Preparing our community for the Illegal Migration Act: report of 19 October community discussion

Events | News

On Thursday 19 October, we hosted our third community discussion on the impact of the Illegal Migration Act (IMA) online. 

It has been almost three months since the IMA was passed on 20 July 2023. Yet, we, and our community, remain largely uncertain about how or even when most of it will be implemented. We are also aware, however, that the IMA doesn’t need to be implemented in its entirety to have a devastating impact upon the migrant community in the UK – fear and misinformation about the IMA alone have the potential to destroy lives. In fact, we can already feel it. 

For this reason, we decided to share what we know so far about the IMA with our community, but more importantly, to share the steps we are all taking to address these legal/non-legal impacts, and to pledge ourselves to forming a united front against these atrocities. The sessions are aimed at individuals from grassroots and smaller groups working or volunteering on the frontlines of the migration justice sector, but also in surrounding fields (social care, healthcare, housing and destitution, etc).

What happened at the event?

At this session, 30 individuals from grassroots groups and voluntary organisations joined us online to explore the implications of the IMA and brainstorm our collective response.

We started the session by asking three questions. The participants’ answers were illustrative of the uncertainty and confusion our community is faced with, as well as mixed levels of preparedness.

Do you feel confident that you know exactly what is going to change as a result of the Illegal Migration Act 2023? 

95% voted no, and only 5% voted yes.

Do you receive more questions and queries about the asylum and immigration system from people? 

66% voted yes, and 23% haven’t noticed a difference.

Has your group changed the way you work in response to or in preparation for the Illegal Migration Act 2023? 

59% said they have not changed the way they work yet, but will eventually have to. 18% told us that they have changed the way they work, while 23% have yet to change. 

After this, Yumna, one of our Legal Education Officers, took us through a whistle-stop tour of the IMA to explain what has been commenced, what has not been commenced, and why the operation of the IMA is so ambiguous and confusing. For example, many sections of the IMA turn upon Section 2 (removal conditions) which is yet to be commenced. This makes it hard for us to grasp what the IMA could really mean in its entirety, or how to explain this confusing concept to people who could potentially be impacted by it. In this third session, we did cover the recent commencement of Section 12 of the IMA (powers to detain), which is a reminder that our knowledge base will be rapidly changing in real time. We have updated our Illegal Migration Act blog to reflect this change.

Leah, also a Legal Education Officer, then led the participants to consider how the IMA is likely to have an impact on an individual level, on a community/organisational level, and on a societal level. 

The participants broke into small groups to further discuss these impacts, share their concerns with each other, and to consider what we can do about them.

What is our community worried about and preparing for?

In breakout rooms, many expressed their concern about not knowing how best to communicate this confusing information about the IMA when there is already so much misinformation rife in our community – when there is an ongoing legal aid crisis and casework capacity is totally over stretched. 

There was a strong consensus that the severity of the IMA’s impact on the mental health of people caught up in the system, on top of the existing hostile environment, should not be underestimated. 

Some were worried about the slowness of the pace of voluntary sector organisations and statutory service providers in taking concrete actions to prepare for the IMA’s impact – and whether the existing rules and norms of how we work in the field are able to address increasingly a desperate situation for migrants and people seeking asylum. Others were worried about whether our migration justice field itself could be facing hostility, as anti-immigration rhetoric continues to be whipped up. It was also pointed out that many more people are likely to fall out of the system and become undocumented, and face challenges in surviving. 

What they all seemed to value was the opportunity and space created by this event, where they could safely discuss sometimes sensitive issues and topics, hear others’ perspectives and experiences, and think ahead. It was also encouraging that some were already taking steps to widen the solidarity network for migrants at their local level, by connecting with mainstream community support groups and forging a more formal alliance centred on the idea of migration justice. 

Our takeaways from the discussion

 As the event drew to a close, the participants shared their next steps. The Zoom chatbox was filled with messages of solidarity, pledges to keep sharing knowledge with each other and to work more closely with others. 

From us at Right to Remain, we have 3 key messages for our community, everyone we are working with, and beyond:

  1. We will do this together 

The struggle against this Act is something we are all fighting, and we must do so as one to have a chance at standing against it. 

  1. Stay informed and keep informing each other 

We do not know how the Act will work in practice, and things are likely to change in the future. It is so important for groups to stay up to date with the latest and most accurate information and ensure this is a channel that allows individuals in and out of the asylum and immigration system to access this information.

  1. Time to build a bigger tent

The Act is likely to interfere with our community’s ability to survive. We need to expand our community of care, support and radical solidarity by looking outwards and seeking more allies in our local community.

Our work to build the migration justice movement and to protect our communities continues. We will continue to inform our community about the latest developments in the Illegal Migration Act because we know that our community of migrants, refugees and people seeking asylum need reliable information and unwavering radical solidarity to fight for our collective right to remain here. 

Our next workshop on the impact of the Illegal Migration Act will be on Wednesday 15th November, so if you are an individual or grassroots group working in solidarity with migrants, refugees and people seeking asylum, sign up below. 

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