, most people seeking asylum live on just over £5 a day, are not permitted to work, and are accommodated and supported in a system that was never designed to be used over the long term.
One of our community member’s shared their experience of life in the asylum system- they wish to remain anonymous.
“I arrived in the UK at 20 years old. I didn’t know then that all my twenties would be spent in the asylum process. During this time we had two children, I tried to raise my kids as best I could.
No one wants to beg for food for their kids or themselves. But the situation forces people there, they can’t work. I remember just eating 20p noodles a day so I could buy the cream for my baby’s eczema.
You can’t choose a home for your family. We were put in an area with drug dealers, once my husband was attacked; we were scared. Our children experienced racism, even though they were born in this country, it’s like they don’t have the same value, they should be respected and treated equally like any other kid.
It’s stressful seeing your children comparing themselves to other kids, they ask why they don’t have those toys, they don’t have the same bags and shoes, why they can’t go to McDonalds. We have patience for ourselves, but seeing our children upset with tears in their eyes, it’s so stressful.
We had to stay at home for nine years, we didn’t have money to go anywhere. We feel the best part of our life was wasted, we couldn’t enjoy life as we should. It’s depressing staying at home all the time. We went through this experience for a very long time, we don’t want anyone else to go through this.
Life is much better now, we have status, my husband can work. I work with GCP to share my experience to help make the asylum process easier for new people. Everyone has different situations and experiences, but we are not alone in the process.”
Govan Community Project is one of 34 organisations to receive funding from the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland.
The fund supports self management for people living with long term conditions, disabled people and unpaid carers across Scotland, enabling people to be in the driving seat of their health, care and wellbeing.
The funding will allow Govan Community Project to establish and develop a mental health group
support programme for people seeking asylum. The charity will run three, four to six week long group programmes, as well as a range of one of sessions focused on themes identified by the community which will increase knowledge, access and ways of coping.
Sara Redmond, Chief Officer of Development at the ALLIANCE said:
“Everyone has the right to live well with dignity and respect yet for too many people and communities the cost of living crisis comes on top of worsening health inequalities arising from more than a decade of austerity and exacerbated by the pandemic. Self management approaches can support people to live better, with greater options for support, and reduce some of the burden of these inequalities.
“The ALLIANCE is pleased to be able to support a further round of projects working with diverse communities across Scotland, developing a wide range of approaches designed and delivered in partnership with the people they aim to support, providing the third sector vital resources to respond to this challenging climate.”
The Govan Community Project helpline will be closed for two weeks starting Monday 14th August to allow members of the Advice & Advocacy team to take annual leave.
The helpline will reopen on Monday 28th August, with the regular opening times: Monday – Thursday 10am-1pm.
The team will not be able to take referrals from other agencies during that time and our voicemail will not operate after midnight on Sunday 13th August, until we reopen at 10am on the Monday 28th August.
Some members of the Advice & Advocacy team will be available during this time to respond to requests about existing cases- please note responses might be slower than usual.
The Court of Appeal has today (Thursday 29 June) ruled the UK Government plan to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda is unlawful.
Traci Kirkland, Head of Charity at Govan Community Project, responded to the news:
“We were really delighted to hear the Appeal Court ruled that the UK Government’s cruel plan to send people seeking safety to Rwanda was unlawful. We extend our congratulations to all of those directly involved in the fight for this case who have fought long and hard to stand up against this inhumane proposal.
This ruling confirms what refugees and campaigners have said all along – that Rwanda is not a safe third country for people seeking asylum. As the judges said, there is a real risk people trying to escape persecution and brutality would not get a fair hearing in Rwanda and instead be returned to the country they originally fled from.
This ruling is a victory for human decency, but it comes after a year of fear and uncertainty for many people who simply asked for our help. What for this government may be a dream headline, is for those seeking safety, a threat of being torn away from family and friends. It has caused sleepless nights, mental health breakdowns and a climate of fear.
We urge this government to accept the court’s ruling, scrap the Refugee Ban Bill, and work with refugees and charities to create an asylum system that is compassionate, effective and fair and we urge everyone in communities across the UK to lobby their government representatives to scrap the Refugee Ban Bill and develop policy and legislation which reflects the responsible, welcoming nation that we know we are!”
Refugee Festival Scotland kicked off on Friday 16 June, with events taking place across the country. The festival celebrates the huge contribution people from refugee backgrounds make to life in Scotland.
Along with showcasing artwork and cultural heritage of New Scots, the festival also aims to reduce loneliness and isolation by bring refugees and people seeking asylum together with people in the communities they live in.
It takes place each year on the lead up to World Refugee Day on 20 June. This is an important time to raise awareness of the difficulties facing people who seek safety in Scotland, and how we can work together to overcome these.
Govan Community Project kick-started the festival with a Community Celebration Day in Govan & Linthouse Parish Church on Friday 16 June. There was good food, music and activities aimed at bringing the community together.
Thanks to Music Broth, Falafel Amo, New Anand, Ianthe Hope Face Paint, and our lovely community members who created brilliant henna designs.