Asylum Support Housing Advice (ASHA) was set up in October 2004 by Tony Openshaw who had previously worked for the National Coalition for Anti-Deportation Campaigns.
The word ‘ASHA’ is from the Urdu language, and means HOPE. In Swahili the word ‘ASHA’ means LIFE. ASHA respects all lives and promotes compassion and understanding to those fleeing persecution and violence.
The charity’s central aims are to provide support, advocacy and advice for asylum seekers whose applications have been refused and fully determined, and whose status renders them homeless and destitute. We recognise that returning to the country of origin is not an option for many people seeking asylum, despite Home Office refusals. We also recognise that many people are effectively trapped here in the UK following a negative decision but without any realistic chance of removal. Without the right to work, government policy effectively leaves people in limbo for many years and has an extremely detrimental effect on mental and physical wellbeing. We aim to protect people’s rights to housing and food and lift people out of poverty while also giving advice about rights and other sources of support to enhance wellbeing.
In June 2015 ASHA became a part of the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit and Maria Houlihan took over from Tony Openshaw who retired.
As a result of our work we have made over 3,000 successful applications for support under the Immigration & Asylum Act 1999 and obtained over 8,000 HC2 certificates for full help with primary care health costs.
During 2015 we maintained our regular services (2 drop-in advice sessions per week). When Refugee Action lost the contract to provide face to face advice, we saw numbers dramatically increase from an average of 47 clients per week (including 8 new clients) to 71 per week (with 10 new clients weekly).
We made 113 successful applications for support under Section 4 and 85 successful applications for support under Section 95 in 2015. We also submitted 229 appeals against refusal or discontinuance of Section 4 support and won 113 (49%) cases.
We continue to look for ways to respond to the increase in demand for the service and are extremely grateful to the current 18 volunteers and the 119 volunteers who have supported ASHA in the past. We envisage many changes and challenges over the course of the coming year with the Immigration Bill 2016 threatening to change asylum support as we now know it and with local services being further stripped back.
If you would like to donate to ASHA (part of GMIAU) please visit the just giving page: