More than ten years ago, when Right to Remain was known as the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns, we published our first Campaigning Toolkit to stop deportations. In response to our community’s desire to fight and protect themselves against the system at its every stage, our Toolkit, as it stands today, was developed to guide people through the hostile environment policies put in place by the UK government. Today, the Right to Remain Toolkit continues to support people going through the asylum and immigration system, alongside those who stand in solidarity with people seeking sanctuary, refugees and migrants.
As we reflect on everything that has happened in the last ten years, especially with the progressively hostile environment and the Home Office asylum backlog , we are driven by the urgency to ramp up our radical solidarity. Recently, we started running a bespoke Toolkit workshop to our These Walls Must Fall campaigners. One of the factors that inspired us to initiate this type of workshop was Glory, our These Walls Must Fall campaigner. Recently, on learning that she was successful in securing her right to remain here in the UK, Glory sent us a voice recording in which she talked excitedly about how the Toolkit helped her in her journey. We caught up with her to ask her more about her experience.
Glory began her journey during the COVID-19 pandemic, when she was first introduced to other These Walls Must Fall campaigners in Manchester. The lockdown restrictions meant that These Walls Must Fall meetings were all held online, but despite the difficulties using technology, Glory was able to learn a lot about the asylum and immigration system this way. By attending the group meetings, Glory gained a new perspective on the asylum process and was introduced to the Right to Remain Toolkit.
“In our online meetings, I met all the other people seeking asylum that had the same challenges as me. We shared our stories and from there, I gained my confidence and understood how the asylum system worked.”
The substantive interview, also known as the big interview, is a step in the asylum process that many people seeking asylum are worried about. In this interview, you are asked by Home Office staff about your reasons for claiming asylum, which understandably makes it a really difficult interview. But, there are many ways you can prepare yourself beforehand, such as roleplaying with someone you trust or requesting an interpreter who speaks your language or dialect.
In the period leading up to her substantive interview, Glory used the Toolkit to understand more about how best to prepare for the interview. Glory tells us: “I read the Toolkit and understood the questions that would be asked and how it relates to my case. Other people who already went through the substantive interview shared their experiences. Because of this, I answered the questions to the best of my knowledge.”
With These Walls Must Fall volunteers and staff, Glory – like many other campaigners – was able to go through her witness statement and roleplay the interview. She recalls using the Toolkit to answer some of the likely questions she would be asked in the interview. “We reviewed everything before I went for the interview, so I was prepared. I was afraid about it, but I felt reassured.”
Glory stands out to us because she was unfailingly persistent in seeking out information, refusing to let the hostile environment policy dampen her spirit. She continued to stay informed by reading about the stages to come in the Toolkit. When she finished reading about one stage, she would move onto the next. She says, “I was informed – I didn’t want to go through this by myself, so I needed this guideline and information to help me understand the system. I was asking questions, if I needed clarity I asked for it.”
“Keep reading, keep updated- the system changes all the time.”– Glory, These Walls Must Fall campaigner
We understand that sharing your case and going through the system can be extremely daunting for people seeking asylum. But precisely because it is daunting we think it’s important to get support from people you trust with your case so that you do not do this alone. As Glory puts it, “When you don’t share your story, people can misinterpret your truth and nobody will know how to help you. You need people to guide you.”
Having recently won her right to remain, Glory has some words of encouragement for those who are still stuck in the system: “Don’t give up- where there is hope, there is life. All hope is not lost – go through the Toolkit and pick out the errors in your case.”
“You have people who will support you and back you up even during the worst part, so get involved in your community.”
Glory urges people to stay informed, “Keep reading, keep updated – the system changes all the time. I encourage everyone to come out, get involved and ask questions.”
Individuals like Glory are able to use the Toolkit and the community created by These Walls Must Fall to feel connected and supported. In that collective endeavour we believe lies a source of radical solidarity, that creates a society that protects everyone. That’s why we do this. Our next workshop will take us to Halifax where we will be working with These Walls Must Fall campaigners in Yorkshire – we can’t wait.