Recap: Asylum Early Action Summit


Lora Evans

Refugee Action

Thank you to everyone who came together to join us for the Asylum Early Action Summit in May. We had a wonderful half day with great engagement and regional representation with over 100 people in attendance from 73 organisations across Scotland, England and Wales.

After launching the programme at an event in Leeds in 2019, we wanted to bring sector partners and stakeholders together again, as we come to the end of our current funding, to showcase the work of the partnership, the impact partners have had and what we’ve learnt about adopting early action over the last three years. 

We tried to make the event as interactive as possible, with space for participants to reflect on their own practice and steps they could take to strengthen early action work within their own organisations, local areas and regional systems. We created a worksheet for participants to use alongside the workshops to guide their notes and reflections. 

The Summit was hosted by Sipilien Birani, Trustee for PAFRAS and member of the Early Action Expert Panel, alongside Pascale Gayford - Deputy Manager of the Good Practice and Partnerships Team. They opened the event talking about what Early Action means and presented the Early Action Principles. Watch the video

Jonathan Kazembe, Expert by Experience Manager and Lora Evans, Early Action Programme Manager, took us through the programme's key successes and achievements including: 

  • Co-creating the Early Action Principles and using them to redesign key services to better help people understand and navigate crisis points in the asylum system. 
  • Learning through doing - building understand of what works when delivering preventative early, mid and late stage approaches that improve legal literacy & access to justice; prevent homelessness and destitution; maintain health and wellbeing; strengthen personal development & independence. 
  • By Dec 2020 the partnership had collectively supported over 9000 individuals to avoid crisis or exit crisis promptly and sustainably. 
  • Spread the approach across our organisations, and begin using our learning to influence work with partners and statutory organisations in our local/ regional areas. 

We also heard how the partnerships have worked together across three networks for leaders, practitioners and experts by experience. They shared key pieces of work such as the topics the practitioner network has covered, and the blog written by the Early Action Expert Panel on “What makes a service empowering?”Watch the video

Practitioners from the Asylum Early Action partner organisations then presented on some of the services they have designed and developed over the past three years. The presentations described the spectrum of early action work that seeks both to prevent and de-escalate crisis for people seeking asylum. The presentations drew out the characteristics, common features and key learning from Early-stage, Mid-stage and Late-stage services, and described how the Early Action Principles were key to the design and delivery of these services.

Watch the Early-stage services video.

Watch the Mid-stage services video & slides

Watch the Late-stage services video.

If you would like to learn more about the early, mid and late-stage services that the Asylum Early Action partners have developed and the strategic work that they have done to influence and shape more preventative local systems, you can read the case studies on the website. 

After the break, we enjoyed some music from Sakuba, part of Refugee Action’s EBE network. Watch the video

Tim Naor Hilton delivered the keynote speech setting out his three core commitments as Refugee Action’s new CEO. Read Tim’s commitments. He took us back to why Refugee Action became interested in early action in the first place and the journey we’ve been on; the establishment of the Good Practice and Partnerships team in 2016, and where we are now in terms of the impact for beneficiaries; the growth in preventative and de-escalatory services (and protection of these during Covid); the development of expertise to deliver them, and recognition from organisations and funders of the need for them; as well as progress towards the sector becoming more collaborative and joined up. Tim set out how the principles at the root of this work have informed, guided and strengthened the partnership’s response to Covid. Looking ahead, Tim discussed the threats and challenges on the horizon: ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic, likely recession and return to austerity, and the biggest threat to the right to claim asylum - the New Immigration Plan, amongst many others. Tim urged us to hold on to three things that build on the early action programme learning, as we meet these challenges: ensuring that early action is central to the vision of a new asylum system; that we are truly shifting power to people with lived experience; and that we work collaboratively to strengthen local and regional systems. Watch the video

We then held three workshops led by experts by experience and leaders from the partner organisations. 

  1. Shukry, Iman and Ana led the workshop on Co-production and Shifting Power to Experts by Experience. Watch the video
  2. Beth Wilson from Bristol Refugee Rights and Duncan McAuley from Action Foundation led a session on Collaboration and Development to Improve Local or Regional Response (slides). Watch the video. (Find out more about the partnership Beth described in Bristol via BRASP’s (Bristol Refugee and Asylum Seeker Partnership) Report and video
  3. Dave Newall from Brushstrokes and Matt Atkins from Nottingham Refugee Forum shared their experiences and led discussions in a workshop on Funder Approaches that Enable Early Action. Watch the video

It emerged during the discussions that a number of organisations are interested in learning more about Asset Based Community Development. We think ABCD could be key to supporting strong local ecosystems to best meet the needs and enable people seeking asylum, refugees and migrants to thrive. We are holding a MeetUp to explore ABCD more on Thursday 8th July. Sign up here

Carolina Albuerne, Refugee Action’s Good Practice and Partnerships Manager, brought the event to a close giving a summary of our plans for the future and next steps. Watch the video

Finally we ended the event with a poem, ‘The Dreams We Carry’ written for the occasion and performed by Charden Wakanda, exploring the migrant journey, how much is left behind and hopes for the future. Watch the video