Who’s not at our home during this Refugee Week?

News

This year’s Refugee Week theme is ‘Our Home’. Right to Remain has been spending this week thinking about those who are not at our home: people who are locked up in immigration detention centres.

Amidst the Refugee Week celebrations, the Rwanda plan weighs heavily on our minds. Our communities are still reeling from the sharp shock of suddenly being rounded up from our home with the threat of deportation to Rwanda. Under the UK’s notorious Rwanda deportation plan, the Home Office’s Operation Vector began on 29 April to start detaining people to put on the first flight to Rwanda, allegedly to influence the local elections which took place on 2 May.

Many members of our communities found themselves in a terrifying situation of having to present themselves at immigration reporting centres, not knowing whether they would be detained or not.

One of us met a man who was almost in tears outside a reporting centre, pausing to enter the building: we did not know what to say but we stayed there for him, and thankfully he was not detained and came out of the building. The fear of being sent to Rwanda has sent some people into hiding: we are worried about how they might be surviving lives of destitution and homelessness. As hundreds of people were locked up in remote immigration detention centres, visitors’ groups rushed to offer emotional and practical support to those who found themselves confined in what can only be described as prisons, separated from their friends and family, away from their home, our home.

Since then the news cycle has moved on to the General Election, and aside from the occasional media murmuring of whether the election result would stop the Rwanda plan, the chaos caused by Operation Vector has been largely forgotten, as well as the people who have been traumatised by it. Thankfully, we have seen other groups celebrate the release of many people they were supporting as a result of legal case work. Frustratingly, even when Prime Minister Rishi Sunuk admitted that there was no prospect of the Rwanda flight taking off until after the General Election (and subsequently the date has even been pushed back towards late July, pending the outcome of the election), each case had to be won individually through lawyers’ and case workers’ efforts.

This calculated state violence remains the source of our grief, but our hope for a better future is alive and kicking. The Rwanda plan also triggered an explosion of radical solidarity in many parts of the UK. During this year’s Refugee Week, following the flurry of our Rwanda-related interventions and our collective call to #FreeRwandaDetainees, Right to Remain is focused on nurturing that radical solidarity, and on exploring ways to harness this ‘movement moment’ for migration justice.

Earlier this week, we travelled to Middlesborough to join Open Door North East and Justice First and delivered a session for over 50 local people, to help them develop a sustainable, community-based support system for people who report at their local immigration reporting centre. Like in many other areas of the UK, so many people were suddenly exposed to the harsh side of the asylum and immigration system: enforcement. Reporting and immigration raids are part of the ever present detention-deportation pipeline, the side of the system designed to exclude and harm people. Yet few people, including people who work professionally in the asylum and immigration sector, are fully aware of it, let alone want to talk about it.

We are also hosting a reflection exercise for groups of people across the country who spontaneously organised themselves to provide solidarity support outside the reporting centers, during the height of Operation Vector. We are delighted that two such groups have agreed to present their experiences to kick off our conversations. So far, over 30 key people from all over the UK who organised solidarity mobilisation or are developing similar support systems at 12 reporting centres and police stations have booked to come to this meeting. We are looking forward to discussing with them what’s next.

Regardless of the outcome of the General Election, it’s clear that we need radical solidarity for the migration justice movement more than ever. Even if the Illegal Migration Act is repealed, even if the Rwanda Plan is dropped, even if the Nationality and Borders Act are repealed, we are still left with the Hostile Environment for migrants. Immigration detention is expanding, destitution is baked into our daily lives and migrant exploitation remains rampant.

All in all, we could say that we are having a good Refugee Week this year, despite this bleak picture. We are surrounded by people who stood up against the Rwanda plan in the spirit of solidarity with fellow human beings. Together with them and with many of you, we will be remaking our home, into a society that protects everyone.

Migration is life. No one is illegal. These Walls Must Fall.

In solidarity, as always,

Right to Remain team

One comment on “Who’s not at our home during this Refugee Week?

  1. Kelly Wearing on

    I started a small group supporting people who report at the Swansea immigration centre attached to the DVLA.
    We may have missed the reflection exercise organised by R2R, but I wonder if we can access the notes or something similar?
    Thanks.

    Reply

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