The Borders Bill is law. Now what? IMIX CEO Jenni Regan on how we can build on the recent swell of public support for refugees to change hearts and minds.
The sector took a big hit last month. The Nationality and Borders Bill was introduced to parliament on 6 June 2021 and after a seemingly endless debate, it was passed in April 2022. Consistent messaging from the government and press has seemingly further embedded the hostile environment in the public discourse.
However, after a few weeks of bad news and ongoing battles, it finally feels as though positive actions are breaking through in the public consciousness. We need to ensure we are really spotlighting these messages of hope and resilience.
On Thursday last week, with echos of the now infamous Kenmure Street raid nearly a year ago (which was marked with a celebration this year), protesters in Edinburgh responded to an urgent call to intervene in a Home Office Immigration raid, where officials were forced to leave empty handed.
Also in Scotland, there was jubilation as Roza Salih became the first refugee to be elected to Glasgow City Council. Ms Salih has campaigned for the rights of refugees since she was a teenager, forming the activism group the Glasgow Girls with school friends.
Meanwhile in the City of Durham, hundreds of people came together to call for the women’s detention centre Derwentside to be shut down.
Recently, another peaceful protest went viral as a speech by the home secretary Priti Patel was disrupted on Friday evening after pro-refugee activists infiltrated a Conservative party ‘spring dinner’.
Eight young social justice and climate campaigners from the group Green New Deal Rising disrupted the sit-down dinner and demanded she drop the controversial plans to offshore asylum seekers to Rwanda.
‘As young people wanting to live in a fair and compassionate society, we are disgusted by your treatment of refugees,’ one of the activists can be heard saying in the video.
The message couldn’t be clearer. The Bill may have passed, but thankfully we know that this draconian legislation doesn’t represent the will of the British people.
Furthermore, statistics imply the rising frequency of these acts of solidarity are not just isolated media moments.
According to a survey for the British Red Cross published last month, 62% of the public agree that the UK should welcome refugees fleeing war or persecution from across the world. More recently, over 200,000 people signed up to host refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.
While the Bill passing does represent a significant blow to refugee rights in the UK, we have also made significant strides in our longer-term struggle for change.
In fighting against the Bill together, we succeeded in influencing many more MPs from across the political divide, broadcast our message of hope out to millions of people through media and social media and persuaded more people to stand up for the rights of people fleeing war and persecution.
So much energy and compassion has gone into fighting the Bill; organisations and individuals worked together to ensure that key relationships have been formed in places of power, myths have been busted and the voices of those with lived experience have been amplified. Significantly, over 400 organisations pulled together to form the Together with Refugees Coalition, a collective voice painting the country orange – the colour of refugee support.
Freedom from Torture responded with resilience and hope in the face of a battle lost.
Boris Johnson's anti-refugee bill has just passed.
But if the government thinks it’s won. It can damn well think again. pic.twitter.com/DJdjVe3zhh
— Freedom from Torture🧡 (@FreefromTorture) April 28, 2022
Now that we have thrown everything we have at defeating the Bill, what next? Now is the time to regroup. We need to continue celebrating refugees and flooding the space with similarly positive stories. We know the majority of the British public support us – we can see this in the numbers in the Red Cross survey, as well in as wave of recent of public protests in support of displaced people.
We have the power to use stories to continue this wave of solidarity.
After all, we know the power of storytelling in changing hearts and minds; a person’s real-life story has far more of an impact than data. Here at IMIX we run a couple of social media projects that centre on the voices and stories of our friends with experience of displacement.
Good Neighbours is a project shares good news stories of grassroots organising, where communities come together to support one another and lift each other up. Human Journeys documents extraordinary people and their journeys to the UK, celebrating the faces behind the headlines.
Here are some more examples of what others in the sector are planning. Please keep an eye out for stories from the sector and share them widely, especially as we approach Refugee Week.
After all, this year’s theme of ‘Healing’ is a poignant vehicle to convey our message of hope that the country can heal together, and not by punishing innocent people.
Picnic with KRAN
The idea is to host community picnics up and down the country so that people with lived experience of displacement, those from the refugee and migrant support sector, and all those in the community wanting to show solidarity, can come together to simply share a meal and enjoy each other’s company.
‘After the Nationality and Borders Bill passed, morale is naturally very low. I believe that we need something positive to look forward to and build for, after months of being very reactive to the government’s toxic plans.’
We're supporting @BridgeeCee's idea of community picnics to #ShareAMeal during #RefugeeWeek2022. An opportunity to get together: ppl w/ lived experience, ppl who work in the refugee sector, campaigners & others. A nice thing to do & a show of solidarity. https://t.co/GF5rX1GZvU
— Together With Refugees 🧡 (@RefugeeTogether) May 13, 2022
The Solidarity Knows No Borders Community of Resistance
The coalition Solidarity Knows No Borders is calling for a Week of Action to End the Hostile Environment this 13-19 June.
From protests to picnics to workshops, there will be actions around the UK that everyone can take part in—and everyone is needed in this fight!
There will be an online rally on 25 May featuring a powerful line-up of speakers on the frontlines of the fight for migrant justice. Make sure to register here to receive further information about the week of action!
City of Sanctuary
City of Sanctuary has started a project to share stories of hope, friendship and resilience. Submit yours:
Hope is powerful 🧡
We want to celebrate the breathtaking dedication & creativity seen in the fight against the #AntiRefugeeBill
The friendships, community, the 100s of little (& big!) wins deserve to be shared & remembered.
— City of Sanctuary UK 🧡 (@CityofSanctuary) April 28, 2022
We may be beaten for now, but the battle is not lost. We need to project the messages of hope and a fairer, kinder and more effective approach to refugees that we know the vast majority of British people want to see.
If you have a positive story or event you want us to share please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org