Councils are a structure of local government and can make decisions and statements about local issues. A motion is a request made by a councillor for an issue to be discussed at a Council Meeting and for a decision to be made. A local council passing a motion against detention is a powerful symbol that the local community is against detention. As one local campaigner recently described it, it shows that “detention is on shaky ground” and is a useful tool for mobilising others (such as MPs) to take action, and that this is an issue that local people feel strongly about.
(1) Do you know one or more of the councillors on your local council? If you don’t, who do you know that does? You can find out who your local councillors are here, but knowing who they are is just the first step. For this to succeed, you will need a good relationship with at least one of them.
(2) Approach them to see if they are interested in proposing a motion against immigration detention – if they don’t already know about it, you will need to explain why detention is important, and why they should speak out against it. You may want to use the basic facts on the These Walls Must Fall leaflet to give an introduction to detention; perhaps show them the useful Help Refugees short video on detention, and the powerful material from Unlocking Detention.
(3) You may need to explain to them why this is a local issue. People are taken from our local communities to taken to detention centres far away. Immigration enforcement happens on the streets and neighbourhoods around us – in our local businesses, hospitals, places of worship, Home Office reporting centres, bus and train stations.
(4) Give examples of local people affected – if local people who have experienced detention, or are living with the fear of it hanging over them, are able to speak to councillors directly, this can really engage people. Remember that family members, friends, neighbours, community members are also affected by someone’s detention – it’s important to show just how many of us this affects (and of course, it affects all tax payers because it’s their money paying for this policy).
(5) Ask your councillor contacts how many other councillors are likely to support the motion. Are they able to speak to others to sound them out? Do they need you/others involved the campaign to do this for them? What is the political make up of the council?
(6) The motion must be put forward (“moved”) by a councillor, then seconded. These actions are usually accompanied by short speech.. To pass, the motion will need to be approved by a majority of councillors, so cross-party support may be important.
(7) Find out the likely timetable for the motion. Motions can usually be proposed at any full council meeting. It’s a public meeting, so you can and should attend! They normally need to be proposed in writing several days before the meeting (roughly between five and seven days before, it varies from council to council). Your councillor contact should be aware of these rules, and may be able to advise which meeting is the best one to plan for. If there’s a lot of motions proposed for a particular meeting, yours may not got debated.
(8) Be aware of the political calendar. For example, when are next elections? You may want to move quickly to get the motion passed before you lose key allies.
(9) Drafting the motion doesn’t have to be daunting! You can use the text of the motion that was passed by Manchester City Council. Find it here.
(10) If you succeed in getting the motion passed, congratulations! Now, what next? Can you use this victory to persuade MPs and other people of influence locally to speak out and take action on detention?