It is hard to allow yourself the space and the time to think about what will happen if you are removed/deported. It is hard for both the person facing removal/deportation, and supporters, because it can feel like admitting defeat before the fight is over. But some people may find it helpful to think through what might happen, and what they can do to prepare themselves.
The first step is to acknowledge that despite your best efforts, and those of your friends, supporters, community and lawyer, you may not succeed in establishing your right to remain in the UK.
This can be a very scary thought, but having thought it through beforehand may mean you are better able to cope with the difficulties you may face after being removed/deported.
One of the most difficult aspects of fear is not feeling in control. Some people find it helpful to think through exactly what is scaring them (so for example, taking the thought “I am scared of being removed” and identifying exactly what you think will happen and what scares you about that). It can be useful to make clear in your head the things you can do something about and plan for, and the things you have no influence over and so need to try and let go of. Some people feel better after telling someone else or writing down upsetting or fearful thoughts, as keeping these thoughts inside can be very stressful.
Think about coping mechanisms – you’ve already been through a lot, and have survived, so you have good emotional resources to draw on. What techniques did you use before to cope? Who can you turn to? What can you do to relieve the emotional pressure of this time, and allow your mind – at least for a short period – to think of other things?
Some people find some of the following activities helpful:
- relaxation techniques
- listening to music
- watching television to take your mind off things
- prayer, reading the Bible/Qur’an or other religious text
- talking to friends and family
- writing, drawing or making something
If you are supporting someone facing removal/deportation or are part of a support group, have you thought about what you would do if your friend is removed/deported? It is common to experience an emotional low after the highly pressured action period – how will you get through this? It is useful to have support networks in place, such as a group meeting to talk through the experience, what you learned and how you felt. There are many more people who need your solidarity as they go through the asylum and immigration system – what support mechanisms can you create to look after yourself emotionally, and the people you are supporting, through what may be a long, hard experience?
After an unsuccessful outcome, it may be helpful to allow yourself a little time to think through what has happened and feel sad or angry about it. Some people find getting straight into new solidarity activity more helpful – but make sure you have the stamina to do this, and are not going to burn out. Not looking after yourself will not help you, or the person you are fighting for: fighting for the right to remain is a long struggle. It can be beneficial to share what you’ve learned and how you felt by writing about it – other individuals and groups might like to hear your experiences – and it may be useful to raise public awareness about the injustices of the asylum and immigration system.
- There is a directory of human rights/refugee organisations working in different countries who may be able to give advice about keeping safe or rebuilding your life on return. Are there any in the country to which you are facing return that you or a supporter can contact for advice?
- Can someone meet you at the airport? This may be a family member or someone from your community. If you don’t think this is safe, there may be an NGO who could send someone to meet you (make sure you feel you can trust this organisation). You could look at the directory above for ideas.
- If you don’t think it’s safe for a family member or friend to meet you at the airport, you could arrange to meet them somewhere safe. You may want to use a supporter as a go-between to increase security.
- Will you need some money in the currency of your home country, on arrival at the airport? In some countries, people have to bribe immigration officials to be able to leave the airport.
After removal/deportation: keeping in touch
It may be hard to keep in touch with someone after they have been deported. But if you can keep in touch, do! As well as the importance of finding out how a friend is, knowing what happens after someone is removed/deported can help for fighting future struggles.
- Set up an email account if you don’t already have one. If you think it’s safe, get in touch with a supporter back in the UK (remember that no email account is entirely secure).
- Supporters may want to give friends pre-paid phone cards to help them get in touch after they’ve been removed/deported.
- If you hear from a friend who has been removed/deported, you may want to share this news with people who supported them (always check with the person first that they are happy for their news to be passed on).
- People can find it very hard to find work or ways to support themselves after they have been removed/deported. Some groups hold fundraisers for friends who have been removed/deported, and send the money to their friend to help them through this difficult period.