Last week, Mishka, a campaigner from the Freed Voices group, wrote an excellent article in Red Pepper magazine about the “excessive and cruel” reporting conditions that migrants are told they must adhere to.
He was writing in response to the decision of the Home Office to tell people from Stoke-on-Trent that they must travel to Salford to regularly report, a five hour round trip for what might be a two-minute appointment.
But while the appointment may be brief and mundane, it may not be and thus is a source of great stress to people who have to report, and their family and friends. Mishka writes that:
“When I assisted the elderly person with her reporting, I watched her enter the centre afraid that she would not re-emerge.”
As we said in the article, “Reporting at the Home Office is, in itself, a stressful experience. There is the ever-present threat of detention, and there are regular reports of intimidation and harassment. Even if the reporting centre is fairly local, people can find it difficult to get there, especially if their travel is not paid for them. We know people who have to walk miles and miles each week. The recent decision to get people to travel 40 miles between Stoke and Dallas Court outside Manchester is baffling and cruel, and is a very extreme example of how barriers are put in place to make it even more difficult for people to pursue their legal cases and access justice.”
These fears are echoed in a recent report about the experiences of women in the West Midlands who are seeking asylum.
One woman said:
“Every time you go and sign you never know… I don’t even want to remember how it feels, because when you go it’s like if you could never be back because they can take you, and when they take you it means detention, and if you don’t know anyone, a lawyer that can take your case, you can be deported… and in my country, as you arrive, they take you to prison…you literally live in constant anxiety!”
A 2018 British Red Cross report on detention said that “The majority of the service users we interviewed have to report, most commonly every two weeks or monthly. The fear of reporting, and of being detained again, colours their life.”
One of their service users, Gabriel from South Sudan said:
“You are not sure if you’re coming back [from reporting], because any time they can arrest you and take you back to detention. So, every two weeks you have to pack your bag and get ready. You call your friend and say, please take care of my things, or you lose them all.”
What can be done
Ultimately, the real solution to this distressing ordeal is to end immigration detention. Find out more about that here.
Until then, there are practical things that people can and should be doing if they or someone they know is at risk of detention.
As Luke Butterly wrote in this article, there are lots of examples across the UK of individuals and groups providing solidarity to each other.
One of the women seeking asylum featured in the West Midlands report said:
“Especially when you need to go to Solihull to sign, it’s like a day of reckoning, you don’t know what’s gonna happen… so what we do is saying you have to have a buddy who can come together or exchange numbers and make sure you tell somebody you’re going to sign so in case you’re not seen at a certain time they would swing into action.”
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