Fatou and MaryAnne at the conference

Two weeks ago GMIAU’s Community Organiser Fatou and her fellow action group member MaryAnne attended a conference in London facilitated by Migrant Voice: ‘A better deal for migrants: Campaigning for a fairer visa and settlement process’. It was an opportunity to meet lots of people in person – some of whom we’d only known as faces on Zoom. And after a year of beginning to map and build a new campaign for people in Greater Manchester subjected to an unjust and extortionate ten-year route to settlement it was the perfect time to be energised and inspired.

The day started with a panel, then consisted mainly in workshops which centred people’s lived experiences of the long ten-year route to settlement. Other organisations running workshops or who we met on the day included JCWI, RAMFEL, Reunite Families, Right to Remain, Praxis, WeBelong, and SLRA.

Fatou presenting the findings from her workshop group with Mariam from WeBelong

The workshops reflected key impacts of the ten-year route: its impact on families, including the mental health of parents who are doing their best to provide for and protect their children; and the impact on work, with Home Office delays putting people at risk of losing their jobs due to precarious status. The final workshop was looking forward – creative campaigning strategies. People in the workshop thought about ways to raise awareness of how much money the Home Office is taking from people as part of this route.

Although both MaryAnne and Fatou have experience of the ten-year route themselves, hearing from other people meant they learned new things about the route and aspects they hadn’t thought about before. And both left angry and energised to fight the 10 year route. They said it was “amazing to be somewhere we were all speaking the same language” – fighting the same fight.

Fatou, Olivia and Mariam

Afterwards Fatou reflected:

The 10 year route policy is a racist system designed to make black and brown people feel less than human. It makes me think of the time of “no blacks, no dogs, no Irish” signs – they don’t need a sign to say it.

There’s no public interest in the extortionate fees. It’s impacting families. They’re taking money from people and making it seem like they’re doing them a favour.

People are dehumanised and marginalised by the Home Office. They’re working twice as hard and facing the same cost of living crisis as everyone in the UK – and yet have to pay these fees.

To read more about the ten-year route and how we’re organising to change it, read Fatou’s blog. And look out for the publication of our joint report with the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and Praxis. You can join our online launch on March 7th 2022 by registering here.