Dave Smith hands back British Empire Medal in protest

Dave Smith, Founder of the Boaz Trust, has returned his British Empire Medal in protest against the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers in the UK. Dave has written to the Prime Minister explaining he cannot keep his British Empire Medal (BEM) whilst witnessing the increased suffering of destitute asylum seekers in the UK.

The BEM was awarded to Dave Smith, as part of the Queens Birthday Honours 2012, in recognition of Dave’s community work with the homeless community including asylum seekers and refugees in Manchester. However following government proposals for a new residence test, landlord immigration checks and legal aid cuts, Dave states he cannot keep the BEM, whilst the UK Government ignores those he represents.

An edited copy of the open letter to David Cameron is below:

Dear Mr Cameron,

Last year I was awarded the British Empire Medal for Services to the Community. At the time I was bemused at the award, since my current charity work as Director of the Boaz Trust is providing accommodation and support for asylum seekers who have been refused asylum here, but not been returned to their country of origin. In accepting the award I hoped it might highlight the immense difficulties faced by those we are helping.

I have responded to several government consultations and wrote to Damian Green when he was Immigration Minister, outlining ways to deliver a fairer asylum system. The recommendations were taken from Asylum Matters (Centre for Social Justice). Mr Green did not reply and none of the recommendations were implemented.

It is clear that those on the front line, who are picking up the pieces caused by austerity measures, are not being heard. Charities are expected to fill the gaps, but government policies are making the gaps ever wider. Recent proposals for a new residence test, landlord immigration checks, further legal aid cuts and reduction in healthcare leaves me with little doubt that the government has no intention of treating asylum seekers humanely, and for this reason I am returning my British Empire Medal.

Mr Cameron, you recently praised the contribution of the church in this country. One of the major tenets of faith that Christians agree upon is Christ’s command to ‘do to others what you would have them do to you’. It is my prayer that those in government would allow themselves to imagine what it is really like to flee from countries ruled by dictators and lands where human rights abuses are endemic. Until they do so there will never be a just asylum system in this country.

Yours sincerely, Dave Smith, BA

On 11 October a new report on asylum was issued by the Home Affairs Committee. Keith Vaz, Chairman of Home Affairs Committee said “It is unacceptable that in 21st century Britain thousands of people are forced into destitution due to the inefficiencies of the (asylum) system.” Read the report on asylum here

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