At GMIAU we see first-hand the experiences of many people in Greater Manchester who are affected by the UK’s immigration laws. As well as being lucky enough to share in people’s joys – when someone is granted refugee status or a family is reunited – we also witness how the immigration system deliberately treats people unjustly, with suspicion and disbelief.

We are committed to speaking out about the injustices we see through our work, identifying solutions and influencing decision-makers so that immigration laws and policies uphold the rights of the people they affect.

We do this by

  • gathering evidence, carrying out research and analysing laws and policies
  • supporting people affected by immigration control to speak out about their experiences
  • briefing decision-makers, including civil servants and politicians
  • working with our supporters to campaign for improvements to immigration law and policy
  • speaking to the media about the impact of immigration laws on the people we represent

The four issues which GMIAU is currently focusing on are:

Children from Calais

Since 2016 GMIAU has represented a significant number of children who passed through the camp in Calais on their way to the UK. The children we represent arrived in the North West because they either entered the UK through an EU Regulation called Dublin III (which allows children with certain categories of family member in the UK to be reunited); under Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, also known as the Dubs Amendment (which allows categories of particularly vulnerable unaccompanied children to be transferred to the UK); or on their own, for example by hiding in a lorry through the Eurotunnel.

As a result of our work we believe

  • The UK must protect children from trafficking and exploitation by establishing safe and accessible legal routes to the UK for children claiming asylum
  • Every child claiming asylum in the UK should have access to an immigration lawyer throughout their asylum claim
  • Children seeking asylum in the UK should have financial support and social work assistance regardless of how they entered the UK.

Asylum Support

People who claim asylum in the UK are prohibited from working or claiming mainstream benefits. Many of the asylum seekers GMIAU represents rely on a small amount of cash and accommodation provided on a no-choice basis by the Home Office – this is called Section 95 support. People who have their asylum claim refused may have access to limited, cash-less support known as Section 4. GMIAU’s Asylum Support and Housing Advice (ASHA) service – operating out of Greater Manchester Law Centre – provides support, advocacy and advice for asylum seekers who need support to avoid becoming homeless and destitute.

  • We believe that no one should be destitute as a result of their immigration status.

Refugee Family Reunion

People who are granted refugee status in the UK are able to apply for certain categories of family member to join them in the UK. Since the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 there has been no legal aid available for refugees to get free legal help for these applications.

Despite the applications being complex, this leaves refugees with two alternatives: pay for advice, or make the application yourself without legal advice. GMIAU runs a free service for refugees trying to reunite with their families in the North West.

Through our work we believe

  • Applications for refugees family reunion should be brought back in scope for legal aid
  • The categories of family member eligible for refugee family reunion should be widened
  • Refugee children should be able to apply for their family to join them in the UK

Hostile Environment

As part of its plans to decrease immigration, the government has said it will deliberately create ‘a really hostile environment for illegal immigration’ in the UK.

Through a series of laws and policies, it has created a framework of measures to exclude people from accessing services and benefits based purely on their immigration status. These measures include information sharing protocols, for example between the Home Office with schools and NHS services, so that data can be used for immigration purposes.

They also involve curtailing people’s access to driving licenses, bank accounts, employment, marriage/civil partnerships, asylum support and accommodation. While hostile environment measures apply to everyone in the UK, in practice they impact disproportionately on people who are Black, Asian or from other ethnic minority groups, migrants (regardless of their immigration status) and anyone who, in the eyes of the person carrying out the required checks, doesn’t look or sound ‘British’.

At GMIAU we are concerned people are self-censoring their access to services because they are frightened they will be reported to the Home Office, for example not accessing NHS services until they reach a health crisis point. We are also concerned that hostile measures are being applied in a discriminatory way because the people policing them (officials from different government departments, businesses and private individuals) are not trained or confident in immigration matters.

We believe

  • It is a scandal that every week people in Greater Manchester are deliberately made vulnerable to exploitation as a result of measures to create a hostile environment
  • The government’s hostile environment measures encourage racial profiling, xenophobia and discrimination – they should be repealed