Building Knowledge, Radical Solidarity and Power at our Annual Gathering 2024 

Events | News

We have just about recovered from our Annual Gathering last month, the first of its kind for the organisation since 2017!

For the past 18 months, Right to Remain has been in a period of change; we have expanded our staff team, have worked with over 350 groups, and begun to set in motion our refreshed  theory of change as a new team. Hosting our Annual Gathering allowed us the perfect opportunity to celebrate this growth. 

On 18th March, our staff team and a group of These Walls Must Fall campaigners brought together over 65 people from over 50 organisations across the UK, for a day of connecting, learning, sharing best practise and thinking ahead. Our aim was to provide a bodily experience of radical solidarity, and for this feeling to influence thinking and actions. We wanted to demonstrate and invite others to understand what lies beyond our public legal education work: to create an environment that encouraged radical action taking and movement building. 

We implemented Chatham House Rules to help facilitate open conversation. We also ensured the presence of many small, grassroots groups and organisations, who are often at the sharp end of the hostile environment but are less well resourced, supported and recognised. 

We kicked off the day with an icebreaker activity: ‘Sharing our collective successes’. Attendees split into small groups to think about a recent success, setting a positive tone for the rest of the day. Here is a small snapshot of some of the successes which were shared: 

  • We got 53,000 signatures in opposition to the Bibby Stockholm. 
  • We succeeded in a family reunion case after 5 years. 
  • 2021 rule change: changing the 10 year route to 5 years for people who have lived in the UK for more than half their life. 
  • We got OISC registered!
  • We have amassed about 100 volunteers in response to the barge. 
  • We have campaigned with ports directly: several said they would not accommodate barges. 
  • Free transport for asylum seekers in Northern Ireland. 
  • Campaigning against deportations, campaigning against companies profiting from deportations, and TUI have stopped doing deportations!

Following this, we moved onto our first panel discussion of the day, ‘Horizon Scanning: What could be round the corner?’, where we were joined by Sarah Cutler from Migration Exchange, Sabrina Huck from The Refugee, Asylum and Migration Policy (RAMP) Project, and our own director, Eiri Ohtani. 

Here the panellists discussed the upcoming General Election and the current political narrative around migration, and ways in which you can engage your local MPs. Advice was also shared about how people with irregular status can involve themselves in elections.

Building a bigger tent

Panellists also discussed the funding landscape of the migration sector, and the competition for resources, with a takeaway being that making relationships with others in the sector is really important, while also centring the people in the system within that conversation and connection. 

The conversation was wrapped up with a call to action – to “build a bigger tent for protection”. This means to expand your community and bring more people into the fold, to mainstream migration justice. Until then, this movement will always be scapegoated.  

It was then time to split into groups and head off to workshops. We had three workshop options available on the day; How to work with your lawyer, with Right to Remain’s Legal Education Officers Yumna and Leah, Accommodation models with our friends Tom and Bridget from NACCOM, and an introduction to detention with Eiri, Maggy from Right to Remain and These Walls Must Fall campaigners. 

Lunch was provided by Al-Bader Lebanese & Moroccan Cuisine, (would highly recommend them if you are hosting an event in Birmingham!) while attendees had an opportunity to network with old and existing friends. During this time, we also held a Solidarity Open Mic session, where we invited Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit and Solidarity Knows No Borders Merseyside to share recent campaigns and ongoing work they are doing in their geographical areas. 

Destitution and detention

The afternoon was dedicated to panel discussions and smaller group work, separated into two themes: destitution and detention. Joining the panel on destitution was Bridget Young, Director of NACCOM, Laney White from Portland Global Friendship Group, Ven, These Walls Must Fall campaigner and Nicki Carter, Onsite Coordinator at Napier Friends. This discussion centred around how destitution is intentionally created by the Home Office, and puts pressure on local organisations and groups to support an increasing number of people in this situation. It also looked at what can be done to support someone who finds themselves destitute. The importance of trust within communities was identified as paramount to creating a better situation, and by forming deep long term relationships, this goes some way to substitute the stress and sadness with joy and community. 

When looking at detention and enforcement, we were joined by Eiri Ohtani, Right to Remain director, Emma Pearson, who campaigns with No to Hassockfield, and is an Asylum Caseworker at Justice First, Manono, These Walls Must Fall Campaigner and Callum Lynch, Advice and Information Officer at Liberty. Conversation was centred around the need for total abolition of detention, and the reality that detention is now creeping into our local communities, through hotels, curfews, and the removal or agency and privacy. There were calls to protect communities from this, but also from increasingly aggressive enforcement and policing, which has also become commonplace in the UK’s hostile environment.

The panels were informative, human, and proactive, and both discussions and groups work emphasised the importance of solidarity and relationship building. In a sector, and wider landscape, where the Home Office seeks to divide, it was unique and special to come together to share a space to counter this, and plan for the future of our communities.  

Another highlight during the afternoon session was in noticing the enthusiasm and energy in the smaller groups discussions, that had been sparked by the panels, and larger discussions.  This allowed for forward thinking and power building, the main objectives of the Annual Gathering. In fact, on a whole, the energy throughout the event was passionate and meaningful, and contributed a great deal to how people connected with the content, and with each other. 

The Annual Gathering was co-produced with These Walls Must Fall Campaigners, something which undoubtedly made the event what it was. Not only did their support on the day ensure the day ran smoothly, but their input during workshops, panel discussions, and group work, ensured that conversation was grounded in lived experience.

The day was planned around allowing enough time for groups to come together and engage, to start to understand the connections needed to build a real movement of radical solidarity. We were successful in showcasing the work that other organisations are doing, with Right to Remain playing its role: an anchor organisation that is committed to bringing groups together and lifting them up for a stronger migration justice movement. 

There were calls for events like this to happen every six months, by pooling resources and funding, highlighting the need for people to share the same space and think collaboratively. We also got feedback for a more regional focus, to have these conversations at the local level. This is something we have been thinking about at Right to Remain for a while, and ties in with our strategy for 2024 – to continue to build radical solidarity, and start to build power at the local, grassroots level. 

If you would like to be part of this thinking, and are looking to organise something with groups, communities or organisations in your area, please reach out to esther@righttoremain.org.uk.

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