London Citizens

London Citizens is a powerful grassroots charity working with local people for local people. Our goal is social, economic and environmental justice. We meet that goal by training people of all ages, faiths and backgrounds to take action together for change. Our dynamic campaigns have secured many victories for the people of London. Beginning our journey twelve years ago as TELCO, our membership today includes over one hundred civil society organisations across the city … (full text Homepage).

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Why We Exist and Our Goals: Every year, at least 500,000 people worldwide seek asylum.

Asylum seekers have existed since the time countries came into existence. In fact, the word “asylum” traces its roots to ancient Greece, where it described physical locations where criminals could not be beaten or abused. As the half a million cases filed each year show, the problem that existed in antiquity is still very much with us today. One such case is that of Yusuf Mohamed. Yusuf fled Somalia in 1991 when that country disintegrated into a violent clan-based civil war. Without a government to prevent widespread human rights abuses, armed clans persecuted Yusuf and others like him because of his clan’s perceived prosperity.

After witnessing the cold-blooded beating and execution of his father just outside his house—and narrowly escaping death himself—Yusuf fled to Kenya along with hundreds of thousands of other Somalis. The Kenyan government could not offer refuge to Yusuf, his young bride, and their one year old son. After years in limbo, the family split up to seek asylum in the West. Yusuf made it to Chicago, his wife and son to London. Yusuf’s story is repeated more than 500,000 times a year. Ethnic violence in Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, and Rwanda continues to threaten millions of innocents. Repressive family planning policies in China force young women to flee just to have more than one child. Religious persecution continues in India, Pakistan, and the former Soviet Union. Repression of political expression occurs in many parts of the world.

Some of the worst conditions arise against a backdrop of civil war. The destruction of infrastructure leaves millions homeless and penniless. By the time many asylum seekers reach safe shores, they have literally no resources. They generally do not speak the language of their place of refuge. And they are often desperately poor. Even worse, new policies in some countries keep them destitute for extended periods of time. Yusuf, for instance, could not work for six months after entering the United States. The problem recognized in ancient Greece has global significance today. In the early 1950’s, many of the world’s nations addressed the problem by signing the 1951 Geneva Convention.

That treaty requires countries to grant refugee status to individuals who establish “a well-founded fear of persecution on grounds of race, religion, nationality, political opinions or membership of a particular social group.” More than 500,000 people seek such protection each year.

Legal Needs of Asylum Seekers: Asylum seekers need lawyers: … (full long text).

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