Over the past few months, we have been celebrating 10 years of the Right to Remain Toolkit through a series of festivals, with previous events being held in Belfast and Devon. On 11th May, we returned to the destination that was vital in the development of the Toolkit all those years ago; Bradford.
In 2003, the National Coalition of Anti Deportation-Campaigns (as we were then known), were making key decisions for its first ever Campaigning Toolkit; a printed A5 booklet that sought to issue its readers with an understanding of the asylum and immigration system in the UK, as well as tools to campaign for the right to remain. To develop this resource further, NCADC called upon allies across the country to provide feedback and evaluation. One such organisation was BEACON, whose volunteers helped shape the toolkit as we know it today.
Therefore it felt congruous to be back in Bradford, partnering once more with BEACON, to celebrate 10 years of the Toolkit with organisations and groups supporting people seeking asylum in this region. Occupying the beautiful Indus Hall of the Kala Sangam Arts Centre, we welcomed over 50 individuals from 20 organisations, hailing from Bradford, Leeds, Halifax, and even as far as Cumbria!
Despite our existing relationship with BEACON, many delegates were new to the Toolkit, meaning we were able to introduce the resource to a new audience, widening its reach. This provided an opportunity to learn and share knowledge, but also importantly, to foster new connections of solidarity with our allies in the north.
The day started with our signature ice-breaker, honouring our collective power in the room. Participants held a combined 339 years working in the migration sector, and 239.5 years living as a marginalised person, refugee, or migrant. We start with this exercise as it places an emphasis on collective strength; the hostile environment attempts to isolate those in the system, or people supporting them, making it easy to forget how strong we are when we work together.
Key moments throughout the day included Yumna’s deep-dive into the asylum process, with attendees learning more about each stage such as the substantive interview and how they can help their communities prepare. Michael and Vee led a campaigning workshop in the afternoon, where they spoke about the work of These Walls Must Fall, and invited the groups to share any local campaigns they had been involved in. As usual, the difference between legal advice and legal support was hotly debated, with participants using examples from their own experiences to understand where the line blurs.
We closed the day with a panel discussion addressing concerns around the Illegal Migration Bill, and what that meant for the sector. We welcomed Alice Garrod of Fisherstone Solicitors in Bradford, and Mary Brandon of Asylum Matters, who discussed how their organisations and communities are starting to prepare for changes from the bill, and what gives them hope for the future. Mary’s view was that the sector must collectively commit to playing the long game – advocating and campaigning for the rights of people seeking asylum, with the acknowledgement that immediate victory is unlikely, but that sets a precedent that future elected parties must note when assessing popular beliefs. This is done through initiatives like Asylum Matters’ long term campaigns against Anti Refugee Laws, which you can read about and get involved with here.
The day was a great success, as we both introduced the Toolkit to more groups and organisations in the North of England, and strengthened our relationships, building our community of practice. A huge thanks to BEACON for their invaluable help in facilitating the event, and to all attendees who came to celebrate with us, connect with one another, and build radical solidarity together.
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