“Asylum means fighting for my life.” Toolkit workshop in Birmingham

Events | News

Yumna, Right to Remain’s Legal Education Officer, delivering Toolkit workshop in Birmingham.

Right to Remain were delighted to run workshops on how to prepare evidence for ‘fresh claims’ at Fighting Destitution Conference in Birmingham on 26 May 2022. The conference was organised by the Hope Projects which provides housing, crisis grants and legal advice for homeless asylum seekers in the West Midlands. All the participants were people who are curerntly going through the asylum and immigration system. It was also Yumna Kamal, our Legal Education Officer’s first solo workshop after the departure of Lisa Matthews at the end of April.

Right to Remain’s Toolkit is used by many people going through the asylum and immigration system and numerous grassroots community groups who are supporting them. Last year alone, over 251,000 people accessed our Toolkit on-line. This helps people to know their rights at different stages of the system, and know what options are for the stage they are at. Knowing what could come next can help them prepare.

Our Toolkit workshops are special occasions where we can explain directly how to use the Toolkit and learn from people going through the system their experiences and types of questions they encounter while navigating the system. Most importantly, through workshops, we see people forging new relationships and widening their net of community support, a group of people who can give legal support (as distinct from legal advice). We are most excited when we see that the Toolkit is creating an ever widening circle of solidarity. Our community’s need to equip ourselves with knowledge to navigate this complex asylum and immigration system, to protect each other, is greater than ever.

Some of the participants of the workshop, with Yumna.

Phil Davis, Director of the Hope Projects, said in his opening remark that the Conference was designed to equip people going through the asylum system with more tools and tactics to continue their fight. Reflecting this, the workshops on the day covered topics such as what to expect when receiving legal advice (delivered by Aliya Khan at the Hope Projects), how to organise campaigns (delivered by Salman Mirza at Migrant Voice) and how to apply for legal residence outside the asylum framework (delivered by Sue Conlan at TACTIC).

Of the many questions our participants asked us, one question really stayed with us. The question was:

Why does this government make everything so difficult for people like us? Why do they make us destitute? Why do they make us suffer?’

Our Toolkit does not contain a satisfactory answer to this question. But we know that we do need a radical change to this dehumanising and racist asylum and immigration system. And we need an alternative world based on solidarity, care and compassion, that protects everyone. At Right to Remain, we are building movement to do that with These Walls Must Fall and many others – and we hope to be able to do more of that in coming months and years.

A big thank you to the Hope Projects for inviting us to the Conference. And thank you to everyone who participated in our workshop and shared their experiences. What another participant said stuck in our minds as we left the venue:

What does asylum mean? For me, in my 10 years of struggle, asylum means fighting for my life.’.

We are all fighting for a better world – and we need everyone to be part of it.

If you want to learn more about our Toolkit, we are running ‘Knowledge is Power’ Toolkit workshop on Zoom on 16 June 2022 during Solidarity Knows No Borders Week of Action. Find out more details here.