Bradford woman gets re-housed: UKBA feel the pressure

It’s 3 weeks since we wrote the article below about a Bradford-based asylum seeking mother, and her baby being evicted and dumped in Doncaster. Since then SYMAAG and Why Refugee Women? are pleased to announce that she has been moved back to Bradford, to her friends, her women’s group, her baby’s doctor and her community.


“Adia” is very happy about being back in her community and away from the slum house in Doncaster which UPM had alloted her. We are too and we hope that the message goes out to other asylum seekers who are evicted and dumped in slums, miles away from their communities: if you resist you can win.


How can it be right to force anybody to move away from their homes, support, friends, family and communities? Asylum seekers have already been forced to do this once: that is why they are here.


“Aida’s” story and extracts from a SYMAAG interview with her will appear in a printed edition of the 24 Dash magazine shortly







Evictions Begin


We knew that the privatisation of asylum housing would mean evictions and slum living. We didn’t realise it would start so soon and be quite so squalid.

 Adequate washing facilities for a mother and her young baby?

SYMAAG’s John Grayson looks at the case of a mother and her 12 week old baby from Bradford who were evicted due to the new G4S-run housing contract. He also looks at the results of the campaign to support her and other people in what G4S call the “asylum market”.


John’s article was first published at Open Democracy on May 30th.


  • Leading social housing website 24 Dash also covered this story, despite one of their journalists being threatened with legal action from G4S. This looks like it confirms our view that G4S’ real housing ambitions are to privatise social housing in general. Another case of “First they came for the asylum seeker…”


  • Lorna Gledhill from Leed Press Gang and the Yorkshire No to G4S Campaign has also written about this at the Liberal Conspiracy website



  • For regular updates on the campaign to stop G4S profiting from housing people,seeking asylum see the No to G4S blogspot


Next SYMAAG meetings:12th & 30th July

  •  The SYMAAG “No to G4S” working group next meets on Thursday 12th July, 6.30pm at Scotia Works

    Saying No to G4S and No to Serco in Glasgow June 16th


  • The next full SYMAAG meeting is on Monday 30th July, 6.30pm, again at Scotia Works


We meet at Scota Works, Leadmill Road, Sheffield S1 4SE (5 minutes walk from bus and train stations) at 6.30pm.

We can help with travel costs if you need us to (just bring your ticket to the meeting)




38 people came to the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of SYMAAG on May 1st in Sheffield. The meeting reviewed SYMAAG’s work over the last year, planned for the next and held elections for positions on the Executive Committee and Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary and Treasurer. But, before that…


“Unsafe Return” to Democratic Republic of Congo

Our guest speaker was Catherine Ramos from the “Justice First” group, a charity based in the Tees Valley in north east England . Catherine talked about what inspired her to write the report “Unsafe Return” about what happened to 17 Congolese asylum seekers who were deported to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2009. Catherine went to the DRC to report what happened to these 17 people, who the Home Office claimed would not face persecution when they were forcibly deported.


Catherine found that there were was a pattern of arrests, described by Amnesty International  as “systematic”. All 17 people were imprisoned, (including young children and a baby) and physical abuse was common during imprisonment. They received no support from the British Embassy in the DRC, despite requests. A Congolese immigration officer confirmed that the Home Office had sent the names of the deportees to them in advance and that they had been passed on to the Congolese security service, including those of “low level” activists.


On her return to the UK Catherine wrote the report “Unsafe Return”, accompanied by documentary and video evidence and has used it to:

  • Demand an investigation into why these 17 people were deported by the Home Office when they were clearly at risk of persecution. Catherine told us that the Home Office regarded her evidence as “inconvenient” 
  • Inform UKBA’s Country of Origin Information (COIs) reports (which are supposed to guide asylum decison-making). Information from “Unsafe Return” was now used in the 2012 DRC COI report
  • Highlight the abuse that many people experienced as a result of taking part in the Assisted Voluntary Returns programme
  • Protest at the abuse that many of the 17 people received while they were in detention centres in the UK and in the process of deportation


There were many questions for Catherine, including from Congolese members of the audience. She explained that she had only become aware of the experience of asylum seekers in the UK through meeting people as neighbours, friends and fellow church goers; that she could never have imagined herself going to the DRC, writing the report and now lobbying UK Government ministers. Now that she’d seen something of the life of asylum seekers in the UK and post-deportation there was clearly no going back for her.


Catherine urged us to read and distribute the “Unsafe Return” report and encouraged us to promote the accompanying petition which calls for “The suspension of removals until there has been a full inquiry into the safety of failed asylum seekers on return, in order to prevent future ill-treatment of vulnerable Congolese asylum seekers”.


Annual Report

SYMAAG Chair, David Price introduced the 2011-12 Annual Report looking at our work in the context of an ever more restrictive and harsh asylum system in the UK. He noted the expansion in the volume and range of SYMAAG’s work since our formation 5 years ago and pointed to SYMAAG’s role regionally and nationally, as well as in South Yorkshire.

In the discussion that followed we looked towards continuing our high-profile work in opposing the G4S-led privatisation of asylum housing and other services; finding points of common interest and solidarity between migrants and “host” communities; promoting region-wide campaigning and increasing the involvement of women in SYMAAG.


In the elections for Executive Committee and officers, the numbers and proportions of migrants and women both increased.


You can download the symaagannualreport2011-12

Sign the Unsafe Returns petition here

Read more about the Unsafe Return report here







Justice for Marian. No Deportations to Zimbabwe.


Marian Machekanyanga fled Zimbabwe in November 2002 as a result of victimisation and mistreatment. As a member of a workers committee in a government department in Harare, she led a protest to the Zimbabwean Parliament against the misdirection of the Government funds to ZANU-PF. She has spent 10 years trying to secure her safety by fighting for the right to remain in the UK.


During those 10 years Marian has also continued her fight for the human rights of others. She is an Executive Committee member of the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group and Northern District Women’s Assembly of the Movement for Democratic Change and has also volunteered with the Northern Refugee Centre. Marian is well settled in her local community in Rotherham,  and is an active member of her local church, Eastwood Mission Church.



Despite all the evidence, her asylum application was refused and if she is returned to Zimbabwe, her future safety and well-being will be in great danger. Marian’s fight for justice goes on but she fears that she, like many other Zimbabwean people seeking asylum in the UK, is at risk of deportation to the country where she was persecuted.


Marian also suffers from diabetes and it on a strict regime of medication which stabilises her condition. If returned to Zimbabwe there is no guarantee she would have access to this medication, and without treatment for diabetes she would be at risk of diabetic coma and death.


See  Marian’s campaign page on the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns’ website


Home Office Deportation Strategy

SYMAAG believes that the deportation strategy of the Home Office is closely related to the politics of the Zimbabwean “Unity Government”. When we raised the issue of deportations to Zimbabwe with Sheffield MP and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg he passed on our concerns to Home Secretary Theresa May (see below for full texts of letters). In her response, Theresa May states “Such returns have now commenced, reflecting changes in Zimbabwe (and) responding to calls by the Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, to return home and help rebuild their country”.


SYMAAG is holding an open meeting : Monday 28th May, 6.30pm


  • Is Zimbabwe safe?
  • How do the politics of Zimbabwe relate to deportations from the UK?
  • How can we stop deportations?

Scotia Works, Leadmill Road, Sheffield S1 4SE

We will have speakers representing different strands of opinion within the Zimbabwean community in the UK, including the Movement for Democratic Change (Tsvangirai) and the Movement For Democratic Change (Ncube)

All are welcome

For download

Letter from SYMAAG to Nick Clegg on deportations to Zimbabwe

Letter from Theresa May to Nick Clegg responding to SYMAAG questions on Home Office Zimbabwe deportation policy 16th April 2012

Following the SYMAAG meeting “Stop Deportations to Zimbabwe” meeting on May 28th our Chair has written to Nick Clegg.

You can download the Letter from SYMAAG to Nick Clegg June 1st