Protestors block immigration reporting centre in London

·3-min read
Campaigners called for an end to ‘inhuman’ treatment of migrants (Angela Christofilou)
Campaigners called for an end to ‘inhuman’ treatment of migrants (Angela Christofilou)

Protestors blocked the entrance to an immigration centre in London while calling on the government to end its “dehumanising” reporting process.

The protest took place at Becket House, Southwark, on Thursday afternoon as similar scenes unfolded at reporting centres around the country, including in Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds.

Migrants awaiting permission to remain in the UK have been released on bail from their detention centre and are required to report to immigration detention centres on a regular basis.

The frequency of having to report can vary from once or twice a week to more often than that but throughout the coronavirus pandemic, reporting has not been a mandatory bail requirement.

A protestor attempts to deliver a letter to the centre’s managers (Angela Christofilou)
A protestor attempts to deliver a letter to the centre’s managers (Angela Christofilou)

As many as 300 people took part in the demonstrations.

Campaigners said the protests mark a “growing consensus that mandatory immigration reporting amounts to unnecessary harm and harassment”.

Maymuna Osman, of campaign group Migrants Organise, told the Standard the experience of reporting can be “demeaning and dehumanising” for migrants including those fleeing oppressive regimes.

She said: “It is undoubtedly a demeaning process for migrants, some who have been through horrific trauma, to have to go through and the Home Office is doing nothing to make it easier for migrants.

“We know some people are being made to travel to reporting centres miles from where they live, for example someone from Hertfordshire having to go to Hounslow.

The managers refused to come down, the campaigners claimed (Angela Christofilou)
The managers refused to come down, the campaigners claimed (Angela Christofilou)

“It is hard to cover the travel costs when you aren’t allowed to work while awaiting the outcome of your application but then there is the added fear of being detained at the centre - we know this happens.”

She added campaigners want to see the entire reporting system abolished because of the “stress” it adds to what can already be a “very traumatic time” for migrants.

It comes ahead of next week’s second reading of the Home Secretary Priti Patel’s Nationality and Borders bill in Parliament.

The proposed legislation aims to “deter illegal entry” to the UK and “remove from the UK those with no right to be here”, according to a government policy paper published on July 6.

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The bill may also give the government unprecedented powers to ship asylum seekers overseas while legitimate claims are being processed.

“We have heard so many examples of the harassment that goes on inside these reporting centres because the staff are not trained to deal with vulnerable people,” Ms Osman added.

“One man, who just wanted to appear respectable for his appointment, turned up in a suit and got interrogated by staff accusing him of working when he shouldn’t be.”

Tape used to block off entrance at Becket House, Southwark (Angela Christofilou)
Tape used to block off entrance at Becket House, Southwark (Angela Christofilou)

According to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, as of September 13, 2019, more than 83,000 (76.4 per cent) of migrants who are put on bail conditions were also given a reporting condition.

The rate for migrants absconding in 2018 was just three per cent.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We take all complaints very seriously and expect all our staff to treat those reporting to the Home Office with respect.

“Our policy remains unchanged – we only ask people to physically report where absolutely necessary. The vast majority of people on immigration bail are currently not required to report in person and remain in contact via telephone.”

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