As part of the web of policies known as the hostile or compliant environment, many of our refugee friends are required to regularly report to the Home Office and immigration authorities. These regular appointments at the Home Office have a severe impact on our refugee friends, often triggering feelings of fear or high levels of anxiety or disorientation. As one of our friends described:
“It affects you psychologically … it’s like your heart is in your mouth. You don’t know what will happen at the next moment. They can arrest you and deport you. Every Wednesday you wake up, maybe in a happy mood, and then immediately you think about the reporting. Your mood changes…”
These fears may be heightened when reporting for the first few times at a new centre, after an application to stay has been refused, after an appeal has been dismissed, or following perceived or actual changes in Home Office practice. For some, reporting is always a daunting experience with the potential of lengthy queues, questioning by immigration officers, the risk of being sent to a detention centre and of forced removal from the UK. Removals which may bring danger, persecution and human rights abuses.
At other times, some of our refugee friends find that their nationality is disputed, leaving their lives stuck in limbo – and a way forward is to obtain documentation or show that they have sought to obtain documentation by approaching an embassy. This too can be daunting and a big step to take. But having taken these steps, too often they find that the Home Office disbelieves their accounts of the visit to embassies here in the UK, just as it refuses to accept their descriptions of experiences of persecution and abuse in the past.
Could you provide moral support, confidence and reassurance to a refugee friend when they go to report to the Home Office or goes to an Embassy to obtain documentation and evidence for their protection claim?
JRS UK is looking for volunteers to assist us in accompanying our refugee friends to these appointments with the Home Office or Country Embassies. By accompanying our friends to these appointments you would be offering emotional support at a stressful time, as well as reassuring them that there is someone present, walking alongside them, who would be on hand if they were needed. Alongside moral support, volunteers would be able to witness and record what happens, be ready to give evidence and so shine a light on what is really going on.
‘To accompany’ refugees and other forced migrants by being present and alongside them rather than ‘doing things for them’ is one of the core elements of the mission of JRS. These volunteer roles call for personal sensitivity and respect to our refugee friends: could you help us in accompanying refugees?