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Asylum worker hands back medal in protest

04 October 2013


Seat of Government: Dave Smith photographed near the Palace of Westminster

Seat of Government: Dave Smith photographed near the Palace of Westminster

THE head of a Christian charity, who was honoured by the Queen for his work with asylum-seekers and homeless people, has returned his award in protest at government policies.

Dave Smith, the founder of the charities Mustard Tree and the Boaz Trust, based in Manchester, received the British Empire Medal in last year's Birthday Honours. But he has now written to the Prime Minster, as the Conservative Party Conference takes place in the city, to complain that advice from him and others is being ignored.

In his letter to David Cameron, he said that by accepting the award, he had hoped that it might "highlight the immense difficulties faced by those we are helping.

"I have responded to several government consultations, and wrote to Damien Green when he was Immigration Minister, outlining ways to deliver a fairer asylum system. 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." Recent proposals, he wrote, left him "with little doubt that the Government has no intention of treating asylum-seekers humanely".

He told the Church Times: "There just a very big disconnect: you can't give me a medal for doing what I am doing, and at the same time treat these people the way you are. . .

"I have taken part in government consultations, and thought, nothing is coming back - the situation is actually being made worse. In many ways, my participating seemed like window-dressing. But it's not just the Conservatives. All of the parties are fighting shy of even mentioning the word 'asylum', because they know it's a vote loser."

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