By Fatou Jinadu, GMIAU’s Community Organiser

My name is Fatou and I am the Community Organiser at Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit. I started this role in February 2022. This blog is about our experience setting up an action group for people in the North West with lived experience of the ’10 year route’ pathway.

Who we talked to and what we heard

We did some community mapping when I started my role and I spoke to different cohorts of people affected by the UK government’s brutal hostile environment. The campaign mapping work we completed made us realise that the top issue for people we spoke to was being on the 10-year route to get their visa. We found out there are lot of peer support and mobilising groups in Manchester for people seeking asylum but not many for organising and other immigration.

People on the 10-year route have leave to remain in the UK because their children or spouses are British citizens or permanent residents, and are building their lives here on a 10-year “family route” to settlement. It means renewing your visa every 2.5 years, costing thousands of pounds in fees each time, and it often means having “no recourse to public funds” (NRPF).

Some of the groups I visited were Support and Action Women’s Network (SAWN) in Oldham, a peer support group for women, especially those from Africa; Mothers Together in Salford, for mothers that are connected by the UK immigration system; and Stork Connections in Gorton, another peer support group for mothers and women. I also met people at a coffee morning co-facilitated by GMIAU and Afzal Khan MP’s office.

People I met expressed their frustration about how many of them have been waiting for a decision from the Home Office, how most of them have no recourse to public funds, and the length and cost of the 10-year route. Mothers expressed how they had been left struggling to provide essentials for their babies due to the cost of renewing their visa every 2.5 years. There were also more members with NRPF who could not work and were just stuck waiting for a decision from the Home Office. People waiting for asylum decisions talked about being treated like less of a human being by the Home Office.

People from different immigration control backgrounds wanted to be part of the action group because of the need of change to help people who may be on the 10-year route. We have been working with Praxis as part of a partnership with IPPR funded by the Justice Together Initiative. Praxis’ action group have been focusing on the 10 year route too, so it made sense to join up with a campaign in the North West.

Fatou speaking at Manchester’s Solidarity Knows No Borders day of action in 2022

How we supported people to come together

We set up a WhatsApp group with everyone from the community mapping sessions who had said they were interested in the campaign. The purpose of the action group was to further map what the issues were and to create a campaign to join our voice to the campaigns nationwide which call for policy makers to change the pathway to a shorter and more affordable route.

The group members have already achieved a lot in a short space of time. In September 2022, they answered a survey launched under our partnership with Praxis and IPPR to find out more about experiences of people on the 10-year route to settlement. The aim was to get 300 responses from across the UK and we managed to exceed this, including 40+ responses from the North West. Members are now taking part in interviews as part of this research.

Group member Mary Anne went to London to meet other lived experience campaigners on the 10 year route. She was inspired by the people she spoke to and came back with lots of ideas about our new campaign.

However, we faced some challenges running the group. Members wanted to meet in central Manchester in person. While we discussed meeting online, participants said they struggled with data and the cost of the internet.  It proved to be a lot of hard work finding a venue – venues were expensive or did not have the right space for people to be able to share sensitive issues. When did find a venue people found it hard to get there – they were juggling work and childcare and the commitment to meet once a week was challenging. The challenges we faced and conversations we had tell us a lot about living on the 10 year route in the North West.

Impact on people’s mental health

People who are waiting for their decision from the Home Office are praying and hoping not to be on the 10-year route. This is because the 10-year pathway is extremely expensive, and comes with built-in insecurity and fear of falling off the route.

Research has shown that mental health rates can be higher in some black and brown people and from our community group visits, we spoke to people who suffer various types of mental health issues due to the hostile environment imposed by the UK government.  This exposure to the racist, hostile environment has increased the amount of people experiencing serious mental health issues. Mental health is one of the hardest topics for people to talk about because many believed that deemed in their community as something disgraceful, not religious or cultural.

Impact on children and family life

Being under immigration control has an immense impact on family life; a member of the group expressed how their children are worrying about the route and parents not spending enough time with them, because of the number of hours they are working. The route is dividing and breaking family ties due to the pressure or Home Office delays. Because so many people on the 10 year route have young children, childcare, planning around school holidays and school hours were an issue in finding time to meet as an action group.

Impact on people’s employment and income

Visa renewal fees on average cost around £12,000 for one person over the 10 years, with it being much more for families with several children. People have lost and risked employment due to Home Office delays in processing application or taking up exploitative jobs. The 10-year route is not 10 years for many because of the waiting time it takes their renewal of visa to be issued by Home Office. Some have fear of falling off the route due to lack of funds to pay for the fees or legal representatives.

Some of the members do not have entitlement to state funds, which is also known as No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). Childcare and travel costs had an impact on why people couldn’t meet in-person. People were often working shifts or many hours to be able to afford necessities, also impacting their time to be part of an action group.

Impact on people’s sense of security

Immigration is a taboo subject in most migrant communities; it is believed to be a “hush-hush” business. If people know your business, they can talk about your family or situation or worse case, people said, could falsely report you to authorities to cause you or your family harm out of envy or jealousy. Success and respect are measured with some migrant communities based on your immigration status. Joining an action group to make policy makers listen to people’s cries is frightening for many lived-experience people; they don’t want to be seen as troublemakers.

What next

People are keen to continue to be part of the campaign, despite the fact that we went through a lot of logistical problems such as finding suitable venues that will be easy for people to get to and members of the action group came all over Greater Manchester.

We still communicate on WhatsApp and we have a core group that are exploring how we can run the 10-year route campaign as a regional issue. The research the group participated in coordinated by IPPR will be published early this year.

We understand that people with lived experience are so systematically erased, unseen, unheard and oppressed to an extend that they can’t be part of any sort of change. We created a space for them to speak their truth and how they feel in order to make a change in the Northwest. There is an urgency and critical importance that people affected by the 10-year route wants their voices to be heard, and have support from other migrants in Greater Manchester area.

If you want to get involved in our campaigning work around the 10 year route please email