On Tuesday 11 October, Right to Remain had the opportunity to run a workshop for Women with Hope, a Birmingham-based charity. Women with Hope is a member-led group whose focus is on improving the lives of women asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants with support, group activities, and training.
Even though the topics we cover during our workshops empower the groups we work with, it is difficult to talk about the hostility of the UK immigration and asylum system. When you are living it and it can take over your life and sometimes make you forget about all the other parts of yourself that make you, you!
So, we started the workshop by asking the group to introduce themselves by sharing their names, language(s) they speak, and – if possible – one good thing that has happened in the last week, even if tiny.
The good things listed ranged from being grateful to be alive, to positive news about medical tests. A couple of women were having a really difficult time on the day of the workshop, but were met with cries of “Well, we are grateful that you are alive and here with us today!” from fellow members. It was a privilege to be able to share the space with such a tight-knit and kind group of women.
How to use the Right to Remain Toolkit
This workshop really showed us the importance of making sure that people who come to our workshops know how to access and use the Toolkit after the session is over – especially people who are in the UK immigration or asylum system.
This meant that we took quite a bit of time at the start of the session making sure that each member of the group was able to access the Right to Remain Toolkit on their phone – either by using a QR Code, using a search engine to find the Right to Remain Toolkit, or typing out the whole website URL (http://www.righttorremain.org.uk).
We always say that the most important thing for each person to take away from our workshops is the ability to re-visit and use the Toolkit as much as they can, so that they can use the parts of it that are most important or interesting to them, and so that they can share it with their friends and communities too.
Members of the Women With Hope group who speak English as an additional language were very pleased to see that we have some officially translated resources, and to find out about how the Google translate function works for each page.
It was important to take this extra time at the start of the session. We have so many great resources at Right to Remain, but unless a person is shown where they are and how to use them, they won’t be able to benefit from them.
What we covered in the workshop
We started the actual workshop by going through an overview of the whole asylum system – the group put each of the stages of the system in order, before we discussed each stage in detail. We found that there was a lot of confusion about the difference between the screening (first) interview and the substantive or ‘big’ interview, so we spent some extra time on this.
It was great to hear that some members had tried to get in touch with their MPs to speed up their asylum process! We spoke about things that you can do to get in touch with your MP in the best way.
For example, if you are going to send them an email, make sure you don’t leave the email ‘subject line’ blank. Put in some details about your issue, like what type of application or issue it is, and your name. For example, ‘ASYLUM DECISION DELAY – JOHN SMITH’. This might help the staff who look through the MP’s email inbox get to your query quicker. Also, make sure to check your MP’s website to see whether they are holding their weekly surgeries in person, or over the phone because of COVID precautions. You can find out who your MP is by using the They Work For You website. To learn more about contacting your MP for help, read our Toolkit page.
If you would like to read more about what we cover in our workshops, take a look at our session with Refugees at Home, or our public Knowledge is Power workshop recap.
We were so happy to be able to have this session with the lovely members of the Women With Hope team. We hope that they were able to learn from us as much as we were able to learn from them!
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