Since the beginning of 2023, the Right to Remain team have been busy celebrating 10 years of the Right to Remain Toolkit through a series of activities, including; taking part in the Hackney Half marathon. We have also been taking our legendary self-help resource, the Toolkit, to various locations across the UK, to ensure those who need it the most are able to access it.
Our sector tends to be heavily London-focused, with most major organisations having their headquarters in London. We at Right to Remain continue to reach out to groups and organisations focusing on supporting people seeking safety, outside of the South East. To create connections of radical solidarity, we have taken our Toolkit to geographical areas that are known as advice deserts, such as Bradford, Belfast and more. Despite this, we thought our Toolkit celebrations could not be complete without hosting a Festival in London, our home city on 16th May.
Held at the Amnesty London headquarters, our guests spent the entire day with us. We were happy to welcome staff members from organisations such as Refugees At Home, Sufra North-West London, Waging Peace and SOAS Detainee Support and many more. Our Right to Remain and These Walls Must Fall merchandise was available for sale throughout the event, and we managed to give out many of our #NoOneIsIllegal and #MigrationIsLife stickers. Hopefully we can see these strong messages plastered across the world!
We kicked off the day with an ice-breaker where we calculated the amount of working or lived experience, to honour the knowledge, wisdom and experience gathered in the room. Attendees of our London Toolkit Festival had a combined total of 607.5 years working with migrants, refugees or other marginalised people, and spent 610 years living as one of these categories. This exercise was a powerful reminder of the years of experience in the room, which makes standing in solidarity with one another all the more important.
Following this activity, we broke off into two groups to run our workshops on legal education. The first workshop was a deep-dive into the asylum process- participants were asked to put each stage of the asylum process in order. After some discussion amongst the groups about the correct, we eventually joined together to discuss the definitions of each stage, in line with the changes brought about by the recent changes in legislation. Right to Remain believe legal support is vital, due to the current legal aid crisis. Because of this, our second workshop examined the differences between legal support and legal advice. There was room to discuss and debate some of our examples of support and advice, as some of these cases belonged in a ‘grey’ area.
After a long lunch break filled with relationship building, we returned to the auditorium for an afternoon of panel discussions. The first discussion was a skillshare showcasing impactful grassroots campaigns. Joined by West London Welcome, United Impact, English for Action and our very own These Walls Must Fall, our panelists went through their methods of campaigning.
Leyla from West London Welcome shared their social media campaign against poor quality food for people in asylum hotels. After photos of the food garnered attention on Twitter, there was better quality food for people in local asylum hotels. Oluwatosin and Seke from United Impact shared photos from their exhibition, showcasing poor conditions in housing for people seeking asylum. Adela from English for Action was joined by one of her fantastic campaigners, Paula, who explained to us how joining the group helped her improve her English skills and find a sense of community. Lastly, our staff member, Sundus, told us about the importance of joyous and celebratory organising through a heartwarming video of These Walls Must Fall campaigners, created by Migrants in Culture (stay tuned for this video soon!)
Our second panel discussion celebrated ten years of the Toolkit, and panelists discussed how we can collectively boost our communities ability to navigate the hostile asylum and immigration system in the future. The speakers included Alison Harvey, barrister at One Pump Court who has worked on immigration and asylum law since the mid-1990s and Lisa Matthews, who developed the Toolkit and is now Policy Campaigners Manager at Young Roots. They were joined by our very own Eiri Ohtani, Director of Right to Remain who has over twenty years experience working in the sector. Important points were discussed, including the significance of building relationships within the sector and stretching our power of imagination, knowing your legal rights, and of course, the importance of the Toolkit as a tool of public education and accurate information. We opened up the floor to the audience, who asked insightful questions such as “How can we ensure that we connect with each other effectively? Where do we learn how to do this?”.
To wrap up the day, we asked our attendees to give us feedback on how the event. As a team, we noticed a pattern of people saying they felt “energised” by the event. This is uncommon for an event that spanned the whole day, so we are extremely proud of everyone for remaining engaged and open throughout. We were so happy to see so many people from different grassroots groups and organisations connect with each other, and learn from each other. Just like we envisioned, people offered their organisations’ services to one another and made practical steps to build a better world for us all.
As Lisa eloquently put it in her panel discussion “Its not about fighting for what [the system] we had before, but building something better.” After our London Toolkit Festival, we have full faith that our sector can make this a reality.
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