Anyone who is waiting for a final decision on their application to live in the UK can be required to regularly travel to “sign on” at an Immigration Reporting Centre. Every appointment carries the risk of being randomly taken to a detention centre. These conditions amount to unfair, unjust and unnecessary harassment of migrants, and it has to stop!
July 15: First coordinated day of action
Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Solihull, London, Bristol
We’ve had enough of Home Office harassment at immigration reporting centres!
On 15 July 2021, our network organised actions outside six of the 12 Immigration Reporting Centres in Britain. this followed a successful day-long action in Sheffield in June. We delivered letters to the centre managers, listing our demands.
The campaign is just beginning
All people in our communities must be treated with fairness, equality, dignity and respect.
Mandatory in-person immigration bail reporting is an injustice, it is harassment. The system must be abolished. Contact with the Home Office must be conducted in another way, without coercion and without the threat of sudden detention.
Want to get involved? Read on…
WANT TO ORGANISE YOUR OWN PROTEST?
Organising your own local protest
You can make your own plans of course, but here are some tips… On July 15th, we gathered outside immigration Reporting Centres for a few hours, distributed leaflets to people who were signing or pasing by, and delivered a letter to the centre manager.
Whats the aim?
To send a message of solidarity to all who are forced to sign – you are not alone, and you can get help (we have leaflets on challenging the reporting condition for individuals)
To send a message to the Home Office and the Reporting Centre management: this system is unfair and abusive – we demand change.
How to get started
Step 1 – Find out where your nearest Reporting Centre is
If you are already reporting, you will know this. If you don’t report, but know someone who does – talk to them about your ideas, ask their advice, ask if they want to be involved, and find out some info about the Reporting Centre. You can find a list of Reporting Centre locations on the Government website here.
Step 2 – find some people to do this with
You can start small. The Unity Centre in Glasgow started with one person, a Scottish doctor, holding a weekly vigil outside the Reporting Centre. They were gradually joined by more and more people. After a year, local asylum seekers and activist allies organised a demonstration with hundreds of people marching together!
Step 3 – scope out your local Reporting Centre
If you already have to report, you’ll know all about the reporting centre. If not, go and check it out, identify places where you can stand in a group for a few hours. There are 15 Reporting Centres (see the map). In some areas, people have to report to the Home Office at a Police station, such as in Bristol.
Getting the word out
Step 4 – Invite more people
Think of any people, groups, organisations who you could ask to come along on the day (or, better still, help with the organising!). Contact them directly if you can, or find them on social media.
Step 5 – Public call-out
Start telling people about the action, on social media, whatsapp groups, email, and so on. Use the hashtag #AbolishReporting and also #TheseWallsMustFall, if you have enough room. Contact us at These Walls Must Fall and we’ll help to publicise.
Step 6 – Print some leaflets to hand out on the day
In the downloads section (above) you can find leaflets about the reporting campaign (to hand out to anyone), and information guides about challenging the requirement to report (to give to people who have to report).
Step 6a (optional: for groups that include people who report) – Print a letter to deliver to the Reporting Centre management. The These Walls Must Fall group in Sheffield recently wrote a letter and handed it in at their protest. You can download the letter as a template here.
This letter was written from the viewpoint of people who report, and their supporters. If none in your organising group currently report, thats fine – just don’t do the letter. Hopefully others, people who report, will do that next time.
On the day – getting your message across
Step 7 – Make some signs or banners
For signs, scrap cardboard will do. Get some cheap acrylic paint from an art store, or a shop like WH Smiths or Wilko. Get some cardboard boxes, break them up, and paint slogans on them. Easy! For a banner, use an old bedsheet or buy some fabric from a fabric store. We use polycotton because it’s cheap, easy to paint on, and dries quickly if it rains. Again, just use cheap acrylic paint. Sometimes it helps to water it down a little bit, to make it easier to spread.
Step 8 – On the day
Offer to talk to people who are reporting, but don’t pressure them, and don’t be surprised if people are wary of you. Be friendly, approachable, ready to talk. Some people reporting will be nervous when they see you – they don’t know if you are there to protest with or against them. Smile, say hello. Offer a leaflet. Be ready to talk about why you are there, but don’t be surprised if they don’t want to talk
Some other things to consider on the day…
Talking to security guards
The reporting centre will probably have private security guards on the door. There should be no reason to interact with them, and they are not the target of this action, they are just poorly paid workers doing a job, not Home Office decision makers!
Talking to Police
The Police will probably turn up to check on you. Our advice would be to talk with Police as little as possible. It’s always a good idea to get a volunteer (agreed in advance) to talk with Police. This should be someone who is comfortable in that role, and without any ongoing immigration case. Keep it simple, civil, and limit the information to how long you plan to stay. And basically do what the Police instruct you to do (keeping to one side of the pavement, not blocking doors etc).
Talking to Reporting Centre workers
There should be no need to engage with workers at all, and definitely no reason to be nasty in any way. Remember, most Home Office staff are just workers doing a rotten job. It’s the system that’s wrong, and it’s only the senior management who can make the changes we demand. If you do have any conversations, keep it civil, just get your point across – we’re here in solidarity with people who report, and to demand change.
Talking to Reporting Centre management
Management will probably only come to talk with you if ask for them, and that will probably only be if you have the letter to deliver (Step 6a, above). Again, if this happens, keep it friendly and civil. They don’t have power over every aspect of the reporting system, but they can certainly make changes locally, changes that could greatly improve the lives of people who report. The management will be far more receptive to a polite handing over of a letter than to people shouting at them!
Let us know what you’re doing
Please feel free to get in touch for advice in setting up an event. But if you don’t need that, then please let us know what’s happening, so we can help to publicise. Your event may well end up encouraging others to the same, so let’s keep spreading the word!
The launch, March 2021
On March 3rd 2021, over 180 people attended the online launch event for the campaign to abolish immigration reporting.
We heard from people with experience of reporting, describing the trauma and the harassment, the demeaning nature of the system and it’s harm to people’s health, especially mental health.
The event organisers presented their proposed campaign principles, demands, outline strategy and some suggested tactics. We then split into facilitated breakout rooms, to discuss further, before returning to finalise and agree some ways forward.
The campaigners set out their demands:
- We demand an end to reporting conditions, for everyone.
- We will break the silence through sharing our experiences and encourage others to do so.
- We demand that those of you who witness and support us with reporting also take action to advocate for the abolition of reporting.
- The Home Office must immediately move to alternative ways of staying in contact, such as email, text, or phone
THE CAMPAIGN SO FAR
On 3rd February 2021, over fifty migrant campaigners, representing groups from across Britain, met online to discuss a national campaign against immigration reporting (signing). This was the latest stage in a year of highlighting and challenging this system.
Working groups were set up with the help of These Walls Must Fall and Migrants Organise workers, and national meeting was called.
On 3rd March, over 200 people attended the online launch meeting!
A year of struggle
In March 2020, as the pandemic really started to hit, Migrants Organise and others wrote to the Home Secretary calling for in-person reporting to be suspended. This eventually happened: the demand was successful. However, in the autumn as we approached another lockdown, the Home Office started texting people to say that signing was starting again.
In November, The Independent published an article highlighting the dangers of in-person signing during the pandemic, and reported the legal challenge by Duncan Lewis solicitors.
The Home Office decision to restart signing didn’t make any sense. Through the pandemic we have all learned to keep in touch while keeping distant. These appointments are not “essential”, not during a lockdown, not ever.
Also in November, a group of These Walls Must Fall campaigners, Voice for Voiceless Immigration Detainees Yorkshire (VVIDY), wrote to the Home Secretary, and the letter was co-signed by dozens of organisations. This time, the Home Office didn’t budge.
Migrants Organise were alarmed at the Home Office’s “reckless” decision to maintain reporting conditions during the second lockdown, and that it was “completely contradictory” to the government’s strategy of containing the virus.
VVIDY met with local MP, Olivia Blake, who agreed to support the cause. The MP tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament (a motion which calls for a debate as soon as possible). The campaigners at VVIDY, who all have direct experience of the reporting or detention system, called on supporters to ask their MPs to sign the motion.
Now, after these actions have still not moved the Home Office, and with Covid still a major threat to our communities, it is time to step up the campaign.