On 17 November, two days after our online event on the Illegal Migration Act, some of the Right to Remain team travelled to Merseyside to deliver an in-person event on the Illegal Migration Act. This event was the fifth in a series of Right to Remain events on the new law and our second in-person event, following our October event in Manchester. These events are designed to prepare our communities for the impact of this punishing law, and for us to share what we know so far about the changes.
This event was delivered in collaboration with Asylum Link Merseyside – where this event took place. Asylum Link Merseyside is a vibrant community space, which acts as a hub for migrants in Liverpool to access support, eat hot meals and build community. As we arrived at the venue it was clear that this is a vital part of the migrant support network in Merseyside, and that this space is a lifeline for many.
What happened at this event?
These Walls Must Fall campaigner Jane Mundangepfupfu opened the session – and addressed a packed room. Nobody would have guessed that Jane is gaining confidence in public speaking: she was a natural! She said the following about the event:
As part of my public speaking training, I was privileged to run the opening session for IMA in Liverpool. The room was packed with people from different organizations and it was an awesome experience…I was well received and as much as I had doubts that I had done well, most people were approaching me and telling me I did well.
After that, we heard from These Walls Must Fall campaigner Maggy and coordinator Michael, who outlined what the session would cover and how we needed to think about the Illegal Migration Act. Michael explained that even though we would frequently call the Illegal Migration Act ‘unworkable’ this didn’t mean that the Act wouldn’t have very damaging effects on our communities, and it doesn’t mean that we can be complacent. In fact, it means we have to pay attention to how it will affect people. Maggy spoke about the importance of standing together in solidarity as we try to prepare our communities for the impact of the Act.
Then Legal Education Officer Leah gave us a run through of the Illegal Migration Act as it currently stands. We offered an overview of the picture as it currently stands – what is enforced and what is not yet in force.
After a short comfort break we returned for a panel discussion. We were joined by Chantelle Lunt, campaigner, activist and elected council member, Comfort Etim from Refugee Women Connect, and Ewan Roberts from Asylum Link. On the impact of the Illegal Migration Act, Comfort pointed out that women in the asylum system are experiencing increased fear, stress and anxiety. Many people are not sure if this new law will affect them, and are already struggling to cope.
The Illegal Migration Act is yet another challenge to already over-stretched organisations. Ewan explained that Asylum Link are struggling with the effects of homelessness due to the increased positive asylum decision rate and shorter move on period.
Chantelle then closed our panel by ending on a note of hope, and a call to action. Chantelle addressed the importance of being the voice in the room that speaks up to challenge far-right anti-migrant sentiments, and about the power of coming together in spaces such as these to gather strength.
This is why at Right to Remain we feel we need to be having these discussions: we have identified that there will be an increase in destitution, detention and exploitation as a result of the Illegal Migration Act, and we need to be prepared.
How did people find the session?
Attendees told us how grateful they were for this opportunity to network and come together. Given the stress those in the system and those supporting them are facing, it is so valuable to be able to create space to come together and learn from one another. Attendees also asked us when we would be back in Merseyside – watch this space…!
We need spaces to bring us together more often. Thank you.
Excellent event – we found some positive strength in the midst of all the gloom!
We also heard from participants that because of how busy they are, they rarely have time to sit down to research and understand the Illegal Migration Act. This has led to some avoidance of the topic, which can contribute to a lack of preparedness for the changes. People told us that the breakdown of the Illegal Migration Act helped clarify things they had been struggling to understand.
Our next community event on the Illegal Migration Act will be in Newcastle, on the 5th December. We are really looking forward to coming to the North East to connect with groups, and to prepare our communities for the Illegal Migration Act.
Read more and sign up here!
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