The politician you are most likely to contact about your case is your MP. This section explains how your MP can help you, and also suggests other political figures you might want to engage in addition to or instead of your MP (particularly if your MP has said they cannot or will not help you).
Members of Parliament (MPs)
Contacting your MP
Members of parliament (MPs) can raise your case with the Home Office or, if appropriate, the Immigration Minister or Home Secretary directly. This could be if you have received a negative decision, have been waiting a very long time for a decision and want a response, if you are detained, or if you are facing removal/deportation.
You can find out who your local MP is, and how to contact them, at TheyWorkForYou.com
Your MP will depend on the constituency you live in or have strong connections to. A constituency is an area of the UK where the voters elect one MP.
It’s never too early to start thinking about meeting your MP. If they already know you, they will be more likely to want to help if you go to speak to them when something has gone wrong in your case. It’s much more effective to meet them in person than to phone or email. You can meet your MP during their “surgery” where they meet members of their constituency face-to-face to talk about local issues. If you’re in detention, you can ask a supporter to go and see the MP.
Try to research your MP – have they got involved in asylum and immigration issues before? Do they have a known anti-immigration or pro-deportation stance? If they have a generally negative stance on immigration, it’s still worth trying to engage them on an individual case. The willingness or otherwise of an MP to get involved in your case is probably not going to depend on their political party – there are some very active MPs on individual cases whose party have a negative stance on immigration. You can find out more about your MP’s interests at the UK Parliament website.
Linking your story to an area of the MP’s interest may encourage them to get involved in your case. Think about what an MP can realistically do, and try and talk in a language they can respond to. Clearly set out your objective, what it is the MP can do about it, recognise the obstacles there may to them getting involved but explain why it is worth them doing it. Be polite, but do not be intimidated.
Remember that, while an MP has no obligation to take up your case, they have a duty to respond to their constituents.
If your MP does take up your case, it’s likely that most of your dealings will be with a caseworker or other office staff rather than the MP directly.
What your MP can do
Your MP can raise your case with the Home Office.
This can be very useful, as the Home Office have to respond to the MP’s query (although the response time can be very long).
An MP might just email the Home Office about your case, and be told the stage your case is at, or that you are “appeals rights exhausted” and there is nothing that can be done. Encourage your MP to do more than that!
If there has been a long delay in a decision, your MP can push for a decision to be made. Make sure you want a decision, however, and be prepared for that decision being negative. If you have a lawyer, always ask them first before involving an MP.
Don’t let your MP be brushed off by the Home Office saying you have exhausted all your legal options – it’s likely you haven’t.
There will have been barriers to getting justice in your case. Explain what these barriers are, point out the relevant failures of the asylum/immigration system, and tell the MP what they can do in order that justice is done in their constituent’s case.
In some cases, MPs have managed to meet with the Immigration Minister or Home Secretary to discuss the case. This is the most effective use of political engagement – encouraging your MP to have direct contact with the Minister who has the power to make a positive decision. This is likely to be far more successful than asking supporters to write to the Home Office directly (see below).
If your MP is unwilling to get involved, think about whether supporters live in other constituencies and could approach their MP.
If you are in detention (probably in a different constituency from the one you lived in), you and your supporters may be able to lobby the MP for the detention centre constituency to look at your case. Friends, family and supporters who live in the area where you used to live before you were detained can also go and speak to your old MP and ask for their support.
Note – if someone other than the person seeking the right to remain contacts the MP, the MP may ask for written consent to discuss the case with that other person. Try to get a consent letter written in advance, before a crisis happens.
A family was trying to get their local MP to help them with their immigration case – the husband’s human rights application had been refused, and he was facing detention and deportation.
The family kept emailing their MP but got no reply.
They explained the problem they were having to their children’s school, and to their local GP who was a figure of some standing in the community.
The school’s headteacher and the GP emailed and phoned the MP, asking them to respond to the family’s emails.
The MP then contacted the family, met with them, and contacted the Home Office on their behalf.
Local Councillors, Mayors
These are the people elected to make decisions at a local level, and can be more approachable than national political figures, although they do not have as much political influence. They’ll be well-placed to know about local situations, however, and may be interested in getting involved if they can see that it affects a lot of local people. Local councillors in Stockton-on-Tees, for example, passed a motion expressing concern about the Home Office’s country guidance on Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after three refused asylum seekers were removed from Stockton to the DRC.
The support of local government figures might help encourage an MP to get involved in your case, or may know other helpful people.
Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs)
Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, and elects MPs to the UK parliament, but it also has a Scottish parliament. The Scottish government has powers in areas such as health, education and justice, but not immigration and asylum. These matters are reserved to the UK parliament, meaning the Scottish government and members of the Scottish parliament (MSPs) have no influence on the law. This should not rule out MSPs representing their constituents in a similar way to MPs, but since around 2009 the Home Office, unlike other UK government agencies, has a had a policy of refusing to respond to MSPs.
Some MSPs will not get involved, and will advise you to contact your MP. Other MSPs may try to help. An MSP may know people (both in parliament and in other areas) who could be useful, so it is always a good idea to try.
You can find out who your local MSP is, and how to contact them, at TheyWorkForYou.com
Members of the Welsh Assembly (AMs)
Similarly to Scotland, certain legal powers are devolved to the The National Assembly for Wales, but, like Scotland, not immigration and asylum. Also like in Scotland, the Home Office tends to ignore Welsh Assembly Members, but AMs can provide information, advice and contacts.
You can find out who your local AM is, and how to contact them, at TheyWorkForYou.com
Members of Northern Ireland Assembly (MLAs)
The Northern Ireland Assembly is the devolved legislature of Northern Ireland. It has power to legislate in a wide range of areas that are not explicitly reserved to the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
As in Scotland and Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly has no powers over immigration and asylum. However, your Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) may be able to help you in other ways.
You can find out who your local MLA is, and how to contact them, at TheyWorkForYou.com
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs)
MEPs represent UK constituencies, but do not have a role in the UK parliamentary system. Although MEPs cannot raise cases directly with the Home Secretary, they may have parliamentary contacts or be able to exert some influence.
You can find out who your MEP is, and how to contact them at WriteToThem.com
Home Secretary and Immigration Minister
Some people hope that by sending letters and petitions to the Home Secretary or Immigration Minister, they may favourably influence the decision-making of the Home Office in an individual case. Although the Home Secretary does technically have the power to intervene in decisions, it is very unusual for this to be exercised in a case.
This type of action dates from a time when the use of discretionary power was far more common, before the introduction of the Human Rights Act. The Act gave politicians an excuse to argue that their discretionary power was no longer necessary, as the law provides the guidance for considering an individual’s human rights in immigration and asylum cases.
It is extremely rare for the Home Secretary or Immigration Minister to intervene in a case. If they do, it is usually as a result of representations made by an MP (see above), or sometimes high profile media coverage of a case. Media coverage can also have negative consequences however, and may even put you at risk.
Watch this video about the risks and benefits of going public with a campaign to stay.
Some people ask supporters to sign a petition about their case, and sometimes address the petition to the Home Secretary.
Asking people to sign a petition means you are going public about your case. You may want to raise awareness of injustice by going public, but there are also risks to going public and it is your legal case that will get you the right to remain, if it is successful.
Watch this video about going public with your case:
A petition – in itself – will not result in you being granted leave to remain.
Petitions can be a vehicle for sharing your story, for encouraging others to spread the word about your case. They can be a way of asking supporters to pledge support, and pledging to take further action (and you will be able to contact them via the email address they provide, if you have created an online petition).
Once people have pledged their support, perhaps by signing a petition, it’s important to mobilise that support and ask people to take action that has tangible outcomes.
Some people have used the parliamentary e-petition initiative, where more than 100,000 signatures could get an issue brought before the House of Commons. Quite apart from the difficulty of getting that number of signatures for an individual, there is little evidence of success with this strategy so far, as it appears that even petitions with this number of signatures are often not debated, and need other political pressure.