On Tuesday 18th October, we were delighted to hold a Toolkit workshop for Journey, a group that offers support to LGTBQ+ asylum seekers and refugees in Birmingham. The workshop was held at Carrs Lane Church, and it was our fourth workshop in the city in recent months, as we try to better understand the situation for people seeking asylum there.
At Right to Remain, our aim is to challenge the structural injustices that asylum seekers face in the immigration and asylum system. The UK’s hostile environment policy has made it increasingly difficult for migrants to exercise their right to stay in this country. Our community cannot afford to passively wait for the best outcome for their case, especially with such a hostile system where there is so little pro bono or affordable quality legal advice available. That’s why our Toolkit is designed to increase their capacity and power to navigate and survive the system, in solidarity with the whole community
The session aimed not only to show participants how the immigration system works but also for people to connect with each other, despite their difficult circumstances, to create a shared pool of support and encouragement. We opened the workshop with an introduction, where people introduced their names and the languages they spoke – some people were even kind enough to share a few words in their mother tongue!
It was uplifting to see the diversity in the room, with the native tongues being Twi, Arabic, French, Kurdish and Somali. There is power in that diversity because people can pool their knowledge and perspectives.
Some attendees felt comfortable enough to share one positive experience from their week and answers were varied – from performing at a festival to getting a doctor’s appointment. Others shared that they hadn’t experienced anything positive recently, but they were reassured that being at the workshop was in itself a big achievement.
Following this introduction, the group learnt about the contents of the Right to Remain Toolkit, and how to navigate it. The UK’s immigration system can be quite overwhelming to understand at first, but the Toolkit simplifies each step of the asylum process, and any actions that can be taken at that stage. The Toolkit is currently available in over 120 languages via the Google Translate function, so the group were happy to see these important legal resources translated into a language they best understood.
One of the topics we covered was how to prepare for the substantive interview with the Home Office. Asylum seekers and other migrants at the workshop were all at different stages in their journey to establish their right to stay – with some having been refused, some awaiting their decision and others with interviews soon. So, they all had different worries about the interview process that they were eager to share. Before sharing these concerns, they were encouraged to work in groups to find possible solutions. Tips were shared on how to navigate the interview process, such as role-playing with a trusted person, drawing a timeline or map to help remember difficult events, asking for water, a break or even time to think.
The group were also made aware that they could voice their concerns regarding an interviewer or translator if they were made to feel uncomfortable at any point, that way their concerns would be on record. The most important takeaway from this activity was that there is often something you can do, if you prepare carefully for your interview and understand what might happen on the day.
The event ended with the opportunity to raise any further questions about the immigration and asylum system with Yumna, and many boxes of pizza to share!
Right to Remain is now running regular online Knowledge is Power workshops, which are open to the public and, where people can learn how to use our Toolkit. Please sign up to our newsletter for more information on when and where our next sessions will be.
In the meantime, here’s the summary of a list of changes that have happened as a result of the Nationality and Borders Act.
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